Larry Buford

The other day I decided to coin-roll all the pocket-change coins I’d been saving. It took about four hours and I ended up with five rolls of nickels, one and two-thirds rolls of quarters, seven rolls of dimes, and a staggering one hundred eleven rolls of pennies. It was a lot, and the tally came to one hundred twenty dollars. As I went through the process, I began to think exponentially: how many other households have a cache of coins like this? What would it do for our economy if everyone turned in their pocket-change stash? And if it was being set aside for a rainy day, isn’t it raining now?

When I got to the bank, while standing in line to deposit the coins I overheard the following exchange: Pssst! Hey copper…got a sec? I hope you don’t mind, but I can tell on the surface that you’re just getting started. Are you from “Mile High” or “Philly”? I’m an old copper myself…a little tainted, but I know what’s going on and I still get around.

For instance, have you noticed all the advertisements that read a-dollar-ninety-nine this or a-dollar ninety-nine that, or the many T.V. commercials advertising products “not found in stores” for just nineteen-ninety-nine? My question is: what happened to that one penny that could have made it “twenty”!? I’ll tell you what happened…it got ambushed!

Too often some pennies get stacked up and just when the lot is about to turn their value into a dollar, the last penny gets it…wham!! What’s that all about, huh!?

Instead of saying a-dollar-ninety-nine, how come they won’t just say two-dollars? Why don’t they at least once in a while say two-dollars-and-one-cent so the other ninety-nine can get whacked? Then it wouldn’t look so political – like it’s a conspiracy or something, because it’s always that one penny!

And while I’m speaking about T.V., wouldn’t it save airtime by saying the two-syllable word “twen-ty” instead of the five-syllable “nine-teen-nine-ty-nine”? It’s stupid! Think about it! Those infomercials repeat at least ten times “…and if you call right now you can get all this for only nineteen-ninety-nine!” T.V. airtime is expensive, and advertisers could probably save at least ten seconds if they’d just say “twen-ty”…just two syllables…”twen-ty”!

That’s the penny politics: ambush the one penny and you don’t have to make the other ninety-nine whole. It devalues the whole lot, and that practice needs to stop.

President Lincoln once spoke on conflicted legacy and equality. The penny on its own is whole – a whole penny. These days when collective pennies come together to become accepted as a dollar, some introductory offer, or super sale is always lurking to make sure it doesn’t happen, and ninety-nine won’t do. Let that penny make a dollar! Make the lot whole!

Well, that’s pretty much all I had to say. Overall I’ve been pretty lucky. At least I’m still in circulation and not stored up in some old jar somewhere waiting for that rainy day like some of our other fellow coppers. I’m sure we’ll have an exchange again soon. In the meantime, keep your head up and watch your tail!

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of the Book/CD titled “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub.)

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