1. When your change is exactly one penny do not stand there anxiously waiting for the clerk to hand it to you. This is bad form. Let him have it.

2. Likewise the clerk should not demand that you produce a penny when your total is, say, $7.01. You have already given him that penny at another time. It all works out in the end. You'll see.

3. Pennies do not come from Heaven. Hardworking men and women pour molten metals from vats to form coinage strips in conditions of near diabolic heat. Consider this, Ms. Devil May Care, before casting them so casually onto your dresser, your nightstand, the kitchen table.

4. Remember the boy down the hall from us in our first of many bad apartments in this city? He had the little cardboard car he pushed along the banister of the stairwell. Its penny wheels glued to tiny dowels. It wobbled as it rolled.

5. Pennies are best when pressed flat, elongated, and embossed with giraffes, porpoises or the Statue of Liberty as keepsakes from visits to zoos, aquariums, Ellis Island. This one reminds me of you, the trip we took, how we touched and the sweaty ardor that followed in the room of a nameless motel that smelled like cigarettes and travel-size soap.

6. I promised you that if/when this deal went through it would make us a penny that was, as they say, quite pretty.

7. If you put pennies in your shoes someone may laugh. You've been warned.

8. Pennies bearing wheat and Indians should be treasured, kept hidden away in leatherette books with little plastic pouches. There are several in your change jar even now.

9. A penny saved will in time become lost among tangled strands of hair, foil gum wrappers, elastic ponytail holders and the crumbs from your Pringles.

10. A large jar of pennies is of little value once you consider the time and trouble of counting and rolling. This jar is best used as a percussive instrument to shake and rattle and keep the time as your friends dance around the room and sniff at the metal tang on their fingers.

11. Pennywhistles cost more than you might think.

12. The same goes for penny candy. Expect to pay anywhere from 3 to 5 cents.

13. You will need a dropper, one penny, a cup of water, some paper towels, and graph paper to record your predictions and results. Fill the eyedropper with water and then begin dropping water onto the penny one drop at a time. Predict and graph how many drops of water you can drip onto a penny before the water spills over.

14. Greenhorns should always start with penny-ante poker. So how did I find myself in this small rented room with men named Chuck and Vince, feeling empty and heartbroken and wondering how I will explain all this to you?

15. Do you know why the water stays on top of the penny? What you see happening on the penny is called "surface tension."

16. Pennies cover the eyes of a dead man in a frugal home.

17. Lose a penny and no one hangs up a poster that says it’s missing. Lose a dog named Penny and it’s a different story.

18. Fling some into the park and see what the pigeons think.

19. Clangorous machines smelling of oil are used to punch blank discs from the coinage strips I have mentioned. This process is called blanking. The blanks are then annealed, washed, dried, riddled, upset, struck, inspected, counted and bagged. After it is punched the coinage strip resembles a web of copper. It is sent back to the glowing red vats of those hardworking American men and women to be melted and tormented again.

20. A penny in your hand is one out of many.

21. A penny-a-liner is an archaic phrase Chiefly Brit. that means a hack writer. Such writers were paid a penny per line for their shoddy boilerplate. Are my cheeks red?

22. Another experiment involves a bent wire clothes hanger, a penny, and centripetal force.

23. By these standards I should be paid about $3.42.

24. Aquatic children overlook them when the chlorine burns their eyes. Over time the pennies turn green and are forgotten.

25. "That kid’s a bad penny," they warned and warned. "Stay away from him. He’s nothing but trouble." They weren’t exactly wrong. But how could I just let you go like that?

26. The direction that Lincoln faces on the cent was not mandated--this was simply the choice of the designer.

27. The steel penny reminds us of Grampa, his limp, and all the copper we conserved to assist his heroic acts.

28. You may be interested to know that the penny is the most widely used denomination currently in circulation.

29. Several pennies in the ashtray of your car may prove useful in the future.

30. It has not been confirmed that the penny has outlived its usefulness.

31. Someone may grasp your arm and whisper, "The government wants to do away with the penny." Walk away from them calmly.

32. The pennies of today come from Denver and Philadelphia.

33. According to the American Numismatic Association, the 1943 copper-alloy cent is one of the most idealized and most sought-after items in American numismatics.

34. Of course you see him in profile on the obverse but do you see him seated so small on the reverse, among the columns of his memorial?

35. The hot gun dropped from his hands and he limped away. The hole in his pocket, the trail he left, gave him away in the end.

36. In 1996 someone paid $82,500 for a 1943 copper-alloy cent. Imagine how much one of those might fetch us now.

37. Heads or tails?

38. Except you don't come from either Philadelphia or Denver either. You own neither skis nor fleece parka. You often wonder, just what the hell is cheesesteak?

39. Obverse or reverse?

40. Perhaps no other sound is as annoying as that of many pennies shuttling loudly up the throat of the vacuum cleaner. All the rattling and grinding. Do you smell something burning?

