Anyway, there was a half-finished building across the alley, and on Sundays, the tortilla factory was always quiet, but there was this "ping....ping...ping - BANG - ping..ping..." happening. I never knew what it was.
I should add that the Maras had covered my building in graffiti so it wasn't like I was going to go check out the alley at 7am to find the source of the sound.
Anyway, one day I see some guys in business suits walking on the roof of that unfinished building, and I waived across the alley at them. I said "Hey, could you try to keep the noise down on Sunday morning?" He said "what noise?" I said, "you know, the ping, ping ping BANG noise." So this guy goes "oh shit, Sunday morning is when they're stealing our copper wiring".
That episode has made me think for years that pennies are worth more than 1¢...but there's only so much time in life to hoard useless shit.
There’s this very strange episode of the original run of the series Amazing Stories starring Mark Hamill in which some sort of gnome whom only he can see follows him around telling him that the most important thing in life is hoarding toys. He spends his life homeless, hauling his toys around in a shopping cart, completely alone in the world. When he’s like 80 years old and literally planning his suicide, a wealthy collector bumps into him on the street and buys his toys and he becomes rich overnight, and the episode ends with old Mark Hamill and old gnome dressed like rich folk, apparently very happy with themselves and giving off an “it was all worth it” vibe.
Even childhood me, who was very into this tv show (the introduction to which featured computer animation!), Steven Spielberg, toys, and Mark Hamill – even that young version of myself could see this was a terrible message.
The part that's unrealistic IMO is the wealthy collector paying a fair price for the toys when in reality he would go out of his way to convince Mark Hamill that his crap is worthless and he's doing him a favor by giving him a pittance for it.
And the final shot would be a dirty and broken Mark Hamill sobbing uncontrollably as he watches a television in a store window where his collectibles are auctioned off one by one on one of our many shopping channels for far more than he got for them.
A recurring theme on Amazing Stories was the power of imagination best embodied by the episode about the World War II gunner who was also an animator who saved his own life by imagining a set of landing gear cartoon style after they were shot off his bomber. The Mark Hamill episode was yet another example of this theme where he prevailed by the power of his own belief in himself and his imagination.
p.s I'm surprised the memory was still in my head considering I probably have not thought about it since my sister told me about it.
Do know that the Mint is aware that 5.8 is greater than 5, that melting nickels for profit is a crime with a $10k fine, and that you'll probably spend more than that profit margin on energy and equipment for melting. Interestingly, one of their reasons for rejecting alternatives like plated steel coins is that any significant change to the density, dimension, or magnetism will break anti-counterfeiting systems.
There's only so much time in life, but if you want something cool for your shelf, have some rolls of nickels, a few fire bricks, a crucible, some casting sand, and a propane burner you can make yourself an awesome, polished, high-density casting from DIY Monel K400 alloy for less than you can buy that stock from metal suppliers. Just don't sell it for profit and you'll be fine.
A few months later the government made it illegal to melt down coins as the price of nickel spiked to $50,000 a ton. Cashed almost all of them back into the bank later but, they charged me about a $100 handling fee. I wasn't going to try and melt them down or go to Mexico to make a few bucks. There was a downside after all and the upside was capped. Never forget that the laws can and often do change when investing.
Be aware that they'll be suspicious and will hopefully call the police if you show up with a few hundred dollars of nearly-new copper pipe or electrical wire that you cut out of an under-construction house, or anything else that looks like it might be stolen. Desperate people try that frequently, if you have the financial ability to post on HN it's not worth it.
In my city, the biggest name is https://padnos.com/, and https://www.grcentraliron.com/ has a nice consumer-facing business, but there are similar industries everywhere.
It's interesting to go down as a consumer and shop for cut-offs, you can get small workbench-sized sheet metal, 8020 in lengths not worth bothering with for a big fabricator but plenty for a DIY project, or bar stock to build something far sturdier than you can make with a 2x4 - all at prices per pound a fraction of what you'd pay at the big box stores.
