2013-02-13 – I’m writing this on Lincoln’s birthday. I’m looking at jars full of Lincolns. I just emptied my pocket that was full of Lincolns. Is this a fitting tribute to our 16th president? A profile on our most worthless coin?
Our penny was not always worthless. When I was a kid in the 1950s, you could buy penny candy with a penny. Being a kid, candy was about all I bought. So pennies were pretty valuable to me.
Now I don’t even bother to pick one up when it falls.
My friend Bob picks them up. He is older than I am, so he has a longer memory of pennies as something useful. He lives by the adage: find a penny, pick it up, then all day you’ll have good luck. It used to be good luck because you could buy something with a penny. Now merchants drop them in a little tray by the cash register so they don’t have to make penny-ante change. Bob finds a lot of pennies these days because people drop them and leave them where they lie. No loss.
Speaking of penny-ante, that’s the type of poker I played when I was in high school. I had a peanut-butter jar full of pennies that I used as stakes. I never won or lost much. And the ebb and flow was contained within one jar. Ten years later I had 14 gallon jugs full. Yes, that’s a lot. It bought me an airplane ticket when I finally took them to the bank. But they accumulated because it was always easier to throw my pennies in a jar than recycle them.
Recently, Canada decided to discontinue their penny. It was worth about the same as our penny. That is, it was worth nothing. Now people are wondering whether the United States will follow Canada’s lead. I’m guessing that will happen about the time we adopt Canada-style health care.
But it wouldn’t be a bad idea. We could restore the honor to Abe Lincoln, too by also eliminating the one-dollar bill. And don’t worry about George Washington. Getting rid of the dollar bill will boost the use of quarters as well as fives.
I’m not holding my breath.
In the meantime, I think it is now sacrilegious to maintain the motto “In God We Trust” on a coin that is so worthless. Maybe we could replace it with a new motto: “Not Worth a Plugged Nickel.”
And, by the way a plugged nickel, historically, was a coin that had the “precious” metal of a nickel coin replaced by a base and cheap metal.
You may know that pennies, which used to be copper, are now zinc plated with copper to maintain the copper color. (The other day, Stephen Colbert recommended sticking the zinc pennies up your nose at the first sign of a cold.)
Like I said: “Not Worth a Plugged Nickel.”
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