41. They found the armored truck overturned in the otherwise empty parking lot of a church on Tuesday. Only these heavy bags were left untouched.

42. The numismatists shame us with their adoration.

43. I told you how one of the men in my cell stood on the bench and upheld his arms and asked of our incarcerated assembly, "Why they put our president Lincoln on the only coin that turn brown with age. And why he look right when every other motherfucker with a ponytail look left? On they bright shiny silver coins? Because he our president, that's why."

44. Copper plus tin equals bronze. Which is really what we're talking about here. Before 1982, anyway.

45. Pennies minted after 1982 are copper-plated zinc. That's 97.5 % zinc and 2.5 % copper to you, baby.

46. A large number of pennies is most valuable as a weapon, rolled into the fist. Even better are about three dollars' worth ringing loose in an old sock. This will dissuade any assailant. I hear footsteps behind me.

47. The tired bank teller at the end of the day will scowl and mutter under her breath when you approach and drop the brown paper sack greasy from some past lunch into her open bin with a ringing scattery crash.

48. If someone says to you, "I don't have any money. Not even one red cent," press them for further information. Find out where they last saw such a red cent, for it is rare and coined from a metal of a distant world.

49. The man lying bleeding on the sidewalk has exactly seven pennies in his pocket.

50. I would like to tell you that that the slang expressions "Cop" and "Copper" are derived from the badges the officers wear because they are made of the same stuff as pennies. But I can't. And my throat feels so bruised.

51. A mule is a hybrid coin. In the past, especially the late 1700s and early 1800s, mint workers would sometimes put sets of dies together and make a few novelty strikes for themselves. Usually they would use two different coins such as the front of a penny and the back of a quarter. Sometimes they would make two-headed coins.

52. A mule is also a term for someone carrying contraband, drugs, a stolen 1943 copper-alloy cent.

53. The likeness of our great leader comes through nicely on paper when rubbed with a red Crayola. Or perhaps your tastes run to the more exotic like Burnt Sienna from the box with the built-in sharpener.

54. The original Mint, the one in Philadelphia, produced its first circulating coins--11,178 copper cents--in March 1793.

55. The approximate life span of a coin is 30 years.

56. The broken pig.

57. Ordinary coins, if they are in reasonably good condition, may be freshened by rubbing them with cheesecloth and a paste consisting of baking soda and a few drops of water.

58. The penny and the nickel are considered "minor" coins because they have never contained precious metals.

59. The weight is 2.500 g. The diameter is 19.05 mm. The thickness is 1.55 mm. The edge--you guessed it!--is plain.

60. About 40 of the 1943 copper-alloy cents are known to exist out there somewhere.

61. The folk artist pressed whatever was available into his structure of beer cans, broken glass, and the smoky hot tar he filched from a repair site on the highway. The cupric glints that stud his rising structure among the weeds of his fenced-in yard will not stay bright for long.

62. The Secret Service Division began on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency.

63. If you suspect you are in possession of a counterfeit or altered coin, compare it with a genuine one of the same value. But how do you know which one is genuine now? You must go find yet another. And another and another until even your hands feel fake.

64. If a coin exceeds five cents in value, it should have corrugated outer edges, referred to as "reeding." Reeding on genuine coins is even and distinct. The counterfeit coin's reeding may be uneven, crooked, or missing altogether. Pennies do not feature reeding, of course.

65. Wallace Stevens was from Reading, Pennsylvania. His wife was on a coin. Why aren't you?

66. Most people do not realize that the Secret Service refers to itself as the Guardian of the Penny when its members are alone in their hidden bunkers. Their secret handshake involves the sacred coin pressed between damp palms. They are now hiring. The benefits package is outstanding.

67. In 1894 the Secret Service began informal part-time protection of President Cleveland. In 1901 Congress informally requested Secret Service Presidential protection following the assassination of President William McKinley. Neither of these men has appeared on the penny.

68. Find a penny, pick it up. And all day long you'll have good luck.

69. We learned counting and fiscal responsibility, didn't we, punching the perforated paperboard pennies from our workbooks? Look where it got us.

70. Is penniful the opposite of penniless?

71. Your thoughts on this problem are worth so much more.

72. Several pennies sewn into the hem by the seamstress weighed down your skirt and showed me your shape.

73. Please, no pinching.

74. I will prepare you a salad of pennycress and pennywort, and also pennyroyal, dressed only with the finest first-press olive oil, of course, and gray salt from the coast of Brittany with its certain mineral flavor.

75. The penny in my mouth tastes like blood. Or is it just blood in the first place?

76. We all know someone named Penny.

77. Also sometimes probably spelled Penney or even Pennie. It all depends on parental whimsy.

78. Short for Penelope.

79. I knew a Penny who moved to Tennessee and became upset because no one in her local grocery knew what arugula was.

80. You can feed her for just pennies a month.

81. According to the pretty long-distance lady mere pennies will allow me to hear your voice. Per minute, of course. And only on weekends or deep in the night.

