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The Talk

The power of the penny

Pennies add up.
Pennies add up.

Some people think pennies are more trouble that they're worth. They might be right. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the cost to produce a one-cent coin had reached 1.5 cents. So the pitiful penny isn't worth the cost of making it.

It seems a losing proposition. Many have called for the abolishment of the penny, and there have been a handful of legislative attempts – although failed ones – to nix the penny, leaving the five cent nickel as the nation’s smallest denomination.

There have been some strong arguments in favor of the penny.

One is that many retailers charge prices such as $1.99 instead of $2, or $29.99 instead of $30.

Sure it’s a marketing ploy to give consumers the impression that something is significantly cheaper than it is, but by rounding up to $2 or $30, everything is technically costing a penny more.

That doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up.

It’s actually how a lot of cyberhackers make their money. They steal a few pennies from this account, charge a few pennies to another’s credit card.

Unless the victim is being hyper-vigilant, the slight goes unnoticed.

But if they’re doing it to millions of accounts – and they make a pretty profit.

So if cyber criminals know the value of the penny – at least electronic ones – why should you dismiss them so quickly?

I am here to make a plea for the power of the penny.

A single penny might be pointless, but a hundred of them make a dollar – that’s a candy bar. A thousand of them make $10 – that’s a bottle of domestic wine.

And they add up quickly.

Shortly after my husband and I married, I suddenly found myself the proud owner of an empty beer growler.

Neither of us were that into craft beer to fill it with a frothy brew, so it went on the floor of our living room to be filled with change.

At the end of each day, we’d empty our pockets into the jug. It quickly became filled, mostly with pennies and nickels and an occasional dime or quarter.

The growler gave way to an old wine carafe on the mantle and then into a couple of jars we found.

After about a year, we had too many pennies. We loaded the jars into the car and headed to our bank to take advantage of the free coin-counting.

We came home gleefully shocked with more than $500 cash in our pockets. And all newlyweds know how much $500 means to a young couple. That forgotten change gave us a license to splurge at a time when money was otherwise extremely tight.

But what about the penny on its own?

If you ask me, the penny is still a friend.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite childhood stories where my penny saved the day – at least in my version of events.

I was maybe about 3 years old and my father and I were walking to the corner grocery a few blocks away.

Along the way, I found a penny on the sidewalk – a fortune to a young child. I was ecstatic.

Having no real concept of the value of money, except that you could exchange it for goods and services, I proudly declared that I would be buying the groceries that day – dinner was on Stacy tonight.

Dad laughed and explained to me that even by 1973 standards, you couldn’t buy a lot with a penny. He’d buy the groceries. I might find a penny candy to buy, though.

As stubborn as I was, I ignored him. When we got to the store, I proclaimed to everyone that I had a penny and I was buying the groceries that day.

We shopped, and when we got to the checkout, Dad – as he had insisted – took out his money to pay as I stood there fruitlessly thrusting my penny at the cashier.

To this day, I don’t know if the cashier was just humoring me, or if this was that big of a coincidence, but it seems my father was exactly one cent short on the bill.

“I got this,” I chirped, and handed my coin to the cashier.

“See, I told you I could buy groceries with my penny,” I said to my father with a big smirk.

As my father tried to explain to me the math of the situation and that “No, I hadn’t actually bought the groceries with my penny,” the cashier – giggling – came to my defense.

“Technically, you couldn’t have bought the groceries without her penny,” she teased.

While I’m sure she would have spotted my dad the penny, he took the loss and let me tell everyone that I bought the groceries with my penny.

I pranced the whole way home as the proud provider, while he lugged his penny’s worth of groceries.

And, you know what, I still love those little copper-colored coins.

And don't forget, they're good luck!

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