• Bodie English

What's With The Penny...., Part 1 Of The Covid-19 Inquiries

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

With facts and opinions flying at the speed of social media clicks, it has never been more important to nail down the answers to the pressing questions of the day. Here at The Morning Rag, we attempted to do just that.

I began my morning collecting small pebbles to throw at windows and doors to get the attention of local homeowners. (I felt it was more couth than to put my potentially infectious hands on doorbells.) with my arsenal of pocket filled aggregate I started my task of using my journalistic prowess to get to the bottom of some of the more pressing issues facing our nation and I started with Clarence. Clarence was standing by his front window when I threw a pebble at his door and thus he went out on the porch in a flash ready to wag a finger as soon as I was able to announce my intentions. I asked him if I could be of some service during this global pandemic in finding answers he was unable to google for himself. “I don’t know what a google is but what’s with all these damn pennies anyways”, he responded with a pleading loss of saliva. To which I replied, “What…..?”

He wanted to know how he was supposed to take all the pennies he’d rolled up to deposit at the bank when only the drive-through windows were available. Clarence had been saving pennies in an oversized Coca Cola glass bottle (about 3 feet tall) for the last several decades and now that he was quarantined, he’d finally found the time to roll them up and deposit them in his bank account but his first attempt broke the vacuum tube at the drive through teller.

I wanted to solve Clarence’s problem along with others and share them with my readership, so here we go.

Clarence was not alone in his penny/ change hoarding. Most families allow the younger members to inherit these personal banks of juvenile wealth usually upon a significant birthday or during a brief spurt of congratulatory report card sentimentality. Clarence had somehow wound up with a heretofore abundance of a paradoxical useless and valuable coinage.

To understand its paradoxical nature of the penny, we will dive into the history, present station and elucidate you on this lowest possible value coin. The penny was first minted in 1792 when George Washington was President. Obviously this means that President Lincoln did not yet grace the front side of the penny that most of us are familiar with. In fact, it’s not even officially called a penny. The word penny is merely a colloquialism brought over from British terms “coinage” or “money.” The correct term is the “one cent” numerical nomenclature.

Speaking of value, that’s where we seem to be at a bit of an issue, with inflation over time, let’s compare the value then and now. It’s not that dramatic. Originally it was worth……….ONE CENT! Now it’s roughly around a third of that value. WOMP WOMP. So then, why do we continue to make and use the penny? It seems reasonable to suggest we start rounding towards the nickel, but can we simply disregard this ubiquitous familiar pocket filler? And what would the world look like in the US when we suddenly don’t have every single price ending in .99!

President Obama, when asked about the idea of eliminating the penny offered this ironic reply, “a good metaphor for some of the larger problems that we’ve got. The government has a poor track record of getting “rid of things that don’t work so that we can then invest in the things that do.” It costs the Taxpayers approximately 39 million dollars to mint pennies depending on the year.

One aspect that is not well known is that our currency is also exported to other countries where citizens aren’t quite so nonchalant as to walk right past one on the ground or to throw them away after finding them rattling around the dryer. In fact. Sierra Leone has the lowest wages in the world where some workers make just .03 cents an HOUR! I think I just came up with a philanthropic idea….it’s pretty dumb. It would cost more money to ship the pennies to Sierra Leone than the value of the contents. I wonder what the digital transaction fee would be? How much effort would it take to wire pennies…..you wouldn’t you’d wire dollars, YOU DON’T EVEN NEED DIGITAL PENNIES! Are you going to wire someone 50 dollars and 99 CENTS!

I went back to Clarence to report my findings. I was hoping to advise him to mail the rolled up pennies to Sierra Leone and just accept that the tradeoff for the shipping costs would be offset by his philanthropic sense of finding value in altruism but Clarence had already gotten rid of his pennies. He took them to the local CoinStar at the grocery store, taking care to keep away from the dangers of Covid-19 by wearing a 2 gallon ziplock bag over his head. He told me he was able to get 159 dollars and 1 cent. When he saw that the transaction fee was 11.9% (after the fact) he demanded his pennies back. When the manager saw the elderly gentleman with a fogged up ziplock bag on his head demanding his pennies back, she offered him a free 24 pack of coca cola, to which he agreed. When I asked what he planned on doing with the one cent, he said he put it in his large glass coca cola bottle piggy bank. I asked what he planned to purchase with his 159 dollars, I’m starting a business, he said, “Did you know that a coke can is worth 1.7 cents? I’m gonna buy people’s coke cans from them for 1 penny.” He grinned a sly grin that denoted his supreme business acumen and then put his finger to his mouth to indicate that this was private privileged information.

I don’t know if I helped Clarence with his Covid-19 inquiry, helped him start a thriving business or inspired him to get on the watch list at the local grocery store, but from now on, I’m taking all my spare change to the recycling center.

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