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Because one cigarette paper costs six copper pennies?
December 18, 2012 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Why Are People Hoarding Coins?
posted by telstar (85 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have a nasty habit of hoarding gold dollars, because gold! And it's mine!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:57 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a nasty habit of hoarding gold dollars, because gold! And it's mine!

Okay, "guy who says he's not a dragon," we believe you,
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:03 PM on December 18, 2012 [54 favorites]


Is it still hoarding when you are so accustomed to the "throw everything back in your purse and move on" post-transaction behavior with debit cards that, after a month using cash, you tip your bag open and twenty pounds of pennies fall out?

I didn't think crochet hooks and a Nintendo were so heavy.
posted by cmyk at 7:05 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Laundry.
posted by maryr at 7:11 PM on December 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


1. I had a coffee can full of pennies under my kitchen sink, left behind by a previous resident. Given the amount of verdigris on them, they were basically recycling material. Happily, a local elementary school had a drive for penny donations, so I was able to hand them off gladly. I was told that the poor child I burdened with them was ranked first in her class.

2. While I do not deliberately collect wheat pennies, over my life I have spotted a few and held them aside. As an investment? No. My wheat pennies, my silver dimes, my two-dollar bills and my Sacajawea's are just the odds and ends (like all coins minted in my birth year) that I've pulled out of my pocket and tossed into a box, to be pondered now and then.

All of them will survive me. (Well, maybe not the two-dollar bills.) Perhaps, a thousand years from now, there will be a celebration of The Treasures of SPrintF's Tomb and these little bits I leave behind will be regarded with wonder.

It is a dream, I have.
posted by SPrintF at 7:12 PM on December 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is pretty interesting. I've been interested in this ever sense I saw this video on reddit: My dad sifts through hundreds of dollars of dimes a week, looking for silver ones.

I really like the idea of basically finding something for $.10 that is worth $1.00. But on the other hand, it's not really worth my time, is it? But on the other hand... a big pile of silver would be hella sweet.

If there's some other hobby I can get good at fast that will make cash with little cost or effort required, I'm all ears.
posted by rebent at 7:16 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


There was a gentleman at my previous job, who I mentally called Mr. Pennyworth, who demanded I read out the year that each penny was minted out loud to him. The guy obviously dreamed of hitting it rich, but his inch-thick glasses hindered him! (And um, anyone who hopes to hit it rich with an unit of currency that should've been removed from circulation needs serious reality testing.)

Alas, poor Mr. Pennyworth never was lucky.
posted by lineofsight at 7:19 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't hoard intentionally, I just don't ever carry change if I can help it and don't usually bother to take all the coins to one of those counting things for three or four years. I hate having change in my pocket so if I get any from a store, I dump it into a tray as soon as I get home. The last time we gathered it all up and dumped it into one of those CoinStar things, we got a big enough Amazon* credit from it that we could buy a Dyson Vacuum.

*they don't charge you a fee if you put the coins toward Amazon credit
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


rebent, I was interested until the part where they had a bag with $400 worth of dimes and a voice offscreen said, "I should get about four silver ones, on average."

Uhhhhhh, that's $400! Who cares about $4 worth of silver?
posted by Sara C. at 7:21 PM on December 18, 2012


Does this still happen? I thought everyone carried around debit cards nowadays...
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:22 PM on December 18, 2012


Sara C.: "rebent, I was interested until the part where they had a bag with $400 worth of dimes and a voice offscreen said, "I should get about four silver ones, on average."

Uhhhhhh, that's $400! Who cares about $4 worth of silver?
"

that's a 101% return with basically zero risk.
posted by rebent at 7:28 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a nasty habit of hoarding gold dollars, because gold! And it's mine!

Okay, "guy who says he's not a dragon PIRATE," we believe you,
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:03 PM on 12/18

FTFY
posted by ShawnString at 7:37 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


But you need more than $4 worth of labor to sort through $400 worth of dimes to get that return. You could do better with a lemonade stand.
posted by Sara C. at 7:52 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


It reminds me a lot of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer and Newman drive empty aluminum cans across state lines to get the extra deposit.
posted by Sara C. at 7:53 PM on December 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Fascinating.
posted by carter at 7:56 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The last time we gathered it all up and dumped it into one of those CoinStar things, we got a big enough Amazon* credit from it that we could buy a Dyson Vacuum.

