The New Yorker has an interesting article on American coinage. It focuses particularly on the question of what should be done with small denomination coins, given the ever-higher prices of metals like zinc, copper, and nickel.
It also includes a lot of interesting asides: such as how the American nickel was designed to have a mass of one gram per cent of value, at a time when the American government was flirting with the metric system. The article also features an amusing example of how industry sets us shell groups of ‘concerned citizens’ who are keen to block changes to the law that would be disadvantageous to them. In this case, a major supplier of zinc to the U.S. Mint founded Americans for Common Cents in order to resist moves to eliminate the diminutive coin.
Personally, I think that scrapping the penny is an act long overdue. For years now, I have been picking them out of the change I get back from purchases in order to reduce the mass of stuff being ferried about in my pockets. Even if every price gets increased to the next five cent mark, the benefits from being rid of the bothersome coin will be more substantial.