Late one recent evening I stopped at a nearly deserted supermarket. One tired-looking cashier leaned against her counter, and a customer service agent yawned mightily as he kept an eye on the self-checkout area.
No one was anywhere near the coin-counting machine. As is my wont, I glanced into its returned-coin bin as I passed by.
Did I hit the jackpot.
I pulled two handfuls of specie out of the machine: 10 quarters, nine dimes, two nickels and 58 pennies – and that was just the American money. I also retrieved a bunch of Canadian change (three quarters, two dimes, two nickels and seven pennies) plus coins from the Philippines, Korea, South Africa and a country called “Family Entertainment.”
Some of the coins were dirty, a few slightly dented and a bunch stuck together with a cola-smelling stickiness. But some of the rejects were perfectly fine. My guess is that the person doing the coin-dumping poured in too many at once and the machine couldn’t handle them all.
Who knows what you’ll find?
I don’t use coin-counting machines because I resent being charged a fee. Also because I like counting coins. There’s a no-fee option if you’re getting gift cards to certain merchants, but I don’t do that, either. I get my gift cards through online surveys.
But I always check the returned-coin bins on these machines, because I frequently find money there. The gleanings get saved until November, when I round it up to at least $50 and write a check to the food bank.
Plenty of the coins I find are from other countries. I’ve been putting them in a small plastic bag, figuring they’d come in handy eventually.
And now I know how: When one of my great-nephews saw the bounty I’d pulled from the machine, he petitioned to be allowed to keep the Korean coin. He just liked the way it looked. I guess I’ll be putting the “coins of many nations” bag in his Christmas stocking.
What have we learned?
1. Don’t use the coin-counting machine unless you’re getting a gift card.
2. Always check the returned-coin bin of the coin-counting machine.
3. Don’t drink a soda anywhere near your coin jar.
How about it, readers: Do you check the Coinstar machine? How about vending machines? Public phones? The ground under the drive-through window at McDonald’s?