Pennies From Heaven

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2011 at 2:14 am
By: Doug Lund
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I shelled out the most I’ve ever paid for a tank of gasoline last weekend in Minneapolis; $3.99.9 a gallon. How stupid do they think we are, to fall for that old penny pricing trick? “Yah, it’s high alright but at least it hasn’t gotten up to four bucks yet.”   Although I admit I once tried to talk Linda into letting  me buy a new HDTV by telling her it was only $999.99 instead of a thousand. She didn’t buy it..nor did I.  

I really think it’s time to do away with pennies in our U.S. currency.

penny trayYou never have one when you need one at the store; then end up with a bunch of them you don’t want from all the change you get back. Oh, sure, lots of retail places have a little dish of pennies by the check-out stand for customers to use but it’s usually empty by the time I’m there so when the clerk says “That’ll be $4.01 sir,” I end up leaving the place a half pound heavier because of all the change in my pocket.  Sometimes I’ll be three or four cents short and, even if there are pennies in the dish, I feel guilty about taking more than one or two…especially if they’re the LAST two.

No…I say it’s time to round all prices off to the nearest nickel. It seems to me that stores would still come out about the same and people would certainly be less stressed out not having to scramble for pennies all the time. Or, worse yet, be standing BEHIND someone  in line who won’t give up until they find that penny they know is buried somewhere in their pocket or purse.

 Pennies lost their luster a long time ago when we  first decided it was more trouble than it was worth to bend over and pick one up off the street.  

Although I must admit, they once proved to be a real blessing when I worked full time at Keloland.  Years ago, one of our guest cooks on Monday Menu left an empty two gallon glass jug in the studio. When I showed up for work the next day, somebody had put that jar on the corner of my desk with a little note that said “Doug Lund’s retirement fund, pennies only.” There were even a few coins inside to prime the pump. I decided that rather than take offence I’d play along promising that once the jug was full of pennies,  I’d cash them  in and buy pizza for everybody in the newsroom.

penny jar oneBefore long my desk became like a toll booth as co-workers walked by and unloaded their pennies; often by the handful. After every donation I got into the habit of saying, “God bless you.” It was fun watching the pot grow and speculating as to how much money was in there. But then Steve Hemmingsen would show up, give the jar a shake, which settled the coins way down, then he’d walk off laughing. Eventually, though, after a huge donation from photographer Kevin Kjergaard and his brother, Buddha, who apparently cleaned out their dresser drawers at home, the jug was full to overflowing.  Now, this was at a time when the government was talking about a penny shortage and urging people to stop hoarding them. So, I decided to make a Lund at Large report out of it and called Sioux Merchant Patrol who sent over an armed guard to accompany me, a photographer and the penny jar to Home Federal where bank employees played along as we dumped the money into the coin counter. I don’t remember the exact total but we were pleasantly surprised to find it was just over 62 dollars; more than enough to fill everybody up with pizza the next day. I thought that would be the end of it but employees kept dropping their pennies in and Hemmingsen kept torqueing contributors off with his regular settling shakes. After a couple more years and a few thousand “God Bless Yous” it was full again. This time we ordered Chinese food.  We were well on our way to filling it a third time when Hemmingsen, now retired, stopped by the newsroom to say hello, drop in a few cents and just had to shake the jar for old times sake. This time, the stress was too much. The glass broke sending thousands of little coins rolling all over the floor. We found a smaller replacement jug which eventually was filled up and cashed-in for one last pizza party.  Then I actually DID retire.

As I think back on those seven or eight years that the penny jar sat on my desk, I remember that it wasn’t just my workmates who donated. Senator Tom Daschle, Mayors Hanson and Munson along with a lot of other politicians and notable people who passed through the newsroom would smile, toss in a few coins and get a blessing just like everybody else. Come to think of it, maybe pennies aren’t so bad after all.


  1. Jaine Andrews says:

    I used to plug the jar just to get the “God Bless You”‘s. Lord knows how much I need them!! Stop by the newsroom anytime, I’ll be happy to unload some more pennies on you. I’m not nearly as enamored with them as you are!

  2. Per Pål P says:

    Maybe Penny Loafers will come back in style…and we’ll need lots of shinny new pennies. Remember those Penny Loafers with “clips” on the heels ? Per

  3. Michael says:

    $3.99 for a gallon of gas? I have that beat. Try $5.85 a gallon, Truckee, California July 2008. That’s the most I’ve ever paid. $100 to fill up my Taurus! Truckee is just off Lake Tahoe and is where all the millionaires get their gas. I also had a really good breakfast there for $25.

  4. grouse says:

    Mocketh thou not the lowly penny. Remember that the Lord did loveth the widow’s mite. Remember also that around 2000 years ago this Sunday, our Lord got great gas mileage and saved several pieces of silver by riding a donkey into Jerusalem. I think that the King James version said he rode “the foal of an ass”, but you probably can’t say that word today. I do remember snickering every time someone read that passage though.

  5. Barbara Telkamp says:

    I am one of those odd people who does bend over and pick up a penny. One year, before the economy went south, I picked up about $.87 during the year. Not a lot but buys a cup of senior coffee at McDonalds with change! Just glad at my age that I can still bend over. Thanks for your blogs. I still miss the other guys and Steve but then, times change.

  6. daniel Johnson says:

    as long as we will have a sales tax the penny will be needed .

  7. GMAX9 says:

    You should always pick up a penny when you find one. Found pennies are a message that someone in heaven is thinking of you.

    I’m not sure where I first heard that but I like it so I always bend over (a bigger chore each year) and pick up those pennies.

  8. Erika says:

    Pennies are wonderful! Last fall our very small school had “Penny Wars” to raise money for an injured student. The class with the most pennies won but if someone put silver in your jar it took the total down. Kids were putting their pennies in their class’s jar and their silver in another class’s jar. Our little school averages 10 kids per grade and we raised well over $1000 for this cause, all due to pennies.

  9. Donn says:

    I love pennies. I empty my pockets of all change everyday, and into the jug it goes. Never have change at the checkout, but do when I leave. Adds up to 2 to 3 hundred bucks a year. If we take away the penny, the state and cities will raise their taxes, which they would love to do.

  10. Larry says:

    Sign over the pennies at Pronto Auto Parts.

    “Take 1″
    “Take 2″
    “Take 3″
    “Any more than
    that get a job.”

  11. Hemmingsen says:

    I still bend over to pick ‘em up. It helps pay the chiropractor to straighten me back up.

  12. dean says:

    We definitely need to get rid of the penny. It costs almost 2¢ to make one and nobody would ever miss it in their transactions. If you bought a bag of groceries for say $63.43, you would lose 2¢ by rounding up to the nearest nickel. Big Deal!!
    By the way, we also need to get rid of the dollar bill. But I’ll talk more about that another time.

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