Tales of the Slightly Crazy Yet Practical

For the last year or so (I know it’s been a year because I remember when I started, it was Roll Up the Rim time, and so it is again now, how’s that for a bit of Canadiana?) I have been doing a little ongoing experiment.

It all started one week at the end of winter last year when in the span of a few days I found several coins on the sidewalk. And I decided that the logical thing to do was to go on picking up money I found on the street, and see how much it would add up to. Pure curiosity mingled with my pack-rat tendencies – plus, money. How can you argue with finding money? (Before anyone asks…I’m not in the habit of picking up other things I find on the street. The ‘Hoarders’ film crew can hold off for the moment.)

Anyhow, it turns out that if you do this regularly, and pick up every little coin you find on the ground while going about your day, after a year you’ll have nearly $14.00 altogether.

A Year's Worth of Coins 2

I don’t know if this counts as “a lot” of money or “not very much” money, for a year’s efforts. But I do know that this is all money that was just sitting on the ground. For this little experiment to be possible means that we are, collectively, quite literally throwing our money away by letting coins sit all over the place gathering dirt and rain and footsteps.

The interesting thing in my mind, is that while you’d think that this would add up to mostly pennies – and about 150 of the coins in this pile are indeed pennies – in fact there are about 50 dimes in here as well, along with a few nickels, quarters, “Loonies” (Canadian $1 coins), and even a “Toonie” (Canadian $2 coin).

Poor beat up pennies

It’s also pretty clear to me that of all our poor coins, the pennies (one cent pieces) take the most beating. I’ve rescued these little darlings out of seams in the road, scooped them up from curbsides, and can now recognize their familiar copper gleam from several paces away. (Experiments like this have super crazy side-results.)

There are a fair number of American pennies in here, too, something which I think speaks to how fluidly people in this half of North America deal with other North American currency. Nobody around here bats an eyelash if an American coin slips into your chance, we circulate them like normal cash. I’ve never seen anybody treat Canadian coins like that outside of Canada, that’s for sure. [Edit: notes in the comments reveal this not to be the same experience – thanks, ‘Murricans that will accept Canadian coins and not blink twice!]

A Year's Worth of Coins

On the one hand, it might seem a little odd to be caring about picking up coins off the ground when, after a year, the relative total adds up to about the same as the price of a half-decent lunch. But in my mind the even stranger thing is why people don’t do this more often. Dudes, if every Canadian (there are about 35 Million of us) rescued $14.00 off the ground every year, we could fricking well save the economy. Just sayin’.

Or at the very least we’d all get a free lunch.

When’s the last time you found a bit of money? Keep me company on this Tuesday, won’t you? And keep the knitting close by.


  1. Hey, $14 is a good number of Timbits! And, we treat Canadian pennies like American ones where I’m from…. but only pennies it seems.

  2. Cool! I pick up money when I see it, but I’ve never thought to collect it and count it. Putting up a link to this post on Twitter. Maybe you’ve started a trend!

  3. Jennmoles · ·

    My favorite is when I find money that I have “hidden” from myself in the laundry. The best I have ever done was 20$ in one session of washing!! πŸ™‚ I treat it like it is found money, like it was never mine to begin with. My laundry lottery!!

  4. Michigan’s close enough to the Canadian border that we’ll circulate Canadian pennies without thinking twice. I’ve gotten away with anything up to a quarter from time to time, but only pennies are reliably accepted.

  5. Elizabeth · ·

    On the other hand, maybe if everyone was picking every bit of money off the sidewalk, the average sum collected would be a lot lower.

    $14 is fairly impressive though. I found a set of bus tickets on the ground the other day … it was like a free $3.00!

  6. I grew up in a US county bordering Canada. Change is change. Except for vending machines — they don’t take Canadian coins. Everybody else? Very few people even notice if there’s a Canadian quarter in with their change. The farther you get away from the international border, the less fluid it gets, but here in a border state, it’s money. You’re unlikely to get it from a bank, but I usually have a couple of Canadian coins in my change purse/bin. (True story: new cashier, moved to MI from some central US state, when faced witha “foreign” coin, called the manager over “do we accept this?”. Manager says “Canadian? yes.” “what’s the exchange rate?” “exchange rate? there is no exchange rate — it’s face value.”)

