I was pretty excited when I got a letter in the mail the other day. I could see by the window in the envelope that it contained a check! Since I wasn’t expecting a check, and I didn’t know who it was from, my curiosity added to my excitement.

I hurriedly opened this surprise and found a check for — 1 cent. One penny. Now I’ve never seen a check for 1 cent before, and I looked at it closer to see if it was a joke or something.

It was from the Medicare Secondary Payment Recovery Contractor. It was in reference to a Medicaid demand overpayment to some beneficiary.

Huh? I still had no idea what the heck it could be about, but I also practiced the old motto of “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” I didn’t know whether to cash it or frame it as a conversation piece.

One thing it did, though, was to give me a whole new respect for the lowly penny. Seeing it in the form of a genuine bank check made me realize it did have real value. Maybe I could start a portfolio of so called “penny stocks.” Who knows where this might end?

I realized its value even more when I really figured how much it probably cost to issue the 1 cent check. First of all, the postage to send it was 46 cents. The check itself was printed on “chemically reactive paper that includes a tamper evident chemical wash warning box.” Again, huh?

Comparing that to what my simple, plain and cheap mail-order checks cost me, this high-tech check must have cost at least 25 cents. Then there’s the cost of the envelope (maybe 2 cents), the time of the staff to put it all together, the actual printing of the check and the computer system it takes to monitor it all and so on and so on … Let’s just say a total of 50 cents more. So far this check could have cost as much as $1.25. All for 1 cent!

All this makes me look with a little more respect at that small cottage cheese cup full of pennies I have stashed in my sock drawer. To paraphrase an old saying ...

A penny saved is $1.25 earned.

Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. His column recounts some of the humorous sides of his disability and his slants on life in general. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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