Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Penny for Your Thoughts?

I have to admit that I'm one of those sentimental types who have a lot of trouble letting go, who have a nostalgic attachment to old media that have become obsolescent and outlived their utility.  

I still have my old vinyl record collection all boxed up.  It took me many years and a good amount of money to collect several hundred albums, and it may well be that you'll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands.  The same goes for my first computer, my Atari 800, which came with 16K RAM that I upped to the maximum of 48K.  And there's still an old typewriter stored down in the basement.  After all, you never know, do you?

So, the thought of eliminating the penny did not sit well with me, however unnecessary and wasteful the one cent coin may be.  I don't often use them anymore, but if I happen to have one or more in my pocket from some recent transaction, and have a chance to give exact change down to the cent in my next transaction, then I'll do it.  But for the most part, whatever change I may have collected during the day winds up in a container along with nickels and dimes, and to some extent quarters (the only coin that has some real utility).  And sooner or later, the coins in that container are turned over to one of those infernal Coinstar machine, which charges me for the privilege of converting my coins into a more usable form of cash or credit.

So, the point I'm leading up to is that, despite my sentimentality, I am ready to concede defeat on the subject, and this video by C.G.P. Grey, Death to Pennies, has me convinced that it's time to say goodnight moon to pennies, and also nickels and dimes.  Here, take a look:

Now, I do want to note that my attachment to the penny has been fading gradually over the years, and I think that this is due, in large part, to the fact that I have been using cash, and especially coins, less and less.  More and more, I find my transactions are electronic, just slide the old debit or credit card through the machine (or let the cashier do it for you), and no filthy lucre need exchange hands.  

For this reason, and again, despite my penchant for nostalgic attachments, I can see giving up on the dollar bill as well.  Dollar coins make a great deal more sense, and again, with our increasing reliance on electronic transactions, I just don't think that these changes will be all that traumatic for us, and neither will resistance to change be all that adamant.

Still, and all, I don't understand why we can't just make all of our currency, well more current, by increasing their value ten fold all at once.  Just moving everything over one decimal point, so pennies will be worth ten cents, dimes will be the equivalent of a dollar, and a dollar will get you ten dollars worth.  What's the problem with that?  It's all symbolic, after all, map as opposed to territory, all based on social conventions, consensus, generally agreed upon exchange value, money being a medium of exchange and what McLuhan humorously called, the poor man's credit card.

Dare I end this post by saying, a penny for your thoughts? No, no, I think it's best if I refrain...

1 comment:

Crushtor said...

Interesting post; but the currency map, as in, the observable "coin" of the penny I found infuriating to manage and carry around while in the US, having come for a country that withdrew its 1c and 2c coins from circulation to give them new life as Bronze medals in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. There's even talk of discontinuing the 5c piece! I think the most intriguing study of currency as a symbolic environment was the case of the Brazilian "Real."