Find a Penny, Pick it up?

Pennies

by Ryan

“All day long you’ll have good luck”… at least that’s how the saying goes.

Pennies are abound in parking lots, couch cushions, and cars around America and even the world. As you read this there is probably a forgotten penny somewhere nearby. You can pinch em, toss em, flick em, and skip em yet they stick around like super glue. You can even scratch that winning lotto ticket with these copper icons of American currency.

As I was making my way from the bench press to the treadmill at the gym the other day (or was it from starbucks to dunkin donuts… I forget…) I found a forgotten soldier in the American currency army. Glancing down I happened to notice a Mr. Abraham Lincoln staring at me, very solemnly I might add, with his ever present signature of “Liberty.” Being forgetful as I usually am I asked a guy a few machines down.

“Is it head or tails that’s good luck?”

He looked at me puzzled… cocked his head, and realizing he had no idea I was referring to pennies I added…

“If you find a penny and pick it up”

“Oh,” he said… “Heads is good luck”

Then he promptly ceased giving me an odd look and returned to his leg lifts.

I asked simply out of curiosity and to start conversation with a stranger… Although it didn’t work, I did get the answer to my question in the process. Even so, what if you don’t believe in luck? Is it still worth it to find that penny and pick it up?

Is it worth your time to pick up that penny?

I spent a good fifteen seconds from the time I picked it up, looked at it, then put it in my pocket. If I had simply picked it up and not examined it, I could have done it in about two seconds. Seeing as though I was technically getting paid a cent per two seconds that would equate to $18 an hour.

So does that make it worth picking up the penny? Being the low wage worker that I am, yes, it would be worth it for me, and I’d get the added bonus of maybe a half calorie burn in the process. However, for you big shots making big bucks you can show Mr. Lincoln the bottom of your shoe and keep on walkin. That is… if you’re not superstitious.

Why do they still make the penny?

Even if you don’t care enough about picking up a penny, you may wonder why it’s still in currency circulation and therefore the subject of this article. The penny has been a symbol of American currency since 1793. However, like America, the penny has changed, primarily in relative value. Due to inflation and the rising costs of metals and associated transportation and manufacturing costs the price to produce a penny is more than the value of the penny itself. Estimates range from slightly over the value to almost double.

Obviously the penny is not a good investment for the American government. It’s estimated that the loss of producing pennies is approximately $50 million per year. So why do it? I personally don’t have any attachment to pennies and would love to see that $50 million spent on worthwhile programs that need additional funding.

What do you think? Is the penny worth keeping?

When you see a penny, do you pick it up?

Image from Cobalt

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

OlivAmor January 10, 2010 at 6:34 am

Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I pick up coins. Since we get a fair amount of snow where I am currently living, the Springtime yields quite a few coins. I tend to find a few dollars worth every year. Not much, but better than nothing I suppose.

Since we’re on the subject of pennies, maybe this story might interest you:
http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/01/04/consumer-canadian-coin-auction.html

LeanLifeCoach January 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Not only is a penny worth the effort but if you pick up pennies made before 1982 they were still made of copper and as a result they are actually worth more than a penny with current spot prices.

Who knows, maybe if you keep them long-term they will be a significant portion of your retirement?

Ryan January 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm

@OlivAmor – Thanks for sharing that article – I’ll be sure to check the dates a little more closely next time I’m picking up pennies!

@Coach – Yea, when researching for this article I saw that the metal value was almost double for those made before 1982. That means the effective hourly rate doubles to $36/hr!

I think that might not be a bad idea, it’s just a matter of storing them, which for me is darn near impossible while moving often and trying to live out of two backpacks. Do you collect anything?

Lance February 14, 2010 at 11:01 am

Yup I have a penny jar, adds up to about twenty dollars a year.
That two prime rib dinners at the early bird special.

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