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Cashing In

July 28, 2013 Leave a comment

coinstar

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

The Measure of Success

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s Mitt Romney talking with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show this morning. You’ve probably seen the clip already. If not, check it out.

What with all my criticisms of Obama, you may have gotten the wrong impression that my failure to comment on Romney might mean I like the guy. In fact, I despise him. I’m having trouble remembering which Republican presidential candidate I’ve despised more. But maybe I’m just forgetting how I felt about McCain three years ago or Bush seven years ago, or good old Dick Nixon.

What’s so troubling about Romney is how comfortable he is about lying. There’s the foreign policy lie, the one about Obama apologizing for America. And the domestic lie, about Obama hating Wall Street. For someone who hates Wall Street, Obama has the odd habit of filling the White House and Cabinet with its members.

And now we see Romney so eager to attack Obama for hating Wall Street that he spouts utter nonsense. Or worse. Listen to Romney at the 38-second mark, explaining that “those people who’ve been most successful will be in the one percent.” Here he is equating success with money. Simple as that. If you don’t have money, you’re a loser. Well, okay, I shouldn’t put words in his mouth. But then, I don’t have to. What he says is more incredible than anything I would have dreamed of putting in his mouth.

Yet, millions of people whom he has called losers will vote for him. Unbelievable.

Categories: Money, Politics

Money, Money, Money

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

coinstar

No, not that painful ABBA song. I’m talking about change. Years of change. Years and years of change. We bring it home. We put it on the counter. It accumulates. Gail saves an old Scottish shortbread tin. We dump the coins in there. Gail gets some more British tins. We dump more coins.

And then along comes Coinstar. A few years back. They have this machine at the local QFC. Bring change. Dump it in. Get money. Use it at the store to buy food. But there’s a catch. For every dollar in change that you put in, you get 93 cents back. Is it worth it? Well, I suppose it is if you’re never going to spend the money otherwise, but accepting a 7% discount is hard. So the coins keep piling up.

Meanwhile, Coinstar is diversifying, offering new products, but we’re not keeping up. Until last month, when Gail was back in Boston helping Joel close up his apartment. It seems he had his own coin collection. They went to the Star Market, found a Coinstar machine, and tossed it all in. And get this. If you are willing to take you money in the form of a certificate to redeem at one of several enterprises, you get full value. Amazon for instance. Or iTunes. CVS. Borders. Lowe’s. (See here for the list.) Is that great or what? Joel comes back to Seattle with about $75 to spend at Amazon.

Here at home, thanks to our continuing remodel, the house is a mess. It has been for weeks. But we decided yesterday and today to regain the use of our dining room, where we had moved the contents of much of the kitchen a few weeks ago. And so, this morning, I say to Gail, let’s take this tin of coins (which must weigh 30 pounds) to QFC already. Then I hesitate, and ask what happens with foreign coins. Do they get filtered out and returned to us? We don’t know. I dump the coins onto the kitchen counter and begin the laborious search for foreign money. Then Gail decides that while we’re at it, we should go through all the quarters in order to pull out the ones that started getting minted in 1999 with state designs on the reverse side. She wants to be sure we have samples from every state.

What a pain! But we did it. We pulled out dozens of quarters, along with coins from France, Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, Denmark, the UK, Yugoslavia. Everything else went with us to QFC. I had imagined that you just pour the coins into the Coinstar counting machine and it quickly does its work. But no, you can only put a few coins through the sieve at a time. It took over 10 minutes. Still, it was fun, since you can watch the readout as the counting takes place. Gail and I took turns pouring. The machine rejected about 20 coins, returning them to a slot at the bottom. It counted 3994 coins. No wonder they were so heavy. We had 2166 pennies, 446 nickels, 744 dimes, 636 quarters, and 2 half dollars. That’s $278.36.

And that wasn’t it. Gail remembered as we were driving to QFC that she had another tin upstairs. When we got home, she brought it down. She then through the state quarters, putting some aside for the collection. The rest, along with the additional tin, went to another QFC and another Coinstar machine, three hours later. It was happy to count our 211 pennies, 61 nickels, 105 dimes, 96 quarters, and 2 half dollars. That’s $40.66.

Imagine that. 4469 coins. $319.02. Here we come, Amazon. And let’s not wait another decade to do this again.

Categories: Money