US coin collecting has become a lost art – but one community wants to revive it


Coin collecting in the U.S. has become a lost art but a community is trying to bring it back in fashion.

With Americans tossing an estimated $68 million in coins annually, often discarding them in public spaces such as sidewalks or accidentally putting them in the trash, a passionate community has taken it upon themselves to spread the joy of collecting the underappreciated form of currency and revive the hobby.

According to a May YouGov poll of nearly 3,000 American adults, over 80 percent reported they would stop to pick up coins on the street, with the habit being common among older adults.

Half admitted that they’d pick up a penny without hesitation. Between pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and more, these collectors find something “primal” about picking up and finding coins. It’s almost instinctual to them.

“There’s something really primal about seeing that glint on the ground,” upstate New York-based filmmaker Chalkley Calderwood, 54, explained to the Wall Street Journal. “I’m bending over to pick it up before I can even think.”

A box with collectible coins in cells and a hand holding a coin. According to a May YouGov poll of nearly 3,000 American adults, over 80 percent reported they would stop to pick up coins on the street, with the habit being common among older adults.
A box with collectible coins in cells and a hand holding a coin. According to a May YouGov poll of nearly 3,000 American adults, over 80 percent reported they would stop to pick up coins on the street, with the habit being common among older adults. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Each collector has a different strategy or method for picking up coins. Some, such as landscaper David Virgilio, 73, swing by his local drive-thrus to scoop up any change people dropped during their window transactions with the cashier.

While others, such as Another Mother Runner founder Sarah Bowen Shea, 58, routinely picks up coins along the sidewalk and street as she goes on her runs.

She admitted to the outlet, “There’s definitely days where the search for found change is what gets me out the door.”

They’re not the only ones attempting to salvage these coins, with sustainable waste management company Reworld sifting through garbage to find as many coins as possible.

Since starting their coin-saving project over seven years ago, the company has discovered around $10 million in coins.

Last year, the U.S. Mint spent $707 million on creating coins. Meanwhile, its contemporaries including Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have removed their equivalents of the penny from circulation since coins tend to circulate slowly throughout the economy due to the difficulty in spending them.

This has led coins to primarily be stuck in homes, with many relegating them to household junk.

However, one person’s trash can be another’s treasure, with savvy collectors often housing their collections in unique ways, ranging from people such as Samantha Hopkins, who store their bounty in jars to count at the end of the year, to couples like Sara and Justin Ilse who used 65,507 pennies to build the entryway floor of their 230-square-foot home.



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