*they don't charge you a fee if you put the coins toward Amazon credit
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 PM on December 18 [1 favorite +] [!]

My bank will run my coins for free, and I don't have to bend over for Amazon.
posted by Uncle Grumpy at 7:59 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Get 100 get an extra life, duh.
posted by Damienmce at 7:59 PM on December 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Never mind that, it's $400 of penny chews.
posted by arcticseal at 8:02 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Retirement.
posted by notyou at 8:03 PM on December 18, 2012


When he got into doing it, he was doing a roll every 15 seconds, while yakking away, so that would be sorting $20/minute, so that would be $400 sorted in 20 minutes, *if* he kept going at the same speed.

There's all the overhead of hauling dimes to and from the bank, though. And trying not to appear suspicious too, I guess.
posted by carter at 8:12 PM on December 18, 2012


I don't think there's anything suspicious about it. Just say you're a coin collector - I'm sure banks have to deal with them all the time.
posted by rebent at 8:17 PM on December 18, 2012


For some reason, I got the notion that it might be interesting, in a Batman-villain sort of way, to carry a silver or gold coin in the coin pocket of my jeans. As a consequence, I ended up on Reddit's Silverbug subreddit, which is dedicated to the hoarding of silver.

It only took reading a couple of spittle-flecked posts to wash all desire for a sliver coin away.
posted by lekvar at 8:24 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is just the knock-on effect of the popularity of Bethesda Studio RPGs.

I'll totally need these bottlecaps someday, okay?
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why Are People Hoarding Coins?

Because that's where the money is.
posted by notme at 8:26 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


heh, lekvar, I never understood why people who like silver coins and people who like guns are so often the same people.
posted by rebent at 8:29 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder why we keep making most coins (in the US). We only need a quarter for all coin needs and it would spur the economy by saving hours of productivity per store, per day, in people not making small change transactions. The cash registers can average things to the nearest quarter. We only need quarters to break up costs in practical increments. Dollar stores prove that price averaging is very successful anyway.
posted by Brian B. at 8:36 PM on December 18, 2012


a couple of spittle-flecked posts

I have a feeling this is part of the appeal. In the video rebent linked, like 90% of it is the dad sprawled on the living room floor picking through dimes and saying things like "people just don't know what they have". Since it's a pretty boring hobby (which is not really feasible for people who actually need the money) and you don't really get anything for all that effort, I'm pretty sure the feeling of superiority is one of the primary benefits of being part of this particular subculture.
posted by Sara C. at 8:50 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


My bank will run my coins for free, and I don't have to bend over for Amazon.

Not all of them will. I've certainly been in Bank of America branches that made you wrap your coins by hand. There's some function of how busy the branch is and how wealthy the customers are that dictates whether they'll do it. Of course, TCF is trying to get into the Coinstar business and has a big machine you can dump going into.
posted by hoyland at 8:59 PM on December 18, 2012


TD Commerce bank in the Northeast does free coin sorting/repayment for members. Used to be for everyone back when they where just Commerce Bank.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 PM on December 18, 2012


From the comments in Rebent's link:

This video has really gotten me hooked on coin roll hunting!! I can't afford large amounts of coins at once though. The other day, I searched $100 in half dollars and I found 3 90%s and 11 40%s!!! I was sooooooo stunned! It came out to about $76 in melt value.

Not sure if serious or mocking....
posted by sourwookie at 9:33 PM on December 18, 2012


Dollar stores prove that price averaging is very successful anyway.

Dollar stores prove that price averaging is a successful marketing ploy. Also, rarely do things cost a dollar there - you'll need pennies and nickels for the tax.
posted by maryr at 9:41 PM on December 18, 2012


sourwookie - I assume that $76 was of the $14 work of 90%/40%s. Not of the whole $100.
posted by maryr at 9:42 PM on December 18, 2012


You never know when a coin has delicious chocolate inside, but if this article is correct and melting them is illegal, well, my dentist fees are going to go through the roof.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:55 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Uncle Grumpy: "My bank will run my coins for free, and I don't have to bend over for Amazon."

Amazon of course, has figured out how to charge people different prices based on their economic alternatives. People with good credit get 3 percent off via their credit card. People with terrible credit, on the other hand, are enthusiastic that they aren't being charged for the privilege of paying in cash.
posted by pwnguin at 10:02 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


rebent: Sara C.: "rebent, I was interested until the part where they had a bag with $400 worth of dimes and a voice offscreen said, "I should get about four silver ones, on average."

