Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodbye my little brown friend, and thanks!

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"...even at my age today, the smell of a collection of these coins, flashes me back to games of Rummoli" 
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It has come to be, the retirement of the Canadian One Cent Piece. Our Penny - off to retire after years of service. I won’t editorialize on the inevitability or business cause and effect of this departure from circulation, other than to say, I am sure that the penny has run its course, and no doubt a prudent decision to move on to nickels as our lowest currency denomination.

But, our penny’s impending demise, does cause me to reflect, joyfully, on the part that this little brown disk has played in our lives.

It existed as a small part of our social fabric as children, not solely on the value of $0.01, but it was more than that, pennies provided us much more value than the minimal currency it represented. As a child, pennies were our first true experience with money. Parents freely offered us these coins which we gathered in bunches. I expect that there is not an adult out there who did not have a piggy bank, a jam jar, a bottle that was not filled to overflowing with pennies. Occasionally these pennies would be dumped on a floor and counted, small piles of ten, or twenty five to simplify counting without losing track. Bunched later into hundreds to tally how many dollars the stash totaled. For me anyway, I can thank pennies for the ability to roll coins. A neatly stacked pile of fifty pennies that were destined to be rolled, at first with great difficulty, but after time, an easy task. Maybe there are many like me that recall that very distinctive metallic smell left on our hands after hours of calculating, sorting and rolling our gold mine of cash.

Well before the internet, we sat analysing every penny, looking at the dates, finding an unusually well preserved 1952 penny allowed us to imagine anything that old must be worth a fortune to a collector, and personally I sat those aside in hopes that I would be rich some day. But thankfully without the internet existing, we remained blissfully unaware that a 1952 penny that has been well circulated is worth exactly one cent.  


Family night Rummoli night was a special occasion, it was time to bring out your pickle jar full of pennies and put them to good use. I found juvenile pride of being asked by my parents to get something that was mine in order to have games night. Always an odd sense of importance emptying hundreds of copper colored disks onto the playing surface of the game board (more of a plastic printed sheet). The pre-rolled pennies were never permitted to be opened, only the loose ones. Funny actually, as a child, a rolled stack of 50cents, was a permanent state, our own version of retiring this currency of further circulation. Again, even at my age today, the smell of a collection of these coins, flashes me back to games of Rummoli.

Pennies also introduced a whole generation of children into gambling. Sometimes just used as chips, that were shared, and then returned to the rightful owner, but occasionally, playing for keeps. It was an utterly disturbing reality of seeing your jar slightly less populated after losing what at the time felt like millions of dollars in an evening of poker playing. As an aside, maybe it was only my group of childhood friends who never really knew if a straight beat three of a kind, or a flush beats a full house. Often we would simply agree what beat what – regardless of what the real rules were.

For the near future, our children may not have this joy of jar of currency, displayed prominently in their bedroom, to admire daily as go about their business. A Jar of nickels has true financial value, and young children may not as freely be given a handful of nickels as their parents clean out their change purse, or empty their dress pants pockets in the evening. 

Maybe it was the fact that pennies have been for so long virtually valueless that enabled young children to find value in the in so many other ways.


5 comments:

  1. I'm going to miss preparing to snap my fingers but jamming a penny between my middle finger and thumb and sending it zipping across the room. For my sake and the sake of my future targets I may have to stop flicking them all together rather than switching to nickels.

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    1. Not sure if this is before your time, but an old Sitcom program "Happy Days" introduced us to a challenging activity of stacking pennies on your elbow, and with a quick snap, grabbing them with your hand, making sure none fall to the floor. School yards were filled with competitions of how many pennies can be stacked and then captured.

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    2. found this video demonstration.. NO this is not me in the video:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=15yBXl_pgJw&NR=1

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  2. We often play Rummoli as a family and have a big penny jar to serve as the bank. I have the totally same association to the smell of a penny or the smell they leave on your hands ... fun to pick out your birth year, or the Centennial bird pennies, or the really old King pennies. Sad to see them go for sure. At least we still have the penny jar!

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    1. Kate, yes, birthday penny searched... I forgot about that!! Do you still play Rummoli? It is sad that this game seems to have gone the way of the Dodo Bird... Wonder if you can still buy the game?

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