Copper coins: should they be scrapped?

There is a growing call to do away with the smallest type of currency: the 1p and 2p.

Critics of loose changes say these coins have lost so much value they are virtually worthless. They weigh down pockets and purses and you can't use them in machines any more.

According to a recent Prudential survey, a quarter of the public would rather do without them.

But defenders of our smallest coins argue they aren't worthless. Taking care of the pennies really does mean the pounds look after themselves. If you don't want them, donate them. Besides, scrapping them would lead to economy-crushing inflation.

This week's big question is: is it time to scrap the copper?

Steve Vaughan

YES: Steve

What can you actually buy for a penny these days?

Black Jacks and Fruit Salads now come in packs. You don't get much change from 40p for them.

You can't use pennies in parking machines any more, and when was the last time you hung around in a shop to bother getting your change if it was less than 10p? It's really only out of embarrassment at saying "keep the change", which seems rather lame for something so worthless.

And they are worthless. As a number of financial commentators have reminded us in recent years, the penny has lost several 100% of its value in the last two or three decades.

So worthless is it that apparently, according to a Prudential survey, a third of younger people actually throw it in the bin.

I may have binned the odd one or two coppers in my time - mainly while clearing the kitchen drawer of doom - but by and large they end up in a jar, the children's money boxes and eventually the bank.

The Royal Mint says that 6.5bn of pennies made since 1971 are no longer in circulation - stashed, lost, landfill, or taken as souvenirs by tourists.

Surely there must come a time when coppers cost more for banks and retailers to handle than makes economic sense.

In the meantime, what are they actually useful for?

Well, they could be good for bets in card games with children - but you probably shouldn't be encouraging this anyway.

Oh, and let's not forget shopkeepers trying to convince us that £9.99 is nearer £9.00 than £10.00.

Zoe Catchpole

NO: Zoe

If a quarter of the UK doesn't want to take care of its pennies, I'll look after them... in my old whisky bottle.

That 6.5bn of penny coins that have vanished since 1971 amounts to £65m. It does make sense of that mantra often spouted by my parents' generation.

Pennies may be worth little but they are not worthless. Nor do they cost more to make than they are worth: it is estimated to cost around 0.3p to produce a copper plated steel penny.

I still use coppers to pay with, admittedly to the roll-eyed response of others in the queue. And no, it doesn't take that long.

Most transactions under £10 are still carried out in cash. I cannot believe none of us can be bothered to count out 2p, 6p, 7p etc.

If you really don't want them, give them to charity. When the shopkeeper hands over those coppers, pop them in the box that's usually next to the till. In these times I doubt the good people of Battersea Dogs Home will be turning your coppers away.

Above and beyond any of that, getting rid of them would cause massive inflation. A really, really big increase. Get rid of one and two pennies and no retailer will be rounding down now, will they? Virtually every single thing you buy will go up by one or two pence, while petrol prices would rise only in 5p denominations. Ouch.

As we lag in a possible triple-dip recession, such an inflation boom would be a very bad thing.

Basically, scrapping coppers would do the economy no good.

Are we really in an age where money means so very little to people they want to lob it away? I hope not.