Uhhhhhh, that's $400! Who cares about $4 worth of silver?
"

that's a 101% return with basically zero risk.
No, that's a 1% return, or more aptly, a $12/hr return, not counting the time to convert cash sums into coins, and to sell the silver dimes. Percent returns are meaningless without time frames. Math skills keep many poor.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:14 PM on December 18, 2012


No, that's a 1% return, or more aptly, a $12/hr return, not counting the time to convert cash sums into coins, and to sell the silver dimes. Math skills keep many poor.

Huh. So if someone is unemployed and wants to make $12 an hour, be their own boss, and pay no taxes on their income, this is a valid approach?
posted by davejay at 10:18 PM on December 18, 2012


davejay: "Huh. So if someone is unemployed and wants to make $12 an hour, be their own boss, and pay no taxes on their income, this is a valid approach?"

You'll also need relationships with enough dime suppliers to fill your time, and enough cash to float to reduce round trip efforts.
posted by pwnguin at 10:31 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I asked this AskMe question a little while back. I now have about 110 pounds worth of random coins. I cannot imagine going through them to find the few worth a little more.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:45 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The line from Blazing Saddles when the crooks get to the toll booth in the desert and the leader says, "Someone go back and get a shitload of dimes." keeps running through my head.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:47 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dollar stores prove that price averaging is a successful marketing ploy. Also, rarely do things cost a dollar there - you'll need pennies and nickels for the tax.

Which is one of those idiotic things that makes America so charmingly inefficient to those of us from more advanced countries. What, you list store prices without sales tax, then have to fart around at the till to calculate it? Worse, you're actually obliged to, by law?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:47 PM on December 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


For many years I would toss my pocket change into a container in the bedroom. When it was full I would tote it down to my bank and they would take it to the big coin-counting machine and give me paper money in return. After the bank was bought out by Bank of America I was told that they no longer provided that service because they no longer had a coin counting machine. I expressed disbelief that a large bank would not have such a device and was rather brusquely told, in so many words, "Tough!'. I bank at TCF now.
posted by TDavis at 10:58 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a gold dollar (from about 1856).... it's TINY... and in my safe deposit box. Last time I wanted to buy another, they were selling for $100 or so.

As for a silver dime being worth $1.00.... the market price is more like $2.30, according to coinflation.com
posted by MikeWarot at 12:43 AM on December 19, 2012


If I had the chance, I would absolutely hoard hobo nickels.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:54 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse: you're saying it's the law in the US that you can't list the price as tax included? I always figured momentum and the same marketing urge that brought us 99 cents was enough to keep that in place.

That's extra obnoxious.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:55 AM on December 19, 2012


Why does the author assume that the coins need to be melted to have value? In fact, melting the coins would be one of the dumbest things you can do. Then you have a lump of metal that you can claim is whatever, but no potential buyer is going to trust you. If left in the form of a US coin, you basically have a piece of metal whose content is, to some extent, certified by the US government.

And the article misses a few details. Copper plated zinc cents were introduced throughout 1982 so many 1982 US cents are of the older, mostly copper variety. Sure, you can reject all those 1982 cents, but then you're missing out on a bunch of awesome copper. 1982 cents should be weighed: 3.11 grams and it's a keeper. 2.5 grams, and back to the store it goes.

I agree that searching for silver dimes and quarters is pretty futile at this point, but sorting your cents by the mint date at the end of each day, and leaving the ones made in 1982 to be weighed at a later time can be a little fun for some of us dull folks.

Buying copper cents off ebay? Lunacy. Shipping will kill you unless you plan on living for a thousand years.

And storage costs? Please. I have plenty of shelf space.

I guess all I'm saying is we all have our quirks.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:16 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because shiny. Yes seriously.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 2:06 AM on December 19, 2012


I never understood why people who like silver coins and people who like guns are so often the same people.

Werewolf hunters?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:06 AM on December 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have regular coins in my right-hand pocket that I use for money. I do not hoard them and in fact families that have kids who get allowances will probably tell you they have a hard time coming up with the right amount every week, because it gets exhausted pretty quickly.

