By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
ADA — Students enrolled in a sales and relationship management class at Ohio Northern University are attempting to collect 1 million pennies.
The “Have Some Cents” project is designed to bring awareness to the fact that a penny costs more to manufacture than it is worth, and to show there are already enough pennies in circulation, said Samantha Ventrella, a junior marketing and literature major from Dayton.
All the money collected during the assignment will be donated to the ReStore Community Center, Ada.
“There’s pennies everywhere,” Ventrella said. “And what we’re trying to do is show them that we don’t need to make any more pennies. We have enough in circulation.”
Susan Schertzer, associate professor of marketing in the James F. Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern, came up with the idea.
“I was looking for an idea of something that was more of a service, that students already knew about and that we could extend beyond campus for my personal selling class,” said Schertzer in an email.
She wanted the project to be fun as well.
“It may not sound like a sales class project, but selling and promoting involves a lot more than asking and closing,” she said.
The penny has also been “sort of a pet peeve,” she added.
“My husband and I travel quite a bit and in many countries they no longer have a penny,” she said.
In the Netherlands, for example, there is a .01 coin that is very small and thin, Schertzer said.
“I thought it was interesting and asked our local cafe if I could buy some,” she said. “He came out and gave me a small bag of them for free.”
A .02 Euro coin is the smallest denomination that is in circulation, she said.
In Australia, meanwhile, costs are rounded up or down to the nearest .05 which is the smallest coin, said Schertzer.
According to research done by the students, as of 1998, the U.S. Mint was still producing 13 billion pennies a year; each costing 1.83 cents to make. In 2013, the cent generated a loss of $55 million.
Ventrella said she doesn’t think people realize how much it costs to manufacture a penny.
Schertzer said most of the people she has talked to are surprised at the cost, but they’re not surprised the country is still using cents.
“It is really hard to effect change,” she said.
Ventrella said the students agreed there are enough pennies already in circulation. According to gotcents.org, there are an estimated 200-250 billion pennies in circulation.
The nickel has problems as well, costing 9.41 cents to manufacture, Schertzer noted.
“It costs way more than it is worth, but .05 may populate many a change jar. But those are still worth taking to the bank every so often,” she said.
She said the students liked the idea of the challenge.
“The other thing that was different was it is a class project,” she explained. “There are 14 in the class and they are learning to work in a larger team. They were shocked about the cost of the penny.”
The students were a bit daunted by the goal, Schertzer said.
“But I want them to think big. They need to value their time, effort and energy and spend it not just for a grade, but to learn and to make a difference,” she said.
Ventrella agreed that the students were dubious when Schertzer presented the idea.
“We were like, what? We cannot do a million pennies,” she said. “We’re still a little iffy, but it’s getting there. We keep promoting. We keep trying to talk to people, and it’s kind of working, but it’s a little bit hard to get people excited about this because it’s pennies.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown away a penny,” she said. “You can’t really do anything with them, but I guess they do add up.”
Collection jars and jugs are located in Ada businesses and all campus buildings. A recent count revealed that the students have already collected 15,000 pennies, or $150, said Ventrella.
In addition to soliciting family and friends for their spare pennies, the class is also using social media to get its message out.
“We have Facebook and we have Twitter. We try and promote as much as we can. We try to update at least daily,” Ventrella said.
“I think it’s possible (to make the 1 million goal),” she said. “But we have to try really, really hard.”
Students will try to reach the 1 million penny mark, or $10,000, by May 1.
“The purpose is to show the government that it’s a waste of money to make more pennies,” said Ventrella, noting that money could be used for more practical matters.
“This country is in a huge amount of debt,” she said.
Schertzer said she thinks 1 million pennies is possible, but the students will have to be creative.
“Twitter, Facebook and fliers are not going to cut it,” she said.
“To give them extra motivation, I bet them that I could personally get more pennies than they could. That really upped the ante,” she said.
Ventrella said at the end of the project, they’ll take the pennies to the bank and trade them in for paper bills which will be given to the community center. And even if they don’t reach the 1 million penny mark, she said they’ll be happy with what they collect.
“Whatever we get it will benefit ReStore,” she said. “But I hope we do (make it).”
Wolf: 419-427-8419 Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf
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