I saw a penny
picked it up, all that day …
wondered about change
I saw a penny in the parking lot the other day.
Bright and shiny, I knew it had to be new.
I checked first to make sure it was face up.
You do not pick up any penny that is face down.
I guess like an upside down horseshoe, all the luck runs out.
This one was face up so I picked it up.
I looked at Abraham Lincoln.
He has been there on the penny a lot longer than I have been here.
Mr. Lincoln has been on the penny since 1909, the 100th anniversary of his birth.
That was the first time a US President’s likeness went on a coin.
I read somewhere that the likeness of Abraham Lincoln on a penny is supposed to be the most viewed representation of any work of art in the history of the world.
Back in 1976, Braniff Airlines commissioned Calder to design the color scheme of one of their Boeing Airliners for the Bicentennial.
This red white and blue flying work of art was unveiled at Dulles International Airport and then flown on a tour of United States airports that included Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Grand Rapids had always been a bit Calder nutz and the First Lady, Betty Ford, (this story is fun and you can read the documented high level government discussion) would be part of the ceremony in Washington so Grand Rapids was added to the list of cities for the debut flight and the plane was added to the Braniff fleet.
At some point after that, Braniff issued a press release that this painted plane was the single most viewed work of art in history.
I think the numbers included anyone and everyone who ever looked up and said, “The plane, The plane” whether they knew what they were seeing or not or even if they were aware of the plane was painted by Calder.
I mean fly it over New York City and you can count 8,000,000 views.
I think Braniff accounted for their paying customers the same way which is why you don’t hear about Braniff anymore.
But Mr. Lincoln tops the list over total views of any artistic likeness, counting all the times that likeness has been reproduced and viewed.
I looked at the penny for a second or two.
It was dated 2021.
It hit me that this was the first time I had seen a 2021 penny.
Maybe even the first time, that I remembered anyway, that I have seen a penny with a date in the 2020’s.
Is it really 2021?
How DID that happen?
When did that happen?
In 2020 there was a feeling that the month of March lasted about 12 weeks.
I feel like 2021 never really took place.
Wasn’t out of the house often.
Rarely had situations where I bought or paid for something other than gas or a meal.
And never ever did I use paper money.
As for coins.
You don’t see change much anymore and so much has changed.
And I do feel changed somehow.
Or at least disconnected from the time before Covid.
I also don’t much like to look at pennies.
It was the writer, Jim Harrison, who once wrote that you aren’t old as long as keep finding pennies that are older than you in your pocket.
I used to carry a 1959 penny just for insurance.
But I can’t find it.
I haven’t thought about it years.
And now that it is on my mind, I am going find a 1959 penny.
After all, since moving to Hilton Head, where the median age is 59, I became middle aged all over again.
PS – According to what you can learn online, when Braniff went bankrupt, the Calder planes were sold at auction and the paint was sand blasted off. One website where they keep track of such things, says that the specific Boeing 727 that had been painted Red White and Blue was used as a prop in the movie Bad Boys and the last time anyone sees that specific (without the Calder Art) plane is at the end of the movie when it is blown up.