The lowly US penny has lost its shine

Britain has done it. So have Brazil, Norway, Argentina, and probably others. They have discontinued the coinage and use of lowly, penny-type coins. And it has been recommended for the United States.

The President's Grace commission, seeking economies in government, stated in January that the elimination of America's copper-washed penny would save $70 million a year. It's not a new suggestion. In 1976 a congressional study also urged the coin be phased out.

But nothing like that is about to happen. Right now, the US Mint produces 14 billion cent-pieces each year.

Part of this is necessary - if the penny is to be circulated usefully - because about 5 billion of the coins disappear from circulation each year.

Numismatists say that except for rare-date years, pennies have lost their ''shine'' for collectors.

On the practical side, as everyone knows, many individual change-carriers sort out the pennies - maybe just toss them into a drawer - because except as change on sales-tax calculations, they are not needed in many transactions today.

Once upon a time the penny could purchase chewing gum, parking-meter time, candy, soda water, and even matches. But now the coin is in disregard, except as a figure of advertising speech, ''One Cent Sale.''

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