The Great Penny Debate

Over the years, media coverage occasionally ramps up around what I think of as the Great Penny Debate: whether to discontinue the U.S. one-cent denomination. The issue was covered on 60 Minutes a few weeks back, and now it's showing up in an excellent New Yorker article. The heart of the issue is that pennies cost more than one cent to make, so why not stop making them? There's also some disagreement as to the efficiency (and thus cost) of counting out change using pennies -- wouldn't rounding to the nearest five cents be faster? Given the prevalence of "take-a-penny" dishes at many checkout counters, it seems that cashiers already prefer rounding than dealing with pennies.

Countries (including the U.S., with the 1857 elimination of the half-penny) have discontinued low-denomination coins before, so it's not a far-fetched notion to think that the penny's days are numbered. But the actual issue aside, this whole penny discussion is jam-packed with trivia about coins and metallurgy. The New Yorker piece linked above brings us some great tidbits. I've gone ahead and collected some of its best factoids for your reading pleasure:

A penny minted before 1982 is ninety-five per cent copper -- which, at recent prices, is approximately two and a half cents' worth.

...More recent [pennies] are ninety-seven and a half per cent zinc.

Nickels, despite their silvery appearance, are seventy-five per cent copper.

Canadian five-cent coins ... were a hundred per cent nickel most years from 1946 to 1981.

Primarily because zinc [in addition to copper] has soared in value, producing a penny now costs about 1.7 cents.

...The Treasury incurs an annual penny deficit of about fifty million dollars -- a condition known in the coin world as "negative seigniorage."

Breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the federal minimum wage.

...Eliminating pennies would increase our reliance on nickels, which now cost almost ten cents to manufacture....

There's much more to the article than these bits of trivia, so I encourage you to read it in full. Also, the article mentions people "throwing away" pennies. Really? Dear readers, please tell me if you've been throwing away pennies. I toss mine in a jar, but never the trash.

The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas

When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

Pop Culture
The House From The Money Pit Is For Sale

Looking for star-studded new digs? For a cool $5.9 million, reports, you can own the Long Island country home featured in the 1986 comedy The Money Pit—no renovations required.

For the uninitiated, the film features Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as hapless first-time homeowners who purchase a rundown mansion for cheap. The savings they score end up being paltry compared to the debt they incur while trying to fix up the house.

The Money Pit featured exterior shots of "Northway," an eight-bedroom estate located in the village of Lattingtown in Nassau County, New York. Luckily for potential buyers, its insides are far nicer than the fictional ones portrayed in the movie, thanks in part to extensive renovations performed by the property’s current owners.

Amenities include a giant master suite with a French-style dressing room, eight fireplaces, a "wine wall," and a heated outdoor saltwater pool. Check out some photos below, or view the entire listing here.

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”



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