I liked the story!
> That episode has made me think for years that pennies are worth more than 1¢
Pennies are mostly made of zinc, not copper.
noduerme says >"...but there's only so much time in life to hoard useless shit."<
Would only that this did not apply to the human brain, which seems capable of storing an infinite amount of useless shit (and incapable of allowing us to edit out the smallest undesired part)!
Huh... what folks need is a way to rollup their copper wiring and take it with them at the close of business.
In Australia we got rid of the one and two cent coins 30 years ago because the buying power of the ten cent piece then was less than one cent piece originally when introduced in the 1960s.
There was no big debate or opposition and no lobbying by coin producers or those who produced the metals. It just happened and basically everyone was happy not to deal with more pointless small change. And people still largely paid with cash too so electronic payment wasn’t as significant as it is today.
It shouldn’t be this hard.
If there was actually a push to abolish pennies, it would become a partisan/political issue immediately and all rational discourse would evaporate.
If you really want to see the penny go away, do what I do: literally throw them away. I did the math and found that the time, space, and attention needed to deal with them was costing me more than 1 cent per coin.
I estimate that I have thrown away about $10 in pennies over the last few years and don't miss a single one.
The stores (PX, or whatever your branch calls it) I used in Iraq used cardboard discs for all coins, including quarters. I figured it was to reduce having to ship all that metal out just so Marines could buy dip. But they're already shipping humvees and such, why not some rolls of quarters?
I kept forgetting to bring them whenever I bought something and amassed a big bag of pogs. Eventually I threw them away. That's probably the real reason. All transactions suddenly round up to the dollar!
They would also dump unwanted currency on the military, like $2 bills, Susan B Anthony dollars, etc.
Now I just keep a few 20$ behind my phone case for the same purpose.
What is the reasoning for wanting $1/2/5 coins instead of paper? Don't most people prefer paper?
I'm not sold on the idea of a $5 coin yet, though. But I just argued a pretty good case for them, didn't I.
The only people still using checks or pennies are more than likely elderly. They vote in droves and will probably strike something like that down.
I don't recall vending machines ever taking pennies in my lifetime to begin with either. They've been that useless and annoying to deal with for that long.
Bus fare boxes often will, although they don't show it on the sticker. I got rid of a ton of pennies when I was riding a bus regularly.
I did use snack machines to turn dimes and nickles into quarters at college though. Insert 25 cents, press coin return, get a quarter. Maybe go to 50 cents, but be sure to not put in enough to buy anything, or you'll have to. Snack machines took all worthwhile coins, but laundry machines were quarters only.
> You don't know how happy I was when I discovered the ticket machines in the (NYC) Subway took nickels.
 - https://krebsonsecurity.com/2021/04/parkmobile-breach-expose...
As someone who always pays in cash, this is increasingly inconvenient. There are occasionally shops that won't take cash at all.
Cash can still be found in poor communities, as well as the big cities in NY and CA, as well as Las Vegas. Everywhere else is rapidly going cashless.
I've noticed some out of towners come in and get surprised at how many businesses are cash only, from humble produce stands to fine dining establishments. With that in mind, there is at least some inertia that people know to expect when they need cash (or at least when to tap MAC).
Not everyone can get a bank account or credit card. So, it's important that stuff like grocery stores, clothing retail, etc. accept cash. This is orthogonal to whether or not we really need pennies though :)
$200 won't even get you a cab and a new phone after you get mugged for all your cards and mobile.
The armored car fees, the bonded employees in the strong room, the extra guards, insurance, etc. weren't cheap. I remember reading an article about how happy businessmen (we're talking the 60's, so men) were to reduce the cash handling part of the business. Can't find it now but they felt the fees were worth it. Of course, they were much lower then.
I ran into only one store that had a minimum purchase to use card, and they didn't accept cash or checks at all. I just left the stuff on the counter and walked out.
And of course almost every single brick-and-mortar business...
