Some shops do away with pennies

July 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The copper coins in your pocket cost more than a penny to make these days, but to many people, they're all but worthless.

At a growing number of businesses, including Mike's Bikes in San Rafael, pennies have fallen from favor.

"They're just annoying," said Davin Pukulis with Mike's Bikes.

The cash register at Mike's has nickels, dimes, quarters and the new dollar coins, but no pennies. At Mike's, every cash transaction rounds down to the nearest nickel in the customer's favor.

You'd think this would make customers happy, but their reaction has been underwhelming.

"Whatever is easier, I don't care," said one customer.

In terms of cold, hard cash, the store estimates the new policy will cost about $2,000 per year. When asked what the store is gaining, Pukulis said "A lot more than that in time."

What appears to be happening is a new take on how a penny saved means very little in the real world. One exception might be in the fuel industry where gas stations still count the cost of a gallon of fuel down to nine-tenths of a cent.

According to the government, one penny now costs roughly 1.7 cents to manufacture. That means each penny is created at a loss from the beginning, though there are some historical exceptions.

Up the street from Mike's at San Rafael Rare Coin, Roger Tobin showed off a 1909 penny minted in San Francisco that is worth $4,000.

During this story, we placed several amounts of pennies on the street, starting at one cent, then two cents, then five cents and eventually working our way up to 50 cents. Fifty cents worth of pennies with no takers and very little interest from people who passed by, until we met William Tiffen.

"You know what? I'm about to," Tiffen said when we asked him if he would take the pennies. Tiffen, who is looking for work, took 30 seconds out of his day to collect the pennies from the sidewalk, showing that it might take a guy out of work in a tough economy to still appreciate pennies.

"How about you put $50 down for me?" Tiffen joked.

They say that an Abe Lincoln penny brings luck. For Tiffen, his 50-cent find brings him hope.

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