09/05/2013 12:07 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2013

Mole Hill to Mountain

There was an old song that talked about "throw me a kiss from across the room, say I look nice when I'm not, touch my hair as you pass my chair, little things mean a lot." But I also know that people can try to make mountains out of mole hills. We can read too much into some trivial thing. So I am not sure what to make of my small hobby.

I am one of millions who collect pennies. I do not buy pennies. I do not go to shows. I just go to the bank with eight rolls of 50 pennies each and exchange them for another eight rolls. I examine one roll each day for pennies to put in my books. It is a small activity that is fun and interesting.

Recently there has been a strange trend developing. Every roll of pennies that I have opened for the last two weeks has failed to have the traditional 50 pennies. Some have been as short as five pennies. There were only 45 pennies in one roll. Most have been short one or two pennies. The last roll I opened had 49 pennies in the roll.

Certainly mistakes can be made, and miscounting once in a while would be no cause for concern, but there seems to be a consistency here that is curious. Who would be trying to make a fortune by shorting penny rolls by one or two pennies? Certainly we do know that major retail companies can make increased profits by rounding up the price of items. But it will take a lot of penny rolls to make somebody any kind of money by shorting the rolls. There can be mistakes but the steady number of rolls with shortages suggests that this is more than an accident.

So the curiosity continues. It is not a matter of economic crisis that I am losing one or two cents a roll that troubles me. It is the motive behind the shortage that intrigues me. Is it a corporate policy to short all their penny rolls and thus make a few extra cents a roll? That does not seem likely to me. No matter how low opinion I may have of corporate greed and big business.

The random mistake is eliminated by the consistency of the shortage. So maybe we are seeing some young newspaper person, some small club who sells candy at fast food places, some of those machines that have prizes in them, some youth, some small business person, who is trying to make a few extra cents by the shortage of the rolls. There are no names of the sleeves that contain the pennies. If it is a youth, then the great sadness for me is that the youth has already come to the conclusion that cheating is good if you can get away with it. The attitude is already set that cutting corners and giving less than the required amount is a good way to do business. We have already demonstrated to this young person that a few extra pennies is worth the sacrifice of one's integrity and honesty. If this is where we are, then those few pennies tell a very sad story. Maybe there are other explanations for the consistent shortage in these rolls. I hope so.

There was a great leader who told his servant, "Well, done! You have been faithful over little, you will be put in charge of much." Whoever rolled these pennies has not been faithful over little.