A few days ago, as I was driving in the parking lot of a shopping
center in Sidney about a mile from our offices, I watched as a man and
woman passed in front of me, crossing my lane on foot, as they had
just left one of the stores. A few seconds after they cleared my
driving lane, the woman stopped, reached down, and picked up something
small. I recognized the motion because I do the same thing in the same
parking lot, and others.
She was picking up a coin.
I find coins lying on the pavement or on the floors of businesses
fairly frequently. Usually they are Lincoln cents; I acquired the
first of the two 2017-P Lincoln cents I have found in this way.
Sometimes, though, I find bigger denominations; a week or so ago, I
found a Roosevelt dime in the parking lot.
I almost always stop to pick up a coin, as long as I am not in the
path of traffic. Walking upright I have been nearly struck several
times by drivers oblivious to my presence, usually because they are
speaking on a cell phone (or because they are simply oblivious in
general). Leaning over to pick up a coin would only reduce my profile
and heighten the risk. Heavy rain can also dissuade me from picking a cent.
I will never get rich finding coins like this. The one more-sizeable
sum that I did find was in someone’s lost pocketbook filled with
various important documents; I turned that in, and later learned that
the owner did retrieve it. I choose to ignore studies that state that
a person loses money every time he or she stops to pick up small
change. I cannot help myself — free money is free money, even if a
year’s total of finds is less than $1.
What is worrisome, however, is the suspicion that a lot of people
find coins so disposable that they throw them away deliberately or
that coins register so little that they are oblivious to their loss
after leaving a store (my rare finds of small change in coin returns
at self-checkout stations seem to be evidence of this).
What 1848 large cent is always
fake?: One variety of 1848 Coronet cent is always
counterfeit. It sells for thousands of dollars while genuine 1848
cents can be bought for $24.
It is undeniable that cash — coins and paper money — plays a
smaller role in transactions these days. A recent report from the
Bureau of Engraving and Printing indicated that cash accounts for 32
percent of all transactions, and half of those under $25. I can
remember a time when most people used cash for almost all of their
transactions, with checks reserved for some larger purchases. My late
parents almost never used a credit card; for them, it was either cash
or a check. Even I, as a collector, make most of my purchases using a
credit card (the cash-back inducement helps). And while BEP states
that the number of ATMs is growing and the amount of notes in
circulation increased by 43 percent from 2008 to 2016, you have to
wonder what percentage of that cash is hoarded rather than used in
The growth of credit cards, online payments, and crypto-currencies —
a long-established coin firm just announced that it will now take
payment in the latter — and the reduced reliance on cash has major
implications for the coin collecting hobby. It is no secret that older
collectors are not being replaced at a 1-to-1 ratio by much younger
collectors. Many of us in the hobby suspect, as more and more younger
people use digital payment methods exclusively, that the idea of
traditional forms of money will seem quaint, and that the practice of
collecting coins and paper money will not even register as a potential hobby.
That does not mean that coin collecting will die out any time soon.
However, it does mean that the collecting community has to be diligent
in introducing new generations to the hobby that the readers of
Coin World love.
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