“The penny is completely inefficient,” says former congressman Jim Kolbe, who twice introduced legislation that would abolish the one-cent piece. “It seems such an obvious no-brainer to get rid of the thing.” In 2008, the U.S. spent $134 million to produce $80 million worth of pennies — roughly 1.7 cents per coin. And studies estimate that we lose as much as $1 billion annually from time wasted exchanging pennies. Thanks to Lincoln lovers and zinc lobbyists, though, the penny’s luck has yet to run out, and the U.S. will ship 5.9 billion of them in 2011, most of which will likely disappear into piggy banks and couch cushions. — AUSTIN CARR
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