Malcolm - Sidney, Ohio
Entered on January 27, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in change. I got a call from my father to deal with my pennies. My hobby in high school was collecting pennies. I collected them for three years and brought them with me in a canvas sack for my last week of high school. Then I took them home and left them under my bed where they stayed for nine years.

I didn’t know what to do with those pennies. When I was in high school my capitalist father urged me to wrap and cash them (ignoring the fact that I was trading cash for pennies). My grandmother heard that hoarding causes inflation and urged me to stop my antisocial behavior. Those ideas made no impression on me, and when I went to get the pennies from where my room used to be it wasn’t my idea.

I loved collecting pennies. I started when I was very young. Like most children I associated money with quantity. The more pieces of money I had the richer I was, like Scrooge McDuck diving into his coin vault. It started with breaking down my money into smaller denominations, then only pennies since that was the best way to increase the amount of money I owned.

But it was more than that. Pennies allowed me to reach out in a way that I couldn’t otherwise. Asking people for change gave me a way to approach them. My scary English teacher was happy to give me a cup of pennies from her car (two of which were glued to a cough drop). People in class who I didn’t talk to would hand me change, and while for six years I couldn’t talk to the pretty girl who sat in front of me, I could ask her if she had any pennies.

Now I know that counting pennies doesn’t make you rich. Instead I obsessively track my retirement portfolio. But as I wrapped each roll the feelings came back: who I was, the people I knew, and why it was important. I held onto these pennies for nine years because they were a part of the person I was.

Pennies are a medium of exchange. Their value is what we assign to them. I know that pennies aren’t memories. I know I was miserly to hold onto them for so many years, but as I wrapped them, I remembered the time when I was gathering them together.

I believe that I can change. I believe that the memories in those pennies made me who I am, but holding onto them is a way to hold onto the past without recognizing what it really means. I still don’t feel like letting go, but I must remember I can have the value without the objects. Besides even if I don’t have the pennies, I’ve still got one letter from the pretty girl I never spoke to.