One of the more interesting decisions
to be announced in last month’s federal government budget concerned
the venerable penny. Minister Flaherty said he was about to make it
extinct. It simply isn’t worthwhile producing anymore in the
The discussion around that decision
reminded me of something that happened a few weeks earlier. As I was
emptying some change out of the pockets of my jeans, a couple of
little strange. I almost didn’t give it a second look. It was a
penny. However, on closer inspection I could see it was dated 1932.
On the back was a profile of the then-monarch King George V.
For a minute I wondered if a rare gem
had literally dropped at my feet, so I immediately searched the
internet to find an estimate of its value. Turns out, it’s worth a
little less than $8—maybe. Hardly a fortune, despite its age.
Pennies, as it turns out, just aren’t worth a lot, new or old. No
wonder the government doesn’t see any sense in producing them
But all this talk about the value of a
penny (yes, one cent, I know) started me thinking about their worth
in relative terms. There must be other things less valuable that
people still produce.
I also began to wonder how large a pile
would be created if you collected enough pennies to amount to any
significant value. If, for example, I wanted to fill the box on my
old International 1600 Loadstar grain truck with them, how many would
it take and what would they be worth? So I grabbed the penny jar from
the closet and a measuring tape and began collecting data to find the
(I hope Leeann Minogue, Grainews’
acting editor, doesn’t read this and realize I don’t have much to do
or I’ll have half a dozen new assignments on my desk by tomorrow
As I had pennies and a calculator
spread out on my desk, my wife walked into the office and asked me
what I was doing. When I told her, she simply rolled her eyes, turned
around a walked out of the room. I wanted to say “a penny for your
thoughts”, but I thought better of it. Anyway, I pressed on with my
As it turns out, a 50-cent roll of
pennies is about 2 ¾ inches long and ¾ inch in diameter. That means
one cubic foot of space will hold about $558.08 worth of them. The
box on the old International is 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 3 feet
tall, so it has a volume of 288 cubic feet.
If the old Loadstar was full of
pennies, they would have a total value of $160,727.04. That’s not too
bad, really. If it was full of, say, oats, the load would be worth a
little over $1,200.
The government says pennies are worth
so little producing them no longer makes any sense. If someone has
already told them grain is worth less than pennies, that might help
explain why they wanted to get rid of the CWB, too!