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Cashing In


I haven’t carried coins in years. If I get change while I’m out, I just drop it on the kitchen counter. And it’s a rare day that I get change anyway, since it’s rare that I spend cash for anything.

Years ago, Gail got an array of containers in which to put our coins. One was reserved for quarters from the State Quarters series that began in 1999, with Gail determined to collect them all. Another took all other non-penny change. And a big cookie tin took the pennies, or whatever else I threw in out of inattention.

If you let enough years go by, you’re talking real money, money that’s doing us no good. Once, probably twenty years ago, Gail rolled some coins and brought them to the bank, a painful chore. But now there’s Coinstar, the maker of machines that let you pour all your coins in and get money back.

When Coinstar’s machines first showed up in local supermarkets, I was suspicious. At the time, I believe, you got 93 cents back on the dollar. Why pay a 7% fee? The answer, of course, was that 93 cents is better than 0 cents, and 0 cents is effectively what we had as long as we let the coins sit in the house. Four years ago, Gail convinced me that the system had changed and you could now get full value back, at least if you poured in the coins and chose to get a credit with one of a long list of companies. We went to a nearby QFC and poured away. All those quarters Gail didn’t need for her state collection went in, and a lot more, $278 worth, which we then converted into a gift certificate at Amazon.

It took another four years to return, which we did two weeks ago. Our kitchen remodel forced our hands, with coin containers arrayed around the living room for weeks. I believe we had more coins this time, but not as much value, due to the predominance of pennies.

Thanks to Coinstar, we have a complete accounting. Here are the numbers:

Pennies 2072
Nickels 133
Dimes 224
Quarters 292

Value: $122.77

Not that big a haul this time. But real money nonetheless, money I applied immediately to discount the price of the camera I had on order from Amazon since early June.

And no wonder carrying all those coins in from the car, a good 150 yards away, was getting to my wrists. Let’s see. A penny weighs 2.5 grams. (Mint webpage on coin specs here.) A couple thousand of those: 5000 grams. 5000 grams: just over 11 pounds.

Well, that doesn’t sound so much, does it? The whole load couldn’t have been more than 20 pounds. But that tin was flexing and wobbling.

No matter. The coins are out of the house. My new camera is in the house. And the US Mint has 2721 coins back in circulation. Good deal for everyone.

Categories: Money
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