  7. When I lived in NY I saw Canadian “pennies” and “nickles” all the time. Now I live in PA and I don’t see them that often, I imagine that is because I’m no longer in a state that shares such a wide border with Canada.

    Gotta tell you, your blog has truly inspired me since I found it and have been lurking around for a month or so. Thank you so much!

  8. Adriana · ·

    Nicely done! I have quite the found-money story. I was heading into work one morning and I found a $20 on the floor of my apartment building! I felt a little guilty about it but seriously, if I didn’t take it, someone else would have. I put it to good use in my wedding fund πŸ™‚

  9. Hmmm… did you go through $14 worth of hand sanitizer in the process? That’s what turns me off!

  10. Just a bit of hand-washing! No harm done πŸ˜‰


  11. Funny you’re writing about this. My husband is a major hoarder of loose change. The last couple of weeks were spent painting our kitchen, which housed two large canister’s full to the brim of change; mostly pennies. I decided to take on the task of rolling up all the loose change and get it the heck out of my house! Grand total: $160.00 in dimes; $50.00 in nickels and $80.00 in pennies. I hauled them all into the bank yesterday. The Royal Canadian Mint rejoices!

  12. I collect the money that I pick up (though I don’t go out of my way to do so) and save it in a jar for charity.

    As for accepting Canadian money into circulation here in the mid-Atlantic, I think that there are probably some pennies floating around because no one really pays attention to pennies anyway! I’m a foster parent, and I’ve decided that rather than worry about how much the Tooth Fairy brings to kids when they are with their families, the Tooth Fairy is going to bring foreign coins to kids in my house. (What else am I going to do with the random Italian and Dutch coins that I collected when my dad brought them back from business trips when I was 7?)

  13. tinebeest · ·

    1) if everyone started picking up money, chances are your yearly income from “foundlings” would become less than $14 πŸ™‚

    2) I’m good at finding coins on the streets. “Eyes to the ground”, mr beest calls it. It is a happy side-effect from years of training to avoid dog mess…

    3) My best find came on a summer evening. We were out on the paddock at the back of the college, and mr beest suddenly jumps up and says “Ha! I beat you! I just found Β£1 in the grass!” I admitted defeat, turned around, saw something that looked like 50p. Only it turned out to be a shiny Β£2 coin. Money like that finds me…

    4) And don’t get any Scottish person started on English people not trusting Scottish bank notes. But then each Scottish bank has its own notes, it is a bit confusing at first.

  14. That is a skein of semi-decent sock yarn! Or two skeins of Cascade 220! You have inspired me to do the experiment myself. Don’t worry, I am in California so I won’t take your money! Although I kind of wish we had Loonies and Toonies. I currently hunt for change on my bedroom floor–my husband seems to fill his pockets with change, and then it all falls out of his pants and he just leaves it on the floor. After a short period of time, I realized this was a gold mine for me! I scoop it all up and put it in a jar on my dresser and tell him he has lost his chance at it πŸ™‚

  15. jenniferlinn · ·

    As an American who has grown up and lived in “border” states (NY and MI), I’ve often seen (and passed over) Canadian pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters mixed in with American change. The only thing that won’t go through are the loonies or twoonies, and vending machines only accept American.

    Also, since I have relatives in Canada, if I notice it, any Canadian change I see gets put in the Canadian wallet, for when we go to visit.

  16. Was in the grocery the other day and saw a dollar on the floor in the checkout. I watched a couple of minutes and when I came up to it, I picked it up and handed it to the clerk. She said, “It’s yours.”

    Well…no. (I do understand “finders keepers” and all that)

    As she started to ring me out, she asked if I’d donate (turns out it was $1) for the “cause of the month” – not even sure I remember which it was. I didn’t bat an eye – “yes, that dollar there.”

