Dr. Sol Taylor

Tales From the Vault

french fries
No fair sticking your fingers in French fry fat before entering a penny-stacking contest.

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, November 4, 2006

ome true-life coin stories make you smirk, chuckle, smile, cringe or even laugh out loud.
· A San Francisco hotel used to send all of its coins from the bar, gift shop, and cash box to the laundry each day. The hotel was well ahead of a smoke-free environment; apparently the goal was a germ-free environment.
· When the new copper-coated zinc cent was released in 1982, some dog owners complained that zinc was caustic and if swallowed by their pets, they might get sick or even die. So far, no such accidents have been reported. (Besides, these coins don't taste very good; dogs probably wouldn't even ingest them.)
· A few years ago I submitted some coins to a third-party authentication and grading service. Most were returned, marked variously, "traces of vinyl oil" and "probably cleaned." One that really got to me was "questionable toning." I had bought all of these coins from major dealers over the years, including at public auctions. Recently, I noted that some salt-corroded coins from shipwrecks are being encapsulated and sold. Is salt corrosion less offensive to grade than vinyl oil? They were also cleaned presumably a no-no to the grading service for non-shipwrecked coins.
· In a school contest to see who could stack pennies the highest, one sixth grader won with a stack of 91 coins. His classmates pointed out that his greasy fingers from eating French fries helped the coins remain in place. When the contest was rerun, everyone had to wash his hands first. The winning stack was 68 coins. (Try it yourself; that's a tall stack.)
· A local school teacher sponsored a contest to see if her fourth-grade class could collect one million pennies in a school year. The rule was to bring in loose change or coins found on the ground. No buying coins by the bag or rolls at a bank. By June they actually had one million cents (and a few more). They didn't figure that such a large number of coins weighed several hundred pounds. For publicity, a local supermarket bought the lot and dumped them into the store's CoinStar machine. The lessons learned include: Pennies do add up to real money; $10,000 in pennies is really heavy; lots of pennies lie on the ground just waiting to be picked up; and people surely don't want lots of pennies.
· Two men in New Hampshire claimed they found a hoard of large-sized bank notes while digging on their property. Later it was learned the hoard was found in the barn of another man. The men face various charges for their deceit. Had they been up front and honest, chances are they'd be in a for nice reward once the hoard was sold at auction. Latest estimates show the hoard to be worth over $1 million. Honesty does pay.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.