Local News

N.C. in a Pinch for Pennies

Posted July 21, 1999

— Are you one of those people who has pennies stashed away in a jar? If so, you and your coins are in high demand because North Carolina is pinched for pennies.

The copper coins are in short supply, mainly because they are not being circulated like other coins.

You may be surprised to know that 66 percent of pennies never change hands after they are received, compared to only 12 percent of quarters.

Most people do not like pennies, saying they are "useless." Others say they would do anything to get rid of them.

"They're just an extra thing in your pocket, heavy, noisy," says customer Yausef Amira.

But the value of the copper coins is increasing as North Carolina and many other states experience a penny shortage.

Some retailers are asking customers to use exact change at the request of their bank to help increase penny usage.

"They're in desperate need. They're allotted so many from the bigger banks to give to, whether it be customers coming in or us as customers coming in," says convenience store manager Renee McCorkle.

The shortage comes at a time when theU.S. Mintis producing a third more pennies than last year. So where are all the pennies going?

"At home, in the ashtray, in the floorboard, everywhere," says a customer.

People who stash their pennies are contributing to the tight supply. Those "give a penny, take a penny" containers also take the coins out of circulation.

A local Exxon convenience store is trying to retrieve as many pennies as they can by giving away wrappers so customers can bring them back. Others have machines that do the sorting for you.

The General Accounting Officeconducted a studyon eliminating the penny a few years ago. It found that while most people wanted to keep the penny, the majority surveyed also said they would prefer rounding off prices to the nearest nickel.

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