    “Put your name on the decal”

    Not my name. And in a flash, I thought – no, Mom’s name (gone these 14 years). If anyone put that dollar in my path, indirectly it had to be her! (I added, “I miss you!” under her name.)

    So. My “found money” story!

  17. I’ve never passed a coin I didn’t pick up:) Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck! I think this is a fun experiment, $14.00 dollars is not too shabby.

  18. yarnpiggy · ·

    I’m going to give this a try…just to increase the sample size! I’ll report back March 9, 2011. :o)

  19. I’ve never passed up found money on the ground. As for hand sanitizing, well….the stuff you get in change from the nice cashier is just as likely to be crawling with who-knows-what as what you pick up off the ground. *shrug* Wash your hands frequently — it’s the best way to avoid nasty germs and viruses anyway. I don’t get out much since I work from home — I’m guessing my yearly totally is more like a couple of dollars. Maybe.

    Living in Minnesota, Canadian money has usually been treated just like American as long as it is coinage (Loonies and Toonies excepted, darn them! ‘Cause they are really cool coins.). Again, the vending machines won’t accept Canadian coins, neither will the change counters at the bank or grocery store (“bring in your change and get cash back!” Those things), but most retailers don’t even look. The further north you go in the state, the less likely they are to care. πŸ˜€

    Now what would it take to convince our respective governments that standardizing coin size/weight between our countries would be a *good* thing? πŸ˜‰

  20. I’m just superstitious enough that I won’t pick up a coin unless it’s heads-up!

    I’m with Melanie, MI doesn’t discriminate against Candian coinage, even on the West side. Now that I’m in Chicago I don’t see them anymore. 😦

  21. Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Ok, I suppose you have to count the “labor” of bending over to pick it up, but if you count that as exercise you’re even more ahead.

  22. I haven’t been in the habit of picking money up off the ground, but I do save change found in laundry and around the house in a jar. This Christmas I turned it in for a $75 Amazon gift certificate, and a few years ago, we cashed it in for paper money and took it to Vegas. Found money is awesome (even when its your own).

  23. I hadn’t thought to count up what I find throughout the year; could be interesting!

    At first I thought, “$14 is a great haul!”, but I actually have your 2009 beat — only because of a once-in-a-lifetime $20 bill found at the base of a hedge this past summer. I can never walk past “free” money, even a penny — although my own superstitions will not let me pick up a penny of my own if I drop one!

  24. Loved this! I always pick up spare change on the street. My kids think I’m crazy (and most likely diseased after touching something – gasp! – on the ground) but I keep on doing it. Mostly I add these random coins to the change jar my husband established to empty the change out of his pockets at the end of the day. Can I tell you that I take that change jar in two or three times a year and come home with $60 to $90, once $140! And this is just so-called pocket change. I also have a friend who does this and adds it to a jar labelled college tuition. Maybe that seems like a joke given the cost of a college education nowadays but still, IT’S MONEY!

    FYI – over the years I have also found two $20, one $10, a couple of $5 and several $1, enough for a tidy bit of yarn. Look down people, there’s money to be had!

  25. I always pick up coins and always thought them to be ‘good luck’ coins. Good luck for the finder anyway. Fun experiment.

  26. Heather · ·

    The only place I’ve found that won’t take Canadian currency south of the border, are soda machines. and occasionally banks, but that depends on the teller’s mood.

  27. I love all Canadian coins except the quarters, because I would inevitably end up stuck with one whenever college laundry day rolled around and find myself unable to do my laundry until I found someone willing to trade for a coin the washing machine would accept. Good times, good times.

  28. gretchen · ·

    One fabulous day I went out for a walk and found a $20 bill! I enjoyed that day. I save all my coins in a jar and take it to the bank before vacations. Those little coins added up to over $300 and add a bit of extra fun to the trip.

  29. Val Champ · ·

    I seem to find money all the time. Not sure whether its because I am built closer to the ground that some or what?

    I toss it all into a bowl on the kitchen counter. My pocket change at the end of my 4or 5 day shift also goes into the bowl and when the bowl gets full I roll it. Then it gets changed into US funds for when we travel. Last Dec our week to Florida was essentially free..done on found money over a period of about 18 months.

