Because the price of zinc has shot up, the cost of production of a penny has risen above the coin's value.
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona) is planning to introduce legislation to eliminate penny from the US currency altogether.
The issue "used to be an oddball thing that Kolbe had an obsession about," the congressman said of himself. "Now it will become a necessity. We'll be compelled to change."
The cost of producing the coin has risen from .97 cent per penny in 2005 to 1.4 cent per penny. At that rate, the Mint would spend some $44 million producing pennies this year, nearly $14 million more than in 2005.
"When the price goes to 1.5 cents per cent then everybody will figure it out," said Kolbe. "Then everyone will hoard their pennies because the metal will be worth more than the coin." Kolbe, who is set to retire from Congress after this term, joked he should go into the business of buying people's pennies to sell them for their value.