Then I have some special coins in my left-hand pocket that I keep for practicing and doing coin tricks with. A couple 50c pieces and some more magicy-looking foreign coins. You can get them for like $.25 at the flea market. Just English pennies and the like. Yesterday I noticed that one of them is from 1913 and has George V on the front.

Coins are like the steampunk of the money world. They are physically real in a way that even paper money, let alone credit/debit cards, aren't.
posted by DU at 4:30 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The all copper pennies also make a different "ping" noise when dropped. The zinc ones make sort of a thud, but the pure ones have a much clearer tone.

And nothing sounds better than a nice silver dollar.

Question: what are people doing with the nickels? With the pennies, you can allegedly get scrappers to accept them because they are nearly pure. But nickels are an alloy. Do they think that there will come a time when there is value in nickel that is spoiled by copper?
posted by gjc at 4:37 AM on December 19, 2012


You earn lots of 'cool uncle' points if you pull a silver dollar out of your nephew's ear. Just saying.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:55 AM on December 19, 2012


I never understood why people who like silver coins and people who like guns are so often the same people.

Post-collapse preparation or fantasies, depending on your viewpoint. The folks I know who do both figure that the silver coins will still have value after the U.S.A. disappears.

One buys them in bulk from Craigslist for $2/per coin or whatever the silver value is. To me it seems like like a big bet, or at least a terribly inefficient form of arbitrage.
posted by banwa at 5:22 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I idly check my change for silver dimes (I'm up to 20 or so), but only because I plan to buy a slice of meteorite and forge myself the most badass wedding band ever. However, I quit doing it seriously when I stopped being a bartender and suddenly left the cash economy behind.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:37 AM on December 19, 2012


As an undergrad working in the library copy center I used to pore through the change drawer during slow periods at work. I found exactly one silver Mercury dime. I traded it for a plain dime from my pocket. I still have it.

Once in a while I'd find a foreign coin that was roughly similar in size/color to an American counterpart. I'd trade those out too, but don't think I still have them. All my foreign coins these days are a handful of Euro coins left over from a trip to Paris.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:55 AM on December 19, 2012


MartinWisse: you're saying it's the law in the US that you can't list the price as tax included? I always figured momentum and the same marketing urge that brought us 99 cents was enough to keep that in place.

There's not really any way to list the price as tax included, because the sales tax varies from state to state. So there are "multiple prices with tax included", and if someone in one state sees an item at a certain price, but then goes to a different state and sees the item at a higher price because that state has a higher sales tax rate, it would be...complicated and frustrating.

A story about one of my old bosses' brothers - apparently, when he was a kid, he spent a whole summer on a coin-collecting enterprise involving his town banks. He'd start out with a dollar, and a few pennies. He'd go to one bank first, to one teller, and buy two rolls of pennies. Then he'd carefully pick through them, looking for any wheat pennies; he'd save those aside, and replace them with regular pennies. Then he'd go to a different teller, or a different bank, and trade the pennies back in for a dollar. Then he'd go to yet another teller or bank and buy another two rolls of pennies, pick out all the wheat pennies and replace them with regular pennies, and sell the pennies back for another dollar at another teller's window, which he would then use to buy two more rolls of pennies at yet another teller...and he'd just keep doing that over and over until he got bored or ran out of tellers each day. Apparently he amassed a decent little collection of wheat pennies that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:17 AM on December 19, 2012


Dollar stores prove that price averaging is a successful marketing ploy. Also, rarely do things cost a dollar there - you'll need pennies and nickels for the tax.

Yes, but it was an analogy to suggest that we don't need to price anything for, say, 12 cents anymore, but package them to get two for a quarter, etc. Everything else would be the same, they simply use a rounding feature in registers to make the change transaction disappear. I would have previously thought that people might have revolted over the idea of losing a few pennies, but again, dollar stores show they won't care, and that the pennies and nickels tacked on are the remaining annoyance, as you suggested.
posted by Brian B. at 6:17 AM on December 19, 2012


There's not really any way to list the price as tax included, because the sales tax varies from state to state

That is only a problem if stores are selling things by the MSRP printed on the item. Does anyone do that? Most retail places have price tags on the items or on the shelves. Add the tax info there.
posted by DU at 7:07 AM on December 19, 2012


I dunno, but if someone can tell me the combination to the safe in our closet that my husband forgot 2-3 years ago, I can show you some cool coins. He had it set where you could just open it and close it, but the tumblers got moved and voila - permanently locked safe.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2012


What, you list store prices without sales tax, then have to fart around at the till to calculate it? Worse, you're actually obliged to, by law?

