October 26, 2006


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Nashua Publisher's Note: The color of pennies
By Jeff Rapsis

You should never stop learning, and among the things I can say I learned last year was that handling pennies in large quantities can turn your hands yellow.

I also discovered that there are still quite a few “wheat cents” still in circulation, meaning pennies minted before 1959 that have a pair of wheat stalks on the back.

I learned these things while helping out last fall during the annual Penny Picker fundraiser run every year by the Nashua Pastoral Care Center.

How it works is that for the next three weekends, teams of volunteers will visit neighborhoods throughout Nashua and collect pennies and other spare change. The money helps support the Pastoral Care Center’s operations year round.

What does the Pastoral Care Center do? They help local people and families get through times of crisis by listening, offering guidance, and providing low-income families assistance with basics such as food, shelter, and utilities.

Last year, the penny-picker fundraiser brought in about $40,000, all harvested from the spare change jars of Nashua households. I know because I helped “clean” the money as it was brought to Citizens Bank.

We did this by donning rubber gloves and going through endless bags of coins, picking out bobby pins, key rings, and other items that would jam the coin-counting machines at Citizens Bank on Main Street.

That’s where I discovered how pennies turn your hands yellow. Well, not really yellow, but more like a kind of filthy ochre, with a greenish tinge. It was a color I don’t remember seeing in my Crayola box.

Besides helping out, I was there for a reason. I had volunteered to pay two cents for every wheat penny that turned up during the collection. The volume was just too much to search all bags in detail, but I got pretty good at picking them out as we went through the massive piles of coinage. In the end, I was forced to cough up something like $5 for 250 Wheat cents, some going back as far as 1916.

How can we top that excitement? Well, the 2006 Penny Picker fundraiser is about to commence, and since America is all about bigger and better and more, I will this time double my standing offer.

Yes! For any wheat cents collected during this year’s drive, I will pay the astonishing sum of four cents each. That’s quadruple (I love that word!) the value of your donation.

So not only will your change be doing a lot of good for Nashua (a lot more than if it werejust sitting around in a jar), but your really old change will be doing four times as much good as they did in the past.

Because my retirement savings are limited to a jar of change, I must limit the maximum value of this quadruple matching program to a total contribution of $500.

Hey, that’s a hundred times more than last year, so don’t go calling me Scrooge out there.