    My hubby is forever tucking money into books for page markers and forgetting..odd really as sometimes the sums are fairly large, but it always turns up when we need something extra.

    Love your blog Glenna..

  30. Apparently, I dropped some money today on my way to work, and a woman chased me down to give it back. It was TEN DOLLARS! I hadn’t even known I dropped it.

  31. Since I was in high school, which granted was not that long ago, I have been picking up coins religiously. All my friends make fun of me and some of them throw coins on the floor just to watch me pick them up (they really aren’t as cruel as this makes them sound) but I just tell them money is money. I am a poor college student and I have eaten quite often at nicer restaurants that I wouldn’t have been able to afford had I not been picking up pennies. All told, in the past six or seven years, I have probably picked up about $125 of pure change.

  32. Mary B. · ·

    yeah, I’ve lived in Michigan long enough now that Canada does NOT seem like a foreign country (as it did from New Jersey), and long enough to know to always study my coins before putting them into a vending machine (using one country’s coins in the other country’s machines does not yield a good result). Coming home to MI from Boston last weekend I asked the hotel to print out the google map of our route home–“and make sure it’s the route through Canada.” “Canada!” she exclaimed. “Why Canada?” Well, where I am from it is a short cut; and where else can you get poutine?

  33. Hey, $14 will buy a skein of yarn! I pick up coins all the time, but never thought of saving them to see how much they would add up to after a year. I might join you in this experiment. πŸ™‚

  34. I pick up coins. It’s money, and it’s exercise. Some stores are touchy about Canadian coins in the mid-Atlantic but they never were when I lived in a northern border state.

  35. bluekelebek · ·

    There is a 20 cent coin glued down on the footpath I walk by often. I nudge it with my toe when I walk by it. One of these days it will move and I will be 20 cents richer!
    And that’s 20 cents Australian. They don’t have pennies here, which took a while to get used to when I moved here from the US. The prices are quoted in pennies but at the check out they round up or down the total. They do charge you the exact amount if you are paying with a credit card.

  36. Nancy from Mass · ·

    My son and I pick up coins all the time. it’s amazing that people walking in front of us will just ignore the money! Once, (I swear this really happened), my son and I went to the park. The playground area has beach sand on it and my son stopped, bent down, dug down into the sand and pulled up a quarter. I swear the kid is a metal detector!

    Good for you finding $14! It pays to pick up coins!

  37. Safeena · ·

    I keep the coins that CatDaddy leaves in his laundry. Last year, that amounted to $88 of Malabrigo!

    From the day I moved to California until the day my first beloved cat died, I saved every found coin in a huge jar. When she died the savings were distributed pro-rata to her beloved pet sitters, a college student ($70)and a 80+ year old woman ($360).

    The elderly woman used it to prepay the expenses associated with donating her body to the local medical school. Faye just kept giving, even after death.

    Talk about a penny going a long, long way.

  38. This is such a great idea – I’m gonna try it!

  39. margreet · ·

    Love this. As a child when I found a cent – 50 odd years ago – my father encouraged me: nine more and you can buy an ice cream! So I learned cents make pennies, pennies make dollars and so on. I apply this now to grocery shopping: 35 % off because today is last selling day? Still two days to go to use by date. I will eat this today or tomorrow, so no harm done. Helps to pay for my many hobby’s, 35 % off, like picking up pennies and cents the big way, love it.

  40. today i picked up a nickle! i told the hubbs about your found change jar, and he thought $14 was pretty good for a year!

    we have both found money. he found $40 on 2 separate occasions for a total of $80. i found a $50 bill once. \o/

    it’s always fun finding money in pocket of rarely worn jeans or jacket….even if it was mine to begin with.

    money found in the washing machine is mine, all mine! the youngest son, while still living at home during high school & junior college was notorious for not emptying his pockets!

  41. […] on past without stopping because hey, it’s only a penny? Last year about this time I read this blog post and decided to conduct a little experiment of my own. What if I stop to pick up every coin I see […]

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