A poll taken at a recent West Virginia University Festival of Ideas panel discussion on whetherthe pennyshould be saved or pitched showed overwhelming support to keep the coin.

Votes were taken throughout the day on March 1, prior to the event in the Mountainlair, and at the expert panel discussion that evening on whether the penny is a nuisance coin that should be done away with or a much-beloved, intrinsic tradition of our culture that should be saved.

When the overall votes were tallied, 76 percent said to keep the copper coin with 24 percent hoping to eliminate it. Interestingly, prior to the panel discussion, votes showed a slightly higher ratio, 80 percent, wanting to keep the penny with 20 percent willing to pitch it.

Both ratios are significantly higher than the national preference to keep the coin. According to a recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans want to keep the penny, while 43 percent say the government should do away with it.

Critics of the penny have called itthe Rodney Dangerfield of coins.Former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona introduced a bill called the Legal Tender Modernization Act in 2002 that would essentially eliminate the penny. The bill failed, but in 2006, Kolbe introduced follow-up legislation called thehttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Currency_Overhaul_for_an_Industrious_Nation& ;action=edit”title=”Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation”>Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation (COIN) Act, which will round cash transactions to the nearest nickel, removing the penny from circulation. The second bill is currently in committee.

Its main goal is to stop the continual production ofpennies, which supporters viewed as having virtually no value, yet costing the government billions to produce. Supporters of the legislation say because of the rising cost of zinc, the pennys main ingredient, it costs the government 1.4 cents to make a penny.

Critics of the bill allege that by cutting the penny, the act would only lead to increased nickel production and hoarding of pennies. In addition, the penny is linked historically with Abraham Lincoln and carries with it phrases likepenny for your thoughts,a penny saved is a penny earnedandpenny wise, pound foolish.

Panelists in the discussion included Tim Saab, senior vice president with Centra Bank in Morgantown, W.Va., and corporate secretary for Centra Financial Holdings, Inc.; Russell S. Sobel, WVU professor of economics and James Clark Coffman Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies; Mark Weller, executive director of Americans for Common Cents; and Robert Whaples, professor and chair of economics at Wake Forest University. Stephen R. Sears , dean of the WVU College of Business and Economics, moderated the event.

The penny panel was the third event in the Festival of Ideas series which runs through April. Coordinated through Arts&Entertainment, upcoming speeches by renowned authors include: Joshua Shenk, author ofLincolns Melancholy(March 8); Gore Vidal, novelist, playwright and essayist (April 2); and Sarah Vowell, social observer and contributor to public radios This American Life(April 11).

All presentations will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms and are free and open to the public; however, seating is limited to a first-come, first-served basis.