"The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency."
~ John Maynard Keynes, Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)
Investing in copper is ludicrous you say? Ok… how about nickel or zinc? Lord knows I sure as heck can’t afford silver, gold or platinum. It’s all u201Cunobtaniumu201D to me. Next weekend I’m ripping the zinc roof off the house and melting it down into ingots!
See, this is what got me started thinking about it: a penny just ain’t worth a penny anymore. Neither are nickels. According to the Washington Times, it costs the Feds 1.7 cents to mint a penny and 8.3 cents to mint a nickel. Even a high school dropout cashier at the local Scarf and Barf can tell you that’s just plain goofy. But hey, consider the cause: those government employees who flunked Everyday Mathematics.
Let’s get this straight. The Federal Reserve mints all our pennies and nickels. To pay for the minting they use the money obtained from our taxes… our money! Of course our money is legally stolen from us by the powers that be, but that’s another rant. And then, all these shiny new pennies and nickels get dumped back into circulation for us to squander in gumball machines… or for us to age to a ripe old vintage in a pickle jar.
When interest rates are high, spare change may be placed to advantage in an interest-bearing savings account. However, the Feds will tax any profits made that way. So… why bother?
Folks, this is a rip-off. We are spending $17 to mint $10 worth of pennies and $83 to mint $50 worth of nickels! What the hell!? What kind of lard brain would spend more money for a product that’s value is significantly less than that which it costs? Ok, no offense intended to collectors of art, Beanies Babies, Star Wars Memorabilia or even Hawaiian Aloha shirts (see photo below)!
Now, I’ll be honest here. I’m a Libertarian who’s waiting to earn his wings. I’m not even sure I’ll ever qualify. The last time I tried to sneak into the Ludwig von Mises Institute I was driven off by an angry mob wielding pitchforks and torches. And before I forget, I do want to thank Lew for the wonderful visit. I’m better now Lew. Thanks. The medications are working.
See, a good Libertarian ought to know all about economics. I really don’t know jack about money matters. This should come as no surprise since nobody has ever been willing to give me any money for my talents. I am… uh… penniless. Here’s what I do know about money. I like the nickels sporting the Indian and the buffalo better than the ones imprinted with Thomas Jefferson. That is who’s on the nickel, right?
Of course my impecunious state does make tax time simple. I just write down u201Cpauperu201D for occupation, fill in the blank for my total annually earned income of $77 from royalty checks and sit back and wait for that big fat refund check from George W. Bush! He seems to have lost my address though. Never answers any of my letters either. Oh well, it may be for the best. I’m not sure I want him to know how to find me.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that the path towards financial security is paved in junk metals! There are a couple of catches. Uncle Sam has put a limit on our freedom to sneak those precious pennies and nickels out of the country. Shocking isn’t it? By law, we are not free to remove more than $5 worth of the worthless coins out of the USA to hide them in a Swiss bank lock box or launder them in the Cayman Islands!
Uncle Sam can send pallets of cash to Iraq, but you and I can’t take our nickels and dimes to Zurich. Humph!
You may wonder what is the melting point of copper anyway? 1083.0 degrees C or 1981.4 degrees F. Oh… I guess that rules out melting them on the stove. Might have to use a burner with a little more chutzpah.
First you want to call your slimy bloodsucker… uh… lawyer: what might be the legality of melting down your pennies and nickels and turning them onto something more valuable… like a blob?
Sorry to say it but, you do not have the freedom to melt or destroy your pennies and nickels! Dang. When it comes to suppression of freedom, the government has written the book.
Uncle Sam has the perfect right to debase the currency. But, you do not.
The debasement of our currency has greater consequences than the loss of the penny and the nickel. Rolf Nef writes: "When empires fall, their currencies fall first. Even clearer is the rising debt of empires in decline, because in most cases their physical expansion is financed with debt."
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Meanwhile, for American citizens the penalty of willful destruction of pennies or nickels can pack a wallop. Debasing your cumbersome loose change can cost you up to $10,000 in fines or get you sent to the hooscow for up to five years… or both! Aye carumba! Does this mean that while on the family vacation to Wally World, if little Rusty blows two quarters to get a penny smashed with an imprint of Marty Moose on it, he could become a felon? We’re gonna need a lot more prisons! Fortunately Halliburton will provide.
Of course there’s always a good sporting chance the Feds will abolish pennies and nickels altogether.
David Margolick opines that the penny’s face is insufficiently glorious for Old Abe and that all patriots should rush to liberate the 16th president from the common copper coin. Well, it looks like the US Government will be doing the liberating in much the same style as they liberate foreign countries.
The good news is that once pennies and nickels are no longer minted or in circulation, then they’ll really be worth something… to collectors of worthless junk.
All right Uncle Scam! Have it your way! But I’m looking out for number one. You ain’t getting any more pennies or nickels out of my pickle jar!
Elizabeth Gyllensvard contributed to and edited this story.
Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.