Germany had something a bit similar. The two Pfennig coins made before 1968 were pure bronze and worth more than two Pfennig as scrap metal in later years. But it would be illegal to melt them down. And they were abolished, of course, when Germany switched to the Euro at the end of 2001. If you found a hoard of them now, would it be legal to melt them down?
(Apparently there was an official exception to the law against destroying currency. Those coin-operated machines that squash a small coin and stamp a picture on it for tourists, apparently they were officially legal, rather than just allowed because "we're not going to bother enforcing the law in this case" as they would be in most countries, I guess.)
as that rule specifically cites: "This rule's purpose is to ensure that sufficient quantities of 5-cent and one-cent coins remain in circulation to meet the needs of the United States." and "It is anticipated that this regulation will be a temporary measure that will be rescinded once actions are taken, or conditions change, to abate concerns that sufficient quantities of 5-cent and one-cent coins will remain in circulation to meet the needs of the United States."
If the penny were abolished as a coin, the "sufficient quantity needed to remain in circulation" would become zero.
It still seems like an incredible waste of time and attention, but I have my own hobbies as well.
1. Government spends 1.2 cents to buy metal for a penny.
2. Government makes a penny and sells it to you for a cent.
3. You melt it and sell the metal back to the market for 1.2 cents
Rinse, lather, repeat.
This is assuming that someone is willing to buy your refined metal at full market value (so it needs to be relatively pure, not backyard crucible grade).
I'm guessing to turn a profit on the needed equipment, labor, and other costs of running the operation, you'd probably need to be doing at least 10,000kg/day or something. Seems implausible - you'd never get the supply.
Pennies from the 19th century can be worth several dollars, a few specific ones even several hundred dollars.
Even if you had the time to inspect every penny you planned to melt to see if it was worth something meaningful, the return you'd see would likely not even begin to cover the time you'd spent looking through all those pennies. Unless you had a machine (which costs money) a few hundred dollars is unlikely to make the effort profitable.
I used to think bicentennial quarters might be worth more someday. But here we are nearly a half century later and AFAICT a standard (not silver) bicentennial quarter which has been in circulation is still worth pretty much exactly 25 cents. So in real terms, a lot less than in 1976.
I guess the lesson is, if you're going to collect coins as an investment, don't bother unless they're either uncirculated or actually rare.
for reference (spoilers, but the story is from 1954, so...) the outcome of hoarding and destroying [dubious, discuss] all but one 1916 US quarter was to raise the price to one skyrillion [conversation to SI prefix uncertain] dollars, resulting in failure to realise the cash value of said asset. but, pie fight.
We can look at old, pre-Euro money like pfenning. What are the coins from the 90s worth today? I mean, sure, maybe a few extra bucks, but then you have to factor in some leg work of finding collectors who want what you have.
It's not really a worthwhile for most as an investment. The scrap is easy to sell right now.
I'd also be open to getting rid of everything but quarters. There's damn near nothing you can buy for under 25¢—hell, it's getting hard to find much under a dollar, with tax—and that's just gonna get worse every year. Rip the band-aid off and make the quarter the new lowest denomination.
Online inflation calculator tells me a penny in 1913 is the equivalent of 27¢ today, so, yeah, let's go with the second option, actually. It's simpler. Quarters and maybe dollar coins, get rid of the rest. If we start working on it now, quarters might still be worth picking up off the ground by the time the policy's in effect.
$.5 only is too big imho would have impacts on low earners and families that buy a lot of food.
[EDIT: That is, I agree with you that just 50¢ pieces would be too large a minimum-coin-size]
Dimes are currently worth the equivalent of sub-penny coins in past decades (~40% of a 1913 penny), like the half-penny, and since those were useful then I can see the argument for keeping them around. Nickels and pennies are just useless. IMO by the time we got around to getting rid of dimes, if we started now, they'd also be useless, so I'd also be open to just going straight to quarters-only.
I hope we create a law where any coinage that reaches a certain price threshold (~200% of face value) when being made and distributed must be redesigned or retired. This would solve this issue for any future coins that become nonsensical to mint.