82. Surely there is a town somewhere called Penny. The men return home at dusk, exhausted from the copper mines. Over the years all of the sinks in the bathrooms of this town have become plated with copper, because each day after work the miners lean over the ceramic basins coughing up shiny metal-flecked sputum from the deepest places of their lungs.

83. It literally was a pennyweight or actually perhaps a little more considering the weight of its protective cardboard square and its glassine sleeve. It was so light in my hand like a small bird’s egg, almost nothing. I slipped it into my pocket when no one was looking. I coughed into my hand, as if this action would absolve me or at least provide a small distraction. That was really dumb.

84. The domain name PENNY.COM is for sale. Easy to Remember! Great Marketing Potential A RARE find! its banner flashes.

85. Be careful when composing the letter that you don’t type penis as I have done several times. Also stick to the second code we devised, not the first one. It’s foolproof.

86. To spend a penny is to take a piss.

87. Of all the questionable stocks we have read about in the newsletter I would most likely avoid SHAM and ROBD.

88. The Arcade: The rendezvous point among the beeps and lights and the feet pounding against the boardwalk as the sunlight eased away. Help me feed the mouth of the mechanical gypsy. Then our unwholesome transaction will be concluded.

89. "How fucking p____wise of you. So p____wise I could kiss you. I’ve never seen a kid so p____wise. You keep the books balanced like this and we’re gonna have no trouble at all." Then he walked away, leaving his cigar smoldering in the coffee cup on my desk.

90. Remember when we first went to the bank to merge our accounts and how we brought home that brochure that was cleverly titled Dollars and Sense?

91. A largish woman with an ass shaped like a bell pepper boarded the bus and pulled handfuls from her purse.

92. The uncle with the jingling trousers.

93. The uncle that pulled one from behind your ear.

94. Pennies are dropped into slotted cans to aid abandoned pets, missing children, Foundations of Disease.

95. The man holding out his hand on the boardwalk speaks gruffly as I pass. "Every little one counts," he says. He has a dirty blanket and wild hair. Poet’s hair, I think.

96. See where a child pressed one into the sidewalk when it was still impressionable.

97. From the skyscraper I dropped one. You reported to me by walkie-talkie that it made a hole in the pavement just as the experts have always speculated. So I dropped another with great care and aim, taking into account wind direction and velocity. It fell in exactly the same place as the first. My walkie-talkie crackled and you said, "Bingo." The third drop made the hole even deeper. "Wait, pedestrian," you warned as I was about to drop the fourth. Then, "Okay. Coast is clear." I let them loose one after another with a preternatural sense of aim until the penny-sized hole in the sidewalk became so deep that a gush of water spouted up and heat-crazed children ran to dance through its spray. "I love what you’ve created. I’m so proud," you told me.

98. The first Lincoln penny was released in 1909, the Lincoln Centennial Year. It was designed by Victor David Brenner, an outstanding portraitist and sculptor.

99. The easiest way to determine if a 1943 cent is made of steel instead of copper is to use a magnet. If it sticks to the magnet, it is not copper. If it does not stick, the coin might be of copper and should be authenticated by an expert.

100. After the soft splash I wondered what you wished for.



I was taking a walk around my neighborhood in Brooklyn one evening. I went to the corner deli to buy a pack of cigarettes and some eyedrops. My change was exactly one cent. But the clerk didn't even acknowledge the change. He just slammed the till shut. The penny was beneath our mutual dignity it seemed. From there I walked around a bit and went to the liquor store to get a bottle of wine. This time the change from my purchase was four cents. The clerk gave me a nickel. Balance was restored. Then I started to think about how there seemed to be some unspoken rules governing the penny in commerce. The title "The Rules of the Penny" came to mind I went home and wrote versions of the first two sections. No other rules came to mind. I had intended this to be a poem because she seemed to always like when I wrote poems for her. The poem wouldn't come (at least the traditionally shaped poem I intended--for this piece may be considered a kind of poem after all). So it turned into a meditation of the one cent coin and the name Penny and simply the word "penny" itself. I tried to work in every penny reference I could think of: idioms, axioms, maxims and cliches. (My grandfather worked in a bank in Laurel, Mississippi when I was young and I learned a great deal about coins from him. He made gifts of Kennedy and Eisenhower, uncirculated, heavy coins in his large kind hands.) The piece began to grow rapidly and I hit upon the precious conceit of making the thing have exactly 100 sections. This was fine and good until I got around 85. At some point I remembered the term "penny dreadful," the British equivalent of "dime novel," usually a cheap, trashy thriller. I began to work in obscure elements that seemed to point to some caper or heist involving the very rare and valuable 1943 copper cent. And of course "Penny Dreadful" became the perfect title. Near section 92 I simply consulted reference books for pennynalia I had overlooked. This took me a little over 100. I selected the sections I liked best then tinkered with the order. And there you have it.