How to Find Free, Sticky Money

Late one recent evening, I stopped by a nearly deserted supermarket. A 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 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 were 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. I also like counting coins.

I always check the returned-coin bins on these machines, because I frequently find money there. I keep what I find until November, when I write a check to my local 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 asked for 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? Always check the returned-coin bin of the coin-counting machine, and don’t drink a soda anywhere near your coin jar.

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