New Lincoln pennies - why not plastic?

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That most humble (and some say, useless) member of the U.S. coin family, the penny, has been given a face lift in conjunction with Lincoln's 200th birthday. The coins, which entered circulation on February 12th, replaces the familiar Lincoln Memorial with a picture of the log cabin with which he is associated. Coming later this year are three other new designs for the side opposite Lincoln's portrait. These show Lincoln in his log-splitter days, standing in front of the Illinois State Capital building, and the U.S. Capital as it was in his day, with a half-finished dome.

The cost to produce a penny, while fluctuating with the price of metal, is currently over one and one-half cents apiece -- but, as the joke goes, we make it up in volume. In 2008, over five billion pennies were minted in Denver and Philadelphia. The copper-colored pennies are actually primarily zinc, plated with copper.

One has to wonder why we don't adopt plastic for pennies. Mexico and Australia make their bills out of plastic. And if all we do with pennies is throw them into jars on our dressers, why not cut our costs? We should do it soon, while our money still has value.

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