They're not. I know of stores that list the prices tax-included. And there are some commodities -- gasoline, for instance -- that are priced with tax included as a matter of convention (and possibly law).

But if you're running a store, it's to your benefit to display the lowest possible prices on the shelf, when the customer is making the buying decision. If the law allows you to display a low price there and then jack it up when the customer is at the register -- when they are less likely to abort the purchase -- then you do that; you are foolish to do otherwise. Same thing with having prices end in 0.99; it's obnoxious and leads to lots of weird final prices, and makes it difficult for cashiers to calculate tax without using a machine, but there's empirical evidence that it leads to more sales and thus everyone does it.

It would require a law, like those in Europe where VAT is prevalent, requiring that prices be displayed inclusive of all tax to get merchants to change. There is no advantage for them to showing the tax-included price; they want to show the customer their price, and then let them get pissed at the bait-and-switch when it can be blamed on the government.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:16 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


- permanently locked safe.

That's why you should always select a birthday for combinations, but not yours or anyone you know.
posted by Brian B. at 7:17 AM on December 19, 2012


There's not really any way to list the price as tax included, because the sales tax varies from state to state. So there are "multiple prices with tax included", and if someone in one state sees an item at a certain price, but then goes to a different state and sees the item at a higher price because that state has a higher sales tax rate, it would be...complicated and frustrating.

Just to make it clear to people outside the US, sales tax doesn't vary from state to state. It varies from city to city. Or if you are in a large city, it varies from suburb to suburb.

So if a gas station sells a candy bar for $1 (tax included), and the gas station across the street (but in a different suburb) also sells a candy bar for $1 (tax included), their profit margins will not be the same.
posted by Quonab at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2012


enough cash to float to reduce round trip efforts

That's another point. The guy in the video mentions that he carries $300-400 in cash on his person at all times so that if he sees a bank to stop into as he goes about his day, he can drop in and quickly get a lot of dimes.

Which means this is totally unfeasible as a way to make money if the tiny amounts you net would actually mean anything to you (assuming that people who walk around with that kind of hobby cash probably don't really care too much about $3-4 here and there).

If you genuinely needed the money, busking, panhandling, or selling stuff (lemonade stand, random junk on a blanket, what have you) would be more lucrative.
posted by Sara C. at 7:49 AM on December 19, 2012


Just to make it clear to people outside the US, sales tax doesn't vary from state to state. It varies from city to city. Or if you are in a large city, it varies from suburb to suburb.

whaaaa?? I'm in the US and I've never seen this. Maybe it only happens in some states?
posted by DU at 7:52 AM on December 19, 2012


Metafilter: I'm pretty sure the feeling of superiority is one of the primary benefits of being part of this particular subculture.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:54 AM on December 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


This table helpfully illustrates the rates in each state and the highest within any city within that state. Basically, each state sets a rate and then individual cities can charge an extra tax, at least in some states. It's not universal, but it is common.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:56 AM on December 19, 2012


a piece of metal whose content is, to some extent, certified by the US government.

But it's only certified by the US government to the value printed on the coin. You can have all the silver dimes in the world, but if you're counting on the government to back their value, they're only worth ten cents regardless of metal content. The whole point of the silverbug thing is that the coin is worth more than the US is willing to guarantee.

Since melting is illegal and, as you mention, pointless, it seems like the whole operation is pointless unless

1. You are hoarding for some post-apocalyptic scenario where we go back to using currency based on metal value and yet also people are trusting enough to believe that coins minted before a certain year are silver or copper by default,

or

2. This is just a whimsical angle on coin collecting as a hobby in general.
posted by Sara C. at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2012


whaaaa?? I'm in the US and I've never seen this. Maybe it only happens in some states?

Okay, maybe it only happens in my state, Oklahoma. Pretty much all of our cities' large infrastructure improvements are done via a sales tax. So each city ends up with a slightly different sales tax.
posted by Quonab at 7:58 AM on December 19, 2012


And, DU, yeah, sales tax varies by jurisdiction. I think it's up to any particular jurisdiction how to set their rate and whether to go on a state or local basis, but yeah.

I remember my Parish of Louisiana having a ballot initiative to raise the sales tax by half a percent or so, at some point when I was a kid.

