A truckload of pennies
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 government's view.
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 coins fell on the floor. As I bent down to pick them up, one looked a 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 anymore.
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 answer.
(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 morning.)
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 research.
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!
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