Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All These Coins And Nowhere To Go

$68.30 worth of change!

Not long after purchasing my plane ticket for Gambia, I began saving (hoarding?) random coins received in change from various purchases I made.  This project began last February and my intent was to take the coins to the bank just before departing for Africa to convert them to cash.  My thinking was that I would have a few extra dollars to spend by being diligent and saving all of my change.

With my departure for Africa this coming Sunday I decided that today was the day to go to Bank of America to make the conversion.  There I expected them to run the coins through a coin separator/counter and spit out cash for me when the counting was complete.  I had seen them do this for someone a couple years ago and figured the policy was still in place.  Before going to the bank and because I am an excessive-compulsive anal-retentive, I hand separated each of the coins by size (quarter, nickel, dime, penny) and put them in separate plastic bags to make the counting that much simpler.  I then tossed the entire collection in my backpack, climbed on my bicycle, and pedaled four miles to my local Bank of America branch. There I told Dannis, the hot Colombiana teller what I wanted to do with the coins.  Dannis told me that Bank of America had other plans.

No longer did they take coins at random and count them for you.  Now, “You have to put them in tubes by coin type and then we send them to Tampa to be counted.  Once Tampa counts the coins and tells us how much they are worth we can get you your money in three days.”

What? This is a bank that received $138 BILLION from the George Bush bank bailout in 2008 and you can’t separate a few dollars worth of coins for me?  I politely told Dannis that was unacceptable.  I just wanted to convert coins and get some money and pedal my bicycle home. 

Overhearing my conversation with Dannis the teller at the next window interrupted saying “Sir, did you know that Wal-Mart has a coin converter? Just go over there (pointing at the nearby Wally World) and use their coin counter.  They will do it for you and it’s free.”

Encouraged by this new-found knowledge I pedaled over to Wally World, scraped 40 points off my IQ, walked in the front door, found the Money Center, and then learned that not all glittering things at Wally World are coin counter machines.

Yes, it was true. Wally World had a machine that would sort and count my bulging supply of coins, and yes they would convert them for free (nothing is free at Wally World).  However, when I looked at the fine print I discovered that Wally won’t convert the coins to hard cash that I could carry to Gambia and spend on Gambian beer.  Nope.   Wally World will convert the coins (for free!) to Wal-Mart gift certificates that can only be spent at Wally World!  Luckily Gambia has not been infested with Wal-Mart’s – yet.  Sadly, I was screwed and didn’t get to smile about it.

Returning home with lots of coins but no dollar bills I sat down and counted all the coins myself.  It turns out I have $68.30 worth of change that I cannot convert to dollar bills.  It would be pointless to take the change with me to Africa because no foreign bank will convert coins to their currency and besides I would probably have to pay extra for an overweight bag just to drag the coins with me.

There used to be a bank in Cameron, Wisconsin called the “Bank of Cameron.”  When I was a kid, if I needed help with something the Bank of Cameron would help me.  I could go to a farm auction, buy three Jersey cows, write a check for $900, show up the next day at the Bank of Cameron, tell Orrin Grilley about my purchase and that I needed a loan.  Orrin would smile, excuse himself, walk out to the tellers and return a few minutes later with a bank deposit slip showing that he’d just put $900 in my account to cover my check.  No questions asked.  No walks to Wal-Mart.  No gift certificates.  No tubes of coins.  All I received from the Bank of Cameron was customer service.  Bank of America is no Bank of Cameron!

Now I’m stuck with about 800 pounds of coins.  I guess what I will have to do is just buy things with all this change until it is all gone.  A large coffee and a muffin at Starbucks is $4.80 and that will eat up 19 quarters.  A turkey and provolone sub on wheat at Jersey Mike’s is $7.25 and that will eat up 29 quarters.  A spinach salad at Subway is $6.25 and that will consume 25 more quarters.  Eventually I will get rid of all of this change but in the process I have learned a new phrase that I am going to use at every turn once all the coins are gone.  That phrase is “Keep the Change.”


  1. Community Bank recently purchased a 'customer coin counter.' The customer puts the coin into the machine, coin is counted, receipt is printed out, customer brings receipt to a teller where they can make a deposit or be given cold cash. AND, if the customer is having any issues with the machine we are there to help them get through the process. At first I was a little worried about the machine being a hassle to the customer but it has worked out well. We also call you by name, listen to your stories, we rejoice with you in your good times, we cry with you in your bad times & when we say 'thank you, enjoy your day' we mean it. -A Community Bank employee.