To: National Circuit
Contact: Mark W. Weller, Americans for Common Cents (www.pennies.org)
Making Every Cent Count: 129 Billion Pennies Processed by Coinstar Adds Up to a “Small Fortune” for Americans
July 15 – “Americans continue to maximize the value of their loose
change – especially their pennies,” according to Mark W. Weller,
Executive Director of Americans for Common Cents (ACC), an organization
that includes more than 50 groups who support continued production of
the one-cent coin. “Whether it’s through commercial transactions or
donations to charities, Americans recognize the utility of the penny,”
A July 14, 2004, announcement by Coinstar (http://www.coinstar.com/us/PressReleases/591061) states the company has processed approximately 129 billion pennies since it began operation more than a decade ago. “The Coinstar experience makes our point that every cent counts,” ACC’s Weller said. Coinstar owns and operates 11,000 self-service coin counting machines that help consumers turn their spare change into cash or store credit. Weller added that the U.S. Mint produces from 6 billion to 12 billion pennies each year.
Coinstar has found that public support for the one-cent coin has grown in recent years, with 71% of Americans responding in 2003 that Congress should keep the penny in circulation. When the same question was asked in 2001 a similarly impressive – yet slightly fewer – number of Americans (65%) were in support of keeping the penny in circulation.
Weller noted that as a consequence of the 2001 economic downturn many Americans have turned to their pennies to make ends meet. When the economy is robust, there is a tendency for pennies – and other coins as well – to be stashed in piggybanks and spare-change drawers, and demand for new penny production increases. In a slowing economy, people are more likely to cash in their coins. “Americans for Common Cents has found that there is a strong correlation between penny use and our economic situation,” Weller said.
Smaller budgets are not the only explanation for consumers’ strong tie to the penny. Weller cited a December 2002 report issued by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which found that well over half of Americans (56%) were opposed to rounding cash transactions.
Sylvester Neal of Auburn, Washington, understands the value of the penny. Sylvester recently cashed in literally thousands of his pennies through Coinstar. Sylvester noted, “I have always loved pennies. . . . [P]eople do not realize their accumulated change could add up to a small fortune.” Equally inspired, half of a California man’s $10,000 worth of pennies is to be donated this month to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles, a charity that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
This donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, or to other charities, such as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s School & Youth Pennies for Patients program, shows that the penny remains an important fund raising tool for many worthy causes. For those seeking to donate their spare change, just look around. The best place to benefit others may be closer than you think.
Americans for Common Cents (www.pennies.org) is a broad-based coalition of business, charitable, and numismatic organizations dedicated to keeping the penny. The coalition was formed in 1990 in response to Congressional threats to eliminate the one-cent coin.