Mixed Nuts

Coin Collecting Starter Kits

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a bin of foreign coins from all over the world. The coins aren’t worth much, if anything at all, but I’ve still tried to come up with ideas to creatively raise their perceived value in various ways.

I tried the coin jewelry thing, but that only lightens the load one coin at a time. I thought if I got those coin pages that fit the 2 x 2 mylar coin flips, I could sell hundreds of coins in one shot. It would also be ideal as a beginner’s coin collecting kit for someone just starting out.

I purchased a nice new all black three ring binder with vinyl front and back pockets, then loaded it up with the coin pages I bought at BCW Supplies. I already had a number of the coins in those paper coin flips, so I started loading them into slots until I had an entire binder full of coins.

It immediately struck me that it was really heavy and shipping was going to be a problem. I wanted to keep this product fairly inexpensive, but when the shipping costs come in at close to half of the price of the product, that could pose be a problem.

I came up with an idea to lighten the load. There was a company I had purchased bulk foreign currency from years before, so I found a mixed country lot containing a few hundred pieces and ordered it. I also ordered some of the three pocket polypropylene currency pages.

I kept the coin pages to a maximum of three which totaled 60 coins and it still weighed plenty, but it wasn’t as bad as before. I used some magazine backer boards I had laying around to use as a divider, then added ten to twelve currency pages filled three bills to a page.

For the exterior front and back, I printed out color photos of foreign coins and currency and slid them under the protective vinyl that encompassed the binder. I even wrote a short thank you letter and tucked it into the inside sleeve of the binder.

I thought it actually looked pretty good, but I was also biased since it was my creation. I took a bunch of pictures and slapped the first one on eBay and it sold in the first day. Woot! I immediately put up another one and nothing happened for two weeks, and yes, if you’ve been paying attention you probably already know that…

…this is where our story ends for this product.

I still have two collections ready to go. Interested?

Talking Criminal Sock Monkeys

If you’ve read some of my stranger ideas or found yourself singing along to some of my lyrics, you might be starting to think I’m a different, offbeat type of guy. Yes. Yes I am.

Case in point. The title. Yes, you read that title correctly. I got the inspiration for talking criminal sock monkeys from Cabbage Patch Kids. I searched for the cheapest stuffed animal I could find and sock monkeys seemed to be it. There was also a lot of information on making your own, so naturally I jumped ahead to imagine a sweatshop of my very own filled with grandmothers churning out sock monkeys.

OK, sock monkeys are fine for kids, but what could we do to differentiate ourselves and also make them into something an adult would buy (either for themselves or for other adults as a gag)? Make them into criminals. Instead of a unique birth certificate being included with every one like Cabbage Patch Kids, the sock monkeys would come with a lengthy rap sheet.

I think that novelty would be enough, but I also thought it would be better to make them talk too. Stop for a minute and think about all the funny stuff you could come up with that a scumbag felon might say. All you have to do is squeeze the little monkeys stomach to hear his unique catch phrase.

You might think this was only a passing fancy, but no, I actually created a prototype.

I found an eBay lot of five sock monkey chew toys for dogs. They were about a foot tall and had one of those devices in them that made a squeak when it was pressed (or bitten). I found two small message recorder buttons for stuffed animal craft projects and recorded some hilarious (ok, funny to me) audio, then swapped out the squeaky toy with the message button.

Next I spent a good few hours searching for a criminal history template. This turