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KAI RYSSDAL: You can spend big money gambling, everything from nickel slots on up. But in everyday life hings often come down to the penny. Interesting, because individually they're not worth a whole lot. And if one congressman gets his way, you won't have to worry about them much longer. Alex Cohen has more.
ALEX COHEN: Ditch the penny. That's what Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona proposes in legislation he introduced today. Due to the increased price of zinc, the mineral used to make pennies, it now costs the US Mint approximately 1.4 cents to manufacture each 1-cent piece. That's why Kolbe recommends scrapping the penny altogether and rounding up all cash transactions to the nearest nickel.
But the penny is an American institution, counters Mark Weller of Americans for Common Cents. What's more, he adds, for the nation's charities even pennies can add up to big bucks.
MARK WELLER: For example, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society budgets $13 million a year through their penny school programs. And that begins to give you an appreciation for the amount of money that's at stake here.
The US Mint won't comment on the proposed legislation but did say it has plans to release four new styles of the 1-cent piece to commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth in 2009.
I'm Alex Cohen for Marketplace.