About twenty years ago my mom gave me a piggy bank. This particular piggy bank was in the shape of a Coca Cola bottle, and stood 24” high. If memory serves, it would hold $1,000 USD in pennies. I’ve carried the bank with me through every apartment I had in college, and to both of the houses I’ve purchased. Over the course of two decades, I never did manage to fill it. During the lean college years, I would occasionally pour out some handful of change to scrounge up a couple dollars for a burger or breakfast somewhere, but on the whole I tried pretty hard to only make deposits into the bank, and not withdrawals.

Last weekend, for no particular reason, I decided to empty it. The plastic had begun to crack at the base from years of weight straining against it. I tried to repair it with duct tape earlier in the year, but that simply shifted the strain to other parts of the plastic, which also began to crack.

I had intended to manually wrap all of the coins into sleeves so that I could take them to the bank and exchange them for bills, or possibly to deposit it into my bank account. While depositing a check for my sister at her credit union the other day, though, I noticed that they had a machine into which you could dump coins and get a receipt to collect cash from the teller. Perfect!

I spent an evening methodically separating pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters (and one silver dollar) into separate piles, so that I could see just how many coins of each type I had accumulated over the years. I counted $34 in quarters, $136 in dimes, and $60 in nickels. I didn’t bother counting pennies. Before going to the credit union, I weighed each bag of coins separately. I had 25 pounds of pennies, 8 pounds of dimes and 13 pounds of nickels.

At the credit union, I dumped in all the nickels and dimes. I was a little dismayed to see that the machine mis-identified three coins as pennies – I’m quite certain I had only nickels and dimes in the bag – so the final total was a shade off from what I had counted the night before. According to the machine, I deposited 1,199 nickels, 1,367 dimes and 3 pennies for a final total of $196.68 USD.

I took the receipt to the teller and requested cash back. She asked me for my account number. When I said I didn’t have an account at that credit union, she informed me that the coin machine was only for use by credit union members. I pointed out that this fact was not mentioned anywhere on the coin machine, nor on the receipt I was issued. She was adamant that the machine was only for use by credit union members. I smiled politely and said calmly “Okay, then please return my coins.” She stared dumb-founded at me for a few moments before consulting with a coworker whether she could just give me the cash. It was agreed that they would do this for me “just this one time” and I was given the bills I had sought.

Both my dad and my sister have accounts as the credit union, so before depositing my 25 pounds of pennies into the machine I ran to pick up my dad, so that he could be with me for the final transaction. We dumped in the pennies, used dad’s account to get the cash – $43 USD even! – , and got out in less then 5 minutes.

20 years of saving loose change = 25 pounds of pennies + 8 pounds of dimes + 13 pounds of nickels = 6,869 coins = $239.68 USD

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