I’ve been obsessed with pennies lately. Friends, family, store clerks, and bank tellers have been feeding that obsession, and the end is in sight.
Let’s rewind a month and start at the beginning. The MR went off to Iceland, London, and Paris for two weeks at the end of January and early February. I wanted to have all sorts of fabulous surprises for him when he got home. Unfortunately, my skills lend more to crafty than craftsman-y, so the options were limited.
But at Christmas time, I’d bought some festive wrapping paper to line the counters outside our room. I got busy; it didn’t happen; there’s always next year; no biggie. This is February, holiday cheer is totally out of place, but who can say no to a nice dose of color? We have this long expanse of counter in need of something.
Thus began the hunt for fabulous wrapping paper. This area is currently a sitting/conversation zone, but I’m really hoping it morphs into the den/office area. So I started looking for paper with a punch of color and a bit of pattern. I wandered around World Market, Target, Hallmark, and Michael’s dragging Baby Girl from store to store. While I really liked the individual crinkly, gray sheets at World Market, they were going to add up way too fast.
I only needed a 131-inch long piece in one direction, and the same amount in the other. Wow, that paper was going to cost me an arm and a leg. And let’s be really honest, the MR wasn’t going to like it–it was too much pattern and color.
Maybe I could use fabric instead. I could get away with only 3-2/3 yards, so we’d be spending $30-70. Then came all the questions. Would I leave the edges simply cut? Would they fray? Should I iron the edges under giving it a clean finish? Would it look wonky and I’d be unhappy? How long before the fabric faded in the sun?
That was the problem with almost any choice. We’d have to go with something low-key rather than vibrant to appeal to the MR, and then my wrapping paper or fabric would fade. I didn’t want it to look cheap; I wanted it to look fun, interesting, and exciting. And I didn’t want to have to replace it every couple years, because it was horribly faded and tacky like our carpet.
After brainstorming options, searching for “cool” shelf paper (an oxymoron at best), amazing and reasonably priced wall paper or wrapping paper, I had this total “A-ha” moment. The answer came to me–pennies, glorious, shimmery, lowly pennies. They won’t fade, they’re easy to find, they’d add a subtle, but cool metallic finish to the counter without being too in your face, and they’d add more copper to the space. I raided the MR’s stash of coins and Baby Girl’s piggy bank. It only went a little ways, but wow I really loved it.
Baby Girl came home from a sleepover, and I dragged her over to see my new project. She was enthralled, and that was when my obsession with pennies began. At first I decided to just fill in the whole space, and then I realized it was going to take a lot of pennies, so I opted for a pattern. I liked this triangle, zig-zag, but the glass gave the white counter a sickly greenish tint.
I knew the white areas would show dirt after awhile, and it was a major pain to try and keep all the pennies in place as I covered them with glass. Solid it would have to be.
I started making phone calls. Dad do you have any pennies? Hey Kristi, do you have any pennies? Friends and family only had so many to contribute, so I turned to other sources. Bank of America went to the vault to retrieve $25 worth of pennies for me, but I needed more.
After hitting up one bank in town, I thought I’d try the other. They were friendly and helpful in the morning and gladly exchanged a twenty for $20 worth of pennies. That afternoon when I came back, things went totally downhill. I told them I needed pennies, and the teller asked if I had an account. No, I did not. Well, that was a service they really only provided for their customers, but if I opened a free checking account, they’d be glad to help me. I don’t like to be strong-armed into anything. I said a tight “no thank you” and left–I won’t be back. I think that teller needs to learn the power of good will.
So now, I was a little gun shy. If I went back to Bank of America would they turn on me, too? I stopped by my bank, but Boeing Employees Credit Union doesn’t have any money at its neighborhood outlets; it’s all in the cash machines. I’ve never seen a cash machine dispense pennies.
President’s Day weekend brought a three-day volleyball tournament for Baby Girl. On the first morning as I was leaving the bleachers, I found a penny and picked it up. Someone made a comment about good luck, and I told them of my project. Suddenly, it became a group effort. Papa Willy, and Uncle Kraig brought pennies, and the volleyball parents emptied their wallets of pennies. People brought bags of pennies to the tournament. As I was driving around later that week, I got a text that a friend had pennies on her porch for me.
In actuality, the teller, who was just doing her job but still pushed my buttons, did me a huge favor. When I look at my counter of pennies, I’m reminded of all the friends and family who came to my aid. It did still take another trip to Bank of America, Safeway, and Family Grocer before I came within a foot of finishing. I just kept underestimating how many I would need.
Baby Girl spent the night with Sweet Miss up at Western Washington University on Friday, so as me and the MR were driving north to pick up BG and take the girls to lunch, I texted Sweet Miss asking her to find out if any of her friends had pennies.
After she and BG discussed how cray-cray their mother is and that I’d been raiding their piggy banks in search of pennies, she hit the jackpot. Her friend Leah was a chef at a local restaurant last year. That’s who I should have turned to in the first place–someone with tip money.
Leah’s bag of pennies got me to within a roll, so BG and I stopped by Safeway after church to pick up the last few coins we needed. I really like the way it turned out. It is much more tactile before you cover it with a half-inch thick piece of glass–just a lot less practical.
The MR’s dad–Papa Larry–bought us some professional, heavy-duty suction cups that making removing the glass for cleaning or penny laying a breeze. And here we have the finished product.
I like how it’s subdued, but still makes an impact.
I did run into a few challenges along the way. First I had to decide which side was up or if it mattered. The heads side has a better reflective quality and is also good luck, so all the pennies are heads up–at least they’re supposed to be. It was also hard to decide which side to make straight. I chose the outer edge so we’d end up with a long clean line. I did brainstorm how I could cut the pennies in half and make them fit into the edge better, but when you cut pennies in half they curl–this is my Cutco sales experience talking. I made a corkscrew out of a penny for my in-laws the first time I met them. When I was explaining this to a friend, she said you’re really into pennies, and I realized I’d crossed a line.
I decided cutting and hammering pennies into shape was taking it all a little too far, and another friend mentioned it was defacing government currency, so I went with the wavy edge.
Then I had to decide how to work the corner. At first I tried a diagonal line, but it just wasn’t working. So while the glass meets at a diagonal, the pennies meet flush.
I was surprised in my quest for pennies how many people had seen some sort of penny project. Apparently, my older brother and his wife have a bookshelf at their coffee shop (The White Peacock in Lindsborg, Kansas) covered in pennies. And the teller who refused to give me pennies had seen projects on Pinterest. I was a little disappointed to think someone else came up with my idea first. It doesn’t matter, because I’m totally in love with it.
Look at how the hurricane and white shell balls (a souvenir from a vacation to Hawaii) show up against the copper.
One of my friends wanted to know if I only wanted shiny pennies, the answer was a resounding no. I love the variety of color and texture in these counters. I have wheat pennies and new pennies, Canadian pennies and things I’m not sure are even pennies. It all just works. One of the brilliant things about this idea is that when and if we get tired of it, we get all our money back, minus inflation.
How are you putting your money to work these days? Penny for your thoughts?