A Special Edition: Penny Power

The PenniesWhen was the last time you considered a penny’s power and influence?

“Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.”

When was the last time you bent over to pick up a penny?

Without looking, which way is Lincoln facing?

Would you think twice before saying “a penny for your thoughts”, before putting a penny in your loafers, before tossing a penny for a wish? If your wish came true, would you consider it a penny well spent?

Or the title of one of Ogden Nash’s poems sums it up, “A Penny Saved is a Penny Well Spent.”

We are nostalgic about our pennies.

Or we would be more “penny wise than pound foolish” and join our Canadian friends who retired their pennies because it cost more to mint them than they are worth.

What if we took a trip back in time. Not via the DeLorean or the Tardis or the Time Machine, but through a book I picked up at a used bookstore.

1987. A time before the internet. Going viral meant sickness or disease. And landlines were all the rage—well pretty much your only option.

Nationally syndicated columnist, Bob Greene, Chicago Tribune, received an interesting letter from Mike Hayes, a freshman enrolled at the University of Illinois. His parents put four older siblings through school and could not fund Mike beyond his first quarter.

Mike proposed an intriguing idea.

He asked Bob how many people read his column. Mike figured there must be millions of readers. He asked Bob to pitch his readers the idea of sending Mike one penny. If a couple million people sent him one penny—dug it out of the sofa cushions, the floor of their car, off the sidewalk—it would pay for his entire education.

No one thought the idea would work—except Mike.

The cost of a stamp in 1987: 22 cents. More than the cost of the penny.

Intrigued, Bob wrote the column.

In less than four weeks, the “Many Pennies for Mike” fund reached close to 2.3 million pennies. But not everyone sent pennies, some sent nickels, dimes, quarters or more.

In the end, he received enough to pay for his degree and gifted the residual to another deserving student at his university in the form of a scholarship.

Crowd funding before crowd funding.

And in case you want to know, Mike Hayes became a food scientist. And Abe Lincoln’s profile faces right.

Since we’re on the topic of the power and influence of pennies, how about the Beatles lead us out with Penny Lane.

Until next week.




About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A Special Edition: Penny Power

  1. kerbey says:

    Wow, that shows that every little bit matters. I don’t give much thought to a penny these days, unless maybe it’s an old wheat penny. Do you think I haven’t noticed how even pennies are gluten-free these days? And does it mean that we place so little value on Lincoln that his profile is only worth a penny? Or so much that we also put him on a five dollar bill? And riddle me this, Fannie. “The banker never wears a mack?” What on earth? Very strange. And one more thing: “He likes to keep his fire engine clean. It’s a clean machine.” Does everyone think that’s dirty?


  2. Liz says:

    great story! and how awesome is it that he went on to be a food scientist 🙂 Three cheers for the Beatles.


  3. I got an ear worm from that song! Great post!


  4. markbialczak says:

    I am richer for you offering your two cents on our dear penny, Fannie. Mike’s idea was worth a mint to he and whomever earned his follow-up scholarship. And Bob Greene was a gold (copper?) standard to a generation of journalists for his downhome column writing.


  5. Lily Lau says:

    Next time I see one of those dear pennies I won’t be lazy to pick it up, what a rare motivation you gave us! 😉


  6. Really enjoyed this!!


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