Paperwork: I have some thoughts to share, but do you have a penny?

Lonny Cain

“A penny for your thoughts.”

People still say that, right?

Well, let’s not argue inflation and the true value of your thoughts. But let’s do talk about that penny.

Who actually would have a penny to offer for my thoughts? I would not. My pockets seldom hold coins.

I say that and immediately flashback to the 1970s and memories of Elmer, an old-timer in our newsroom who always walked with a jingle-jangle. His hand was in his pocket constantly fingering a huge wad of coins. We, being more sophisticated, had those little plastic ovals that you squeezed open to hold coins.

Most money exchanges now involve plastic cards but I am still old-fashioned enough to also carry cash. But no coins.

If I get change back, some stays in my truck for drive-thru purchases but most is dumped into small containers at home: quarters, nickels, dimes and the almighty penny.

I enjoy watching it pile up, curious about the growing value but in no hurry to cash it in. Certainly I am not the only one doing this, right?

I remember when a penny was precious. A few pennies went a long way at the local candy store. I was happy to hear coins rattle in my pocket.

Now the penny doesn’t get such respect. Some say it serves little purpose. Plus, online research notes the U.S. Mint in 2023 spent 3.07 cents to make and distribute each Lincoln cent.

Do we still value the penny? Here’s a test question: if you see a penny on the sidewalk, do you bend over and pick it up? I’d like to see the poll results on that.

I pick ‘em up but I admit there is some hesitation at times. And if I am in a hurry, well ... maybe not. I say that with all apologies to Mr. Otha Anders of Louisiana.

I came across his story while doing quickie research on the penny. He hit the headlines in 2015 when he was 73 years old.

Anders collected pennies for 45 years in five-gallon water jugs as a passionate and somewhat spiritual hobby.

“I became convinced that spotting a lost or dropped penny was an additional God-given incentive reminding me to always be thankful,” Anders told The News-Star in Monroe, Louisiana.

“If I was at someone’s house and I found a penny, I would pick it up and I would keep it,” he said. “I will always tell the person that if it was a quarter, I would give it back, but since it is a penny, I’m keeping it.

“There have been days where I failed to pray and more often than not, a lost or dropped penny would show up to remind me.”

He refused to cash in his collection in the 1970s when the federal government offered a $25 bonus for every $100 of pennies turned in. He changed his mind years later when he found out his collection was not covered by his homeowner’s insurance policy.

His local bank agreed to help. He hauled in 15 jugs full of pennies that were broken open with hammers and axes. After five hours, he deposited $5,136.14 into his account.

Now, what was that other saying? ... “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Yep. I’ll pick up that penny on the ground. I’ll do it for Otha Anders.

• Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His PaperWork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.

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