If you’ve benefited from those little ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ trays, dishes, or cups at local stores and gas stations, you’d understand exactly why Take a Penny/Leave a Penny Day on August 8 is so important. Extra change, including cents (or pennies, as they are called), are put in these containers, to be used by someone short a few coins and with no access to immediate change. These little trays are not just a U.S.-based feature; Canada had its own take a penny, leave a penny trays, at least until the penny went out of circulation in 2013.
History of Take a Penny/Leave a Penny Day
Americans have called the one-cent coin ‘penny’ for a long time, probably due to the popularity of the British penny, which was commonly used during the colonial era. The U.S. penny is actually the lowest unit of American currency since the half-cent was abolished way back in 1857. The British penny has roughly the same value as the American cent does.
The first U.S. cent came out in the 1780s and was very different from the coins in circulation today. For one, the first coins were really heavy and had a lady with flowing hair on one side, who was supposed to represent Lady Liberty. And they were all usually made of pure copper.
Coins continued to be minted with new designs and colors, but the first one with a real person’s face on it was only introduced in 1909, to honor the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Public sentiment — and official ones too — had been strongly opposed to featuring a real person on this coin, at least until the proposal mentioned Lincoln would be the honoree. The positive response to this suggestion was marked a radical departure from the previous designs, and the U.S. has minted the ‘Lincoln cent’ ever since.
In recent years, people have called for the elimination of the pennies, because they are rarely used by the public, and producing them costs the U.S. Mint more than the face value of the coin, which causes a loss and increases inflation too. However, the coins are still in circulation today, and until the day comes when they’re not, we recommend you go ahead and enjoy this celebration.
Take a Penny/Leave a Penny Day timeline
King Offa of Mercia, a kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, introduces silver coins to the existing currency, which are widely believed to be the first English coins.
Reportedly designed by Benjamin Franklin, this coin is named the 'Fugio cent' — visitors leave one-cent coins at Franklin's gravesite in Philadelphia for good luck.
Pennies are 95% copper until this year, after which they are mixed with other metals because the price of copper increases exponentially.
According to a news report, the U.S. Mint announces that they will make their last batch of pennies on this date.
Take a Penny/Leave a Penny Day FAQs
What is the meaning of ‘take a penny/leave a penny?
The words ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ refers to the tray, dish, cup, or other container found in local stores, gas stations, and other places, where customers can leave or take coins for cash transactions, as required.
Is it pennies or pennys?
The plural of ‘penny’ is ‘pennies’ in the U.S. The British — who also have a unit of currency called the ‘penny’ — use ‘pence’ when they speak about this coin in the plural.
Is penny still in use?
The penny is still in use in the U.S. as well as in the U.K.
Take a Penny/Leave a Penny Day Activities
Fill a Take/Leave Penny tray
Have a penny or two extra? Put it in the tray and let someone else enjoy it.
Join the penny debate
Explore the case for and against getting rid of the penny. Where does your opinion lie? Join the discussion, and involve others whenever you can.
Take up penny collection
You can never have too many hobbies, and collecting pennies is a fun hobby! Source pennies from various countries, collect every single one that you can and show off your collection to other coin enthusiasts.
5 Cool Facts About The Penny
Is it a penny or a dime?
Since copper was needed for war efforts, cents were made with zinc-coated steel in 1943 — only for a year — and confused people with their similarity to the dime.
A coin in the belly
According to medical professionals, coins are one of the most commonly ingested foreign objects among children in the U.S., but generally don't cause much alarm because they pass out of the body naturally.
Facing the wrong way
Simply because the designer — Victor David Brenner — chose to do so, Abraham Lincoln's face is to the right while other presidential portraits on other coins face the other direction.
It once had a bigger value
The German ''pfennig' and Swedish 'penning,' along with the English word, once meant coins and money of all denominations, and did not necessarily only designate a small amount.
Paul Revere — the silversmith?
America's legendary Revolutionary War hero owned a metals company that once supplied the U.S. Mint with copper for producing early cents.
Why We Love Take a Penny/Leave a Penny Day
It celebrates a great custom
Sometimes, people have no change to spare. The 'take a penny/leave a penny' tradition is a wonderful way to lend a helping hand to those in need or those who perpetually run out of change while making their purchases.
It celebrates the penny
Because we're not using this little coin as much as we used to, the penny has been relegated to the background in our minds. A celebration like this takes us into the history of the penny, reminds us about its past status, and shows us how currency evolved over the years. This makes for an interesting glimpse into the past.
We think it's a metaphor too
‘Take a Penny/Leave a Penny' can also be applied to a bigger picture, with 'penny' representing kind deeds and words. A person 'leaving a penny' is spreading good vibes all around, while someone 'taking a penny' is benefiting from another's goodwill.
Take a Penny/Leave a Penny Day dates