What does it mean when my 17-year-old daughter and the 85-year-old star of a reality TV show independently come up with the same idea? Is it a sign of the apocalypse, or an important alignment of cultural values that presages hope for the future? If nothing else, it suggests government foolishness is the last great trans-generational unifier. For it’s clear to young and old — but not to Washington — that the penny’s time has come.
For months my daughter Grace had been muttering about her grand plan to melt down pennies minted before 1982. Today’s pennies are mostly zinc; the older ones are almost pure copper, and at today’s market prices they’re worth more as scrap metal. There’s even a website that calculates an up-to-date value of an older penny as spot markets fluctuate. It’s about 2.2 cents today. Unfortunately, between calculus homework and afterschool activities Grace hadn’t yet tracked down a contract smelter to participate in the scheme.