Rare coins can vanish in counting machines

Here's an interesting angle on the use of counting machines - be careful of them eating your valuable coin collection. I don't think it's really that big of a deal, but it's certainly something to consider before you cash in on all your loose change.

Most days of the week, we handle a good chunk of change. But how often do we actually look at those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters?

These days, for most of us, that’s rare – and it could mean you’re letting valuable coins slip through your fingers.

I examine coins out of habit, because I had a penny collection when I was a kid. Recently, I was surprised to find an 1899 Indian-head cent, which managed to stay in circulation for more than a century before it found its way to my home. It was a rare find, but similar coins might be mixed into the proverbial jug of change.

“Once in a blue moon you’ll find something that’s really valuable, but not as often as years ago,” says Jay Beaton, spokesman for the Colorado-based American Numismatic Association.

This is true partly because people started hoarding older, more valuable coins as soon as the U.S. stopped making silver coinage in 1964. But it’s also true because, thanks to coin-counting machines, you can turn a jar of change into paper money in seconds without looking at a single coin.

Lost in the mix

According to Washington-based Coinstar, about 80 percent of U.S. households accumulate change. And the average household with spare change has about $99 in coins, or a total of $10.5 billion in coins sitting in Mason jars, in piggy banks and between sofa cushions nationwide.

If you dump your $99 or so in loose change into a self-service coin-counting machine, how will you know whether you have old, rare or valuable coins in the mix?

The answer: You won’t. Most coin-counting machines won’t return them to you. The machines have coin-return slots for unrecognizable currency, but a penny is a penny to a coin-counting machine, whether it was minted this year or generations ago.

“Although they may have a higher market value, there is nothing that would differentiate them from a similar coin whose market value is face value only,” Coinstar spokeswoman Marci Maule says. “Coins including the Eisenhower silver dollar and 1943 steel pennies may not be returned to the customer. This is stated on our user interface before the user begins a transaction, so we suggest that they sort these out along with foreign coin.”

Different brands of coin-counting machines may accept or reject different coins, but as a general rule, an old and therefore valuable coin will be accepted at face value by all such machines.

Read the rest at Fort Wayne Journal.

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