Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Sid Salter: Penny Stash Looking Better & Better

I have a huge old six-gallon glass water bottle that I inherited from my father. I use it for the same purpose that he did – as a container for pennies.

Our grandchildren are fascinated by the large glass bottle containing my treasure much as I was over a half-century ago when watching my dad’s stash grow. Nix, the youngest grandson, peered at the container and exclaimed recently: “You are rich!”

The appropriate word would more likely be “frugal.” I still pick up coins on the street. It’s a habit my father taught me about how pennies grow into dollars. But my old penny stash is looking better and better these days, even though all our grands have at some point tried to stake their claims to it.

The COVID-19 virus has produced all manner of strange behavior among our fellow Americans, not the least of which is the hoarding or at least the declining circulation of coins and paper money. The Federal Reserve estimates that there should be about $48 billion in coinage alone in circulation.

But that’s the trouble, the coins aren’t circulating as they normally would. According to experts, some fear catching the virus from touching coins or bills. While that may be remotely possible, University of Washington Professor Marilyn Roberts recently wrote: “I’m a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and global health, and I believe that we don’t need to worry about money as much as some might believe.

“Recent articles indicate that some microbes, including COVID-19, are unlikely to spread through contaminated surfaces such as cash. The only potential way to acquire COVID-19 from a contaminated surface is to get the virus on your hands and then touch your mouth, eyes or nose,” Roberts said in a May 21 academic article.

That’s not to say the money isn’t, for lack of a more accurate term, dirty. It is. In 2017, the research journal PLOS ONE published a study by six scientists who swabbed $1 bills from a New York City bank and found “hundreds of species of microorganisms” along with other bacteria, microbes, and viruses. They also found traces of cocaine.

So, in the throes of fears of COVID-19, we are hoarding and avoiding the use of cash, which is making it tougher and tougher for small businesses to do business and make change. Due to both of those issues, many consumers are switching to the use of debit and credit cards. Is that a safer alternative?

Professor Roberts wrote: “There is little evidence that eliminating the use of cash would make a difference in the spread of COVID-19, nor do we have data to support that this virus may be easily transmitted by any type of contaminated surface.

So, if cash is kind of a moot point in the COVID-19 pandemic beyond the nuisance caused by hoarding and the sharp circulation decline, are there other factors contributing to the shortage?

In 2018, the U.S. Mint told Congress that it costs $2.06 to make and circulate a penny. The 2018 report from the mint explained that the actual per penny production cost is $1.78 cents, administrative costs are 25 cents, and per penny distribution to Federal Reserve banks costs 0.03 cents. In 2019, the U.S. Mint made 7.04 billion pennies, costing taxpayers $145 million.

Another fact to consider while worrying about COVID-19 and the government is that American consumers mostly rejected the $1 coin because people didn’t want them or use them. They liked $1 bills. The U.S. Government General Accounting Office reported in 2013 that the Federal Reserve had stockpiled some $1.4 billion in $1 coins.

My grandchildren covet my penny stash and I overhear them arguing among themselves over who will get it and what happens if I have less time to accrue more pennies. They have grasped that old guys have a harder time seeing and bending over to pick up pennies as they age.

And, the middle and younger kids argue that the older kids will get more than they will basically because of inflation and the future value of money.

I laugh and keep walking. My plan to teach the little ankle biters about money is working, just as it worked for my dad.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


In for a Penny, In for a Pound said...

Never, ever, tell Sid Salter "a penny for your thoughts."

Anonymous said...

Sid misses the mark yet again. People are hoarding coins because their melt value is higher than their face value. Pre-1965 quarters and half dollars are 90% silver and have been hoarded for decades. Today, the copper center of coins is more valuable than the face, especially nickels. There is also a real concern than the private federal reserve bank may collapse and their banknotes will become worthless. At least the coinage is worth the value of copronickel it is stamped into. Pennies made after 1982 are plated zinc and worthless.

I commented here months ago warning people to stash some coins. We may need them for trade. It looks like my idea wasn't original.

Anonymous said...

Okay so let me get this straight, Sid Salter's "journalism" is writing this article based on published nonsense from other articles that have been circulated on Drudge for a month?

Anonymous said...

Such hard-hitting journalism!

Anonymous said...

I remember after my father passed away I was going through his woodworking shop and found a container labeled "found change". I also remember some old ancient Chinese saying something to the effect " those that never save coins will never have dollars.. All I can say it is tough for young families to save and it can go so fast in the blink of an repair, new hvac condenser system, etc. Salaries for the most part that are stagnant doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

In Sid's defense, the column was mostly pointless personal anecdotes.

Anonymous said...

Sid just doesn't get it. For the last few weeks Bankers in Mississippi and elsewhere are asking people with coin stashes to cash in their coins. Why is Sid not doing this to help out. Saw a story yesterday from WLOX TV in Biloxi from a bank executive pleading with people to bring their coins to a bank. Nice job Sid.

Anonymous said...

Sid likely needs to decide to whom he wills his hoard of toilet paper.

Anonymous said...

#1, Sid's part of the problem.
#2, How much interest does that water bottle pay?

Anonymous said...

“Okay so let me get this straight, Sid Salter's "journalism" is writing this article based on published nonsense from other articles that have been circulated on Drudge for a month? - July 22, 2020 at 8:18 AM“

You new here?

Anonymous said...

Yeah......COVID caused the coin shortage.....

Anonymous said...

I use to have a boss that always said “If you watch the nickels and dimes, the dollars will take care of themselves”. He is a smart man.

Green Acres said...

Years ago, I was walking with my very poor, single mother client through the courthouse parking lot when she bent down and picked up a dirty penny. I said something like wow, I didn't think anyone bothered to pick up pennies anymore. She looked at me with great dignity and humility and softly said "pennies add up", and I realized that she had probably fed her children with found pennies, maybe just a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread, when she had nothing else. I felt like a complete fool and have picked up every penny I've seen on the ground since then. Many would call her a welfare mother, but she taught me a valuable lesson and I have infinite respect for her.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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