At 30 million pennies produced a day, that’s 4100 pounds of copper a day or 680 metric tons a year. The US mines over a million metric tons a year and it’s not even a top 3 global copper miner.
Pennies ain’t shit in the copper game.
Do you have a source for this? It kinda sounds like conjecture, because I don't believe for a second that the production of pennies are that significant in the metals market. And as the article mentions, pennies are mainly zinc now, very little copper. Zinc is dirt cheap.
Although, how will transactions paid with cash (ie, a bill of $15.97 paid with $20) be fully resolved? Would the business or the customer be shortchanged by a few pennies?
Even if a business does a thousand of these types of transactions (2-4 cent short changing on their end) they stand to lose $20-40 per month (or gain $20-40 per month if the business short changes the customer).
With card you pay as priced.
With cash it rounds price down if ending in 1&2 and up for 3&4.
For a while people would joke and try and line up costs to benefit themselves, in more extreme cases buy $1.02 items separately type thing and usual the world is falling people but this didn't last long and no-one thinks anything of it a year later.
Floats use round-to-even  to prevent this, although even that method accumulates error proportional to sqrt(number of ops).
if we got rid of the penny, you round to the nearest 5. if the business hates losing that 2 cents, they will increase the price of their product by. 1or 2 cents so they get an extra 2 cents. if the customer hates that their product costs 3 or 4 cents more, they don't buy
Or could we finally start including sales tax in the listed prices of things? That would be really convenient for most consumers (though it would probably be a headache for non-taxable organizations).
The only industry I can think of that gets left behind is gas stations, and then only if you post-pay in cash (or overpay with cash I guess). And they already tend to give a discount for cash, so I think rounding off to the nearest nickel would be a pretty acceptable outcome.
As a bonus I don't have to constantly explain to the kids why the $10 thing they want actually costs $10.80, or $10.85, or $10.72, or $10.97, or some other amount that differs by state / county / city.
Anyway they should, but in practice they make good money off of things as well so they turn a blind eye.
So no, scrap dealers do not have to do much (if any) due diligence around here
Cops. If you melt enough they'll show up and stop you.
Smelting on solar power? No.. then that KWh is going to cost. Or you're stealing energy.
Or you're paying seigneurage to somebody to do this for you.
Also: calutron silver! Can we measure radioactivity from the silver dollars used to purify U235?
During WWII, some 5c coins were made out of a nickel-free alloy containing 35% silver to preserve the nickel for war efforts. These are identifiable by a large mintmark over Monticello over the reverse.
Before 1892, the nickel 5c coin was issued alongside a smaller silver "half-dime". It's likely the growth of automated coin acceptance machines (early arcade amusements, slot machines, vending machines) really locked in the base-metal coin's dominance.
One is that copper pennies still circulate. I'd have expected most of them to end up in hoards. Gresham's Law (also observed by Maimonides centuries earlier) states that "bad money pushes out good." When a new batch of gold coins is minted with less gold, very quickly only the bad coins circulate. I guess this is a minor violation.
The second thing that surprises me is that the law actually stops the coins from being melted. Isn't someone somewhere willing to commit this hard to detect crime?
Is it legal to sell 100 pennies for more than $1? If so, 99% of these penny hoarders need not break any law. Just sell them onto someone who will.
Don't understand why people believe in that besides considering this some sort of an hobby, like collecting other old currencies, stamps, historic cars, and other historic stuff.
Yes you could get lucky and have this one in a million penny, art work, car which was undervalued at first glance. Remember that photograph of Billy the Kid, or so that was sold at a junk yard sale? But you should not count on this as an investment. It is a hobby and you may be the lucky person but 99.9999% will not be that lucky person.
That made me realize something. El Salvador uses the US dollar, but has a minimum wage of $1.50. There are other countries in this situation, too. It might make sense for the US to stop using the penny, but it's still somewhat important in other countries.
And then since 1982 they are made of zinc with copper plating.