Last Word: Penny-wise, dollar-foolish

Could you use an extra $48 a week? Who couldn’t? A new survey conducted by Visa claims the average American spends $2,400 a year on stuff we can’t account for. That’s over a hundred grand in the course of a lifetime. Each! A buck for gum on Monday. Five bucks for a froofy coffee on Tuesday. You know the drill. By Friday, the equivalent of two of your Andrew Jacksons has vanished into thin air.

In a moment of silent financial introspection, I’ve concluded that a chunk of my unaccounted-for $48 ends up in those take-a-penny, leave-a-penny dishes you see at checkout counters nearly everywhere. They’ve become black holes for my disposable income. I average seven or eight visits a week to grocery stores and almost always drop my pennies into the tray at the register. If there was a dish for other coins, I would gladly contribute dimes and quarters. Why? Because whatever money I lose through coins I make up for in pants pockets that last years longer because these stinkin’ coins aren’t burrowing through the fabric and creating holes in them.

There is a moral question attached to penny dishes. What is the top limit that customers should be allowed to take from these informal community banks? Since you never really need more than four pennies in any change-making transaction, I think 4 cents should be the limit. Am I the only person who’s seen somebody take a handful of coins as if they were after-dinner mints? Grubby paws imitate the movement of a steam shovel, leaving just a coin or two after robbing the bank in broad daylight.

I know who you people are. Chances are, if you could follow every one of these freeloaders once they left the store with their 14 ill-gotten pennies, you’d likely find a trunk full of stolen manhole covers. Check their garages for spools of stolen copper wire. I’ve actually added a rider to my homeowners insurance covering my copper-bottom Revere cookware.

The sad irony of penny theft lies in the man on the humble ducat – Abraham Lincoln. HONEST Abe. For 99 years, our 16th president has stood as the beacon of honesty on every penny that’s been cranked out by the U.S. mint. I propose that Abe be replaced by Richard “I Am Not A Crook” Nixon, to reflect the trend in stealing copper.

Honestly, if I were the Secretary of Coinage for our government, I’d eliminate pennies altogether. It’s a no-brainer, folks. Pennies cost about 1.5 cents each to produce. The only thing stopping me from an all-out public assault on pennies is the fact that several charities depend on penny contributions to serve their clients.

In 2006, Nashua Pastoral Care’s Penny Pickers campaign brought in 4.3 million Lincolns. That’s $43,000 to assist those in crisis.

Anyway, if you see me bending over to pick up a penny on the sidewalk, please be patient. All I’m trying to doing is get some of my $48 back. nhbr

You can hear Mike Morin weekdays from 5 to 10 a.m. on “New Hampshire in the Morning” on 95.7 WZID-FM. Contact him at