“A penny for your thoughts?” aka “What’s a penny worth? A reflection.”

I had the opportunity recently to come across a bunch of pennies tossed onto the ground in a parking lot.

I work. I make money. And I try to enjoy my life to my level of comfort. Rich and poor are relative notions. To someone living off of food stamps, finding a better paying job, or a job in general, might the best thing to happen that year. To the pro basketball/football player, a million dollars over a 5 year contract might be a negotiating point. Just the concept of having a million dollars in the bank even after a lifetime of work seems like an astronomical amount.

No matter what ones salary is, why and when did the penny stop being important or wanted and relegated to the role of something to shun. I get it from the concept that it can be a pain to carry around. People drop their pennies (and other small value coins) into a “if you need change” container by the register.

Maybe to me because $5 still seems like a lot of money that the penny is an amount of money. Seriously. I picked up every one of those pennies off the ground even with people watching. They added up to almost 20 cents. Yes it would have been faster and more convenient to find two dimes, but I didn’t and those pennies will go into the change bucket just like the other coins I either find or get as pocket change. Some stay in the car for parking meters but you can find some meters that take credit cards now as well as using your smartphone to pay at that moment. You might even get a notification in the restaurant that you need to pay again and can do so without having to run back.

What is change worth these days? The “pocket change” on a credit card takes care of itself. People still sneer or look down on the penny. It’s actually worth more than one cent when you break down the costs of the metals as well as the manufacturing of the coin. Its value almost seems valueless to most people. I’m not in a moment to look it up but I remember a brain puzzle about taking a million dollars or the sum of a month starting with one penny and doubling it every day. Of course the penny amount was far greater by quite a lot. Maybe later I’ll try and do the math again myself to see. At 28, 30 and 31 days for completeness.

There are those machines that will automatically sort and count your coins for you and place the amount on a giftcard of your choice. I’ve had them not count the change correctly as I had already counted at home. Why didn’t I just deposit it at that point? Because the machine was offering a bonus for a certain merchant if I put the coins on their giftcard. So I’ve gone back to packing my coins into wrappers (free from the bank) and taking them to the bank myself to deposit. I’ll continue that for a while.

A penny saved, or found, or not spent, is a penny earned. Even a low interest rate is something. I wonder how much 20 cents over 20 years even at 1% interest compounded annually would earn. Something to think about.

Does the lack of interest in picking up a penny say something about society and/or individuals. Something else to think about and really the initial reason I started even writing about the penny as I felt the looks from the people watching me pick up those pennies off the ground. In hindsight I didn’t think before to even wonder why they were on the ground to begin with. Hmph. I don’t think we are that enlightened or ‘rich’ that we should be taking a penny for granted. It’s a base amount. It’s where the rest of money comes from, excluding the number zero. I wonder if there would be any correlation between valuing the penny and the value one places on life or other simple things in life. Not sure if anyone has even ever thought of that as something to look at. It shall stay as something to ponder about.


p.s. the interest is 4 cents. if you found 20 cents every year, with interest you’d have $4.69. 20 cents a month would be $56.30.

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