On the other hand, it seems like small states probably just keep it simple and assign sales taxes on the state level -- it seems sort of pointless to have different tax rates throughout Rhode Island or New Hampshire or the like, considering that any part of the state is an easy drive from any other part of the state, not to mention other states.

I think it only varies by "suburb" if you're talking about huge sprawling metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or Houston, where, for example, Beverly Hills can hike their tax rate higher if they feel like it. Though I'd guess that there's strong disincentive to do this, in most situations.

The only place I'm familiar with which charges a drastically different rate than the surrounding area -- though I'm sure there are others -- is the NYC suburb of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The idea was to create jobs via lowering the tax rate to 3% (NYC itself is 8.75% or so), which would attract big retailers like Ikea, outlet malls, etc to Elizabeth as opposed to surrounding towns. Which has made Elizabeth a destination for big box shopping in the NYC area. I'm not sure if it actually worked to create jobs, though.
posted by Sara C. at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2012


It's funny, all my life I thought that the "small suburb with a lower sales tax rate where all of the used car lots are" was something that happened everywhere. I guess not.
posted by Quonab at 8:20 AM on December 19, 2012


Quonab - here in Massachusetts, we call that "New Hampshire".
posted by maryr at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I've lived in sales-taxless states for the last....almost 20 years now. Pretty nice in some ways
posted by DU at 8:34 AM on December 19, 2012


Why does the author assume that the coins need to be melted to have value? In fact, melting the coins would be one of the dumbest things you can do. Then you have a lump of metal that you can claim is whatever, but no potential buyer is going to trust you. If left in the form of a US coin, you basically have a piece of metal whose content is, to some extent, certified by the US government.

I'm betting there are among these folk some who would cut off their nose to spite their face & devalue the coins just to remove the Government association. They might see it as an act of defiance, reclaiming it from the government that stole it away when they went off the Gold & Silver Standards. There's a whole lotta crazy that's been colonized by far-Right economic lunatics, people who make the Pauls (Ron & Rand) look like establishment RINOs. I bet they see it as a patriotic act, not just an economic one.

That's not to say all coin collectors are far-Right nutjobs. But if you went exploring the Coin Melter community (does it have its own name?) you'd find a lot more far-Right economic junkies than in the general population.
posted by scalefree at 8:35 AM on December 19, 2012



whaaaa?? I'm in the US and I've never seen this. Maybe it only happens in some states?
posted by DU at 10:52 AM on December 19 [+] [!]

True in NY State, too. Counties add a percentage to the state sales tax; NYC does too. So if you're on Long Island and cross from, say, Melville (Suffolk) to Plainview (Nassau), you could pay a different rate.
It's a very minor change, though. Here's a chart:
http://ny.rand.org/stats/govtfin/salestax.html
posted by etaoin at 8:58 AM on December 19, 2012


It reminds me a lot of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer and Newman drive empty aluminum cans across state lines to get the extra deposit.

sarac, I live in a state without container deposit, but the next state over -- eight whole minutes drive away! -- does it, and I definitely drive the eight minutes to drop my cans & bottles in the entertaining CRUSHING AND RENDING machines. So stop laughing!

OTOH, my BiL brings along several trash bags of Maine-only containers every time he drives up that way (several hours), so go ahead and laugh at him.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:03 AM on December 19, 2012


Silver coins also make pretty cool rings (previously, with broken link).
posted by TedW at 9:15 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


wenestvedt, in the episode in question, they're not driving 10 minutes out of their way, they're driving from NYC to a state that is several hours away, like Ohio or Indiana or something.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 AM on December 19, 2012


Maine, isn't it?
posted by maryr at 9:33 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kramer and Newman took Newman's mail truck to Michigan in the bottle deposit scheme.
posted by TedW at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know it's illegal to melt down coins, but a friend and I used to blowtorch pennies in his garage; it's not hard. Scrap yards are apparently often willing to take copper wire looted out of old or new buildings. How would you get caught at this, unless you were doing it on an industrial scale?
posted by rikschell at 10:29 AM on December 19, 2012


The famous Texan investor Kyle Bass, who called the 2008 collapse and made millions, also hoards nickles.
posted by stbalbach at 10:52 AM on December 19, 2012


Sara C.: "a piece of metal whose content is, to some extent, certified by the US government.

