In these difficult economic times, people are doing everything they can to make their money stretch and perhaps bring in a few extra dollars every month. One of the things you can do that can surprisingly add up to more than you might think, is picking up coins that people leave on the ground. Barbara Humphrey's family has found more than $1,000 worth of change lying around on city streets, sidewalks, parks, etc., near their home in New York City. They document their daily successes on their blog called The Changepot.
Another interesting "found money" blog is the Money Walker. Written by Bobby Eason, a professor emeritus at the University of New Orleans, this is a found money blog with an intellectual twist. Bobby loves to wax philosophical and psychological about coins and money, and its place in civilization, and he sometimes provides strategy tips, too! Bobby's entries consist of two parts: the Journal Entry and the Feature Entry. He keeps a running total of the weight and value of his finds, breaking them down into the precise numbers of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and bottles that he finds. (Yep, like many found money aficionados, Bobby also collects bottles to turn in for the deposit refund.) A sample entry:
Journal Entry: Weight = 176; Coinage =$.76, .28 from a residual walk, 26 pennies, 1 nickel, 2 dimes, 1 quarter; 2 glass bottles retrieved. The external entrances to service bays of automotive garages and body shops are becoming a reliable place to find money.
Another good found money blog is the Rainy Day Fund. Written by a fellow who identifies himself as a 48 year-old male born under the sign of Aquarius, Rainy Day Fund is creative and humorous, and liberally illustrated. His tag line: "Just a little place to keep track of the free money that happens to come my way." His one-line summary of himself: "Trying to match the fortunes of Gates, Trump, and Buffett one penny at a time..." So far, he has amassed $104.83, for little more than taking the time to bend down and retrieve the coins!
Another favorite pastime of those looking to make a score with the coins people leave lying around involves monitoring CoinStar machines. These are the machines in supermarkets and malls where you dump in your jar of loose change and get paper currency in return, typically for a 10% fee. CoinStar machines don't actually dispense dollar bills, though; they print a receipt you take to a cashier in order to get your cash. CoinStars work by mechanically sorting and counting your pocket change, and anything that doesn't pass muster is rejected via a return slot. This return slot is the place to look if you want to find all kinds of oddments such as foreign coins, washers, slugs, small jewelry items, and silver coins (yep, silver doesn't match the electronic fingerprint of our cupro-nickel clad coinage, so it gets rejected!)
A CoinStar fan in England maintains a fascinating blog called the Copper Counter. He documents his visits to the local CoinStar machines in his neighborhood, often photographing the amusing and curious things he encounters there, like the bottles, jars, cups, boxes, and other containers that people bring their hoards of coins in. He also tells us about the coin finds he makes, and since he's in Great Britain, he gets a nice variety of world coinage from his local CoinStars.
Of course, coin collectors know that one of the best places to find a little extra value is right in your own pocket change. Whether it is searching rolls of pennies looking for die varieties such as doubled dies, or ripping the wrappers off of Presidential dollar rolls hoping to turn up an edge lettering error, searching circulating coinage is so much fun to do as a source of a little extra income because it's basically free. You buy the coins, search for goodies, and then spend or return the rejects.
Rachel Zupek, a journalist with CareerBuilder.com, published an article yesterday called 10 Creative Ways to Earn Extra Money. I was delighted to find that searching circulating coinage was tip #3, and she even quoted my advice about silver half dollars! Searching for silver halves is one of the most consistently profitable coin-searching activities you can engage in, because most people don't realize that there was still 40% silver in the U.S. Half Dollar until 1970. If you can find rolls of halves at your local banks, buy up all you can and see what you can find. If you don't know what to look for, check out the top 10 most valuable coins in circulation, or get a beginner's book on coin searching such as Ken Potter's fantastic Strike It Rich With Pocket Change.