But it's only certified by the US government to the value printed on the coin. You can have all the silver dimes in the world, but if you're counting on the government to back their value, they're only worth ten cents regardless of metal content. The whole point of the silverbug thing is that the coin is worth more than the US is willing to guarantee.


Exactly. The government will never give you more than the face value of the coin or note it issued. However, the government does mint coins to very strict standards, and since people are extremely unlikely to counterfeit coins, it's virtually guaranteed that a coin that appears to be minted by the US mint will, indeed, contain the amount and purity of the metal it originally specified when it was minted.

While the government will never give you more than face value, plenty of coin dealers will. I sold several silver dollar coins back in 1980 and received 20 times face value for each coin!

Sara C.: Since melting is illegal and, as you mention, pointless, it seems like the whole operation is pointless unless

1. You are hoarding for some post-apocalyptic scenario where we go back to using currency based on metal value and yet also people are trusting enough to believe that coins minted before a certain year are silver or copper by default,
or
2. This is just a whimsical angle on coin collecting as a hobby in general.
"

Or

3. You think that there is a chance that, at some point in the future, copper demand will increase drastically, and therefore the value of copper as well, that coin dealers will begin to pay more than face value for copper coins as well. Seems far fetched, I agree, but in the 1940's or 1950's I'm sure many people would have laughed at the prospect of a coin dealer ever offering 20 times face value for the then ubiquitous silver coins.

All I'm doing is speculating on long term copper futures on an extremely small scale. Should copper skyrocket in value, well, I can cash out with a profit at a nearby coin dealer very easily because my copper is in US gov't minted coins. Worst case, I still have face value and I've wasted a tiny amount of free time and taken up some space on a shelf.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:08 AM on December 19, 2012


For some reason I have a small collection of nickles from the 1940s. I guess there's something about a coin from WWII and also a coin from a time when that single coin could be exchanged for a Coke. Also most of them are worn down and have a distinct dark silver character.
posted by stltony at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2012


But InsertNiftyName, what you describe is exactly my point #2, "a whimsical approach to coin collecting". Once your target to get the money is coin dealers and not scrap metal shops or some kind of future apocalyptic scenario where the metal is valuable in and of itself, you're just a coin collector. Which, there's nothing wrong with coin collecting, of course. But, y'know, that's what it is.

Though I should also say that, in said future apocalyptic scenario, the fact that your metal is in the form of a coin and not a blob of indeterminate metal isn't going to make a whit of difference. In fact, it'll probably be an uphill battle to convince folks that this dime is made of Real Silver, because this little year printed here says so. It's worse than "the US government guarantees this currency" -- it's "my bullshit artistry guarantees this currency". In a world without reddit and youtube, only the most gullible moron is going to believe your shaggy dog story about how this dime is Different, Honest.
posted by Sara C. at 12:19 PM on December 19, 2012


Sara C.: ""

Wow! I now see the light! Please tell me where I should place my now misplaced energy!

I'm serious. What do you do with your free moments and your possessions of objects of near negligible value? Do you invest in beanie babies? (Cause that shit is seriously worthwhile no matter what ANYONE says.)

Seriously, WTF? Stocks and bonds? 401(k) crap? What makes your choices so superior?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:43 PM on December 19, 2012


In a world without reddit and youtube, only the most gullible moron is going to believe your shaggy dog story about how this dime is Different, Honest.

I live in Australia, and am pretty confident I've never held an American silver coin, but I know they were silver pre 1960ish. If there ever was a economic disaster that resulted in old silver coins being worth more, and newer coins being worthless, it would take about two days for *everybody* to know that those are the valuable coins.
posted by bystander at 2:57 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


bystander: "I live in Australia, and am pretty confident I've never held an American silver coin, but I know they were silver pre 1960ish. If there ever was a economic disaster that resulted in old silver coins being worth more, and newer coins being worthless, it would take about two days for *everybody* to know that those are the valuable coins."

But your WWII florins were even more valuable! .925 sterling silver content is pretty damn pure for a circulating coin!!!

When my dad was there during the war, he had a fellow GI (who had been a jeweler) make an Australian florin into a ring which he later gave to my mother after he proposed to her. She recently gave me that ring and it is seriously badass! All the great info (like the mint date of 1943 and other info) was folded into the inside of the ring's band. It's so precious to me that I keep it in the safe deposit box with my important papers. Don't count Aussie coins out! :)
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:30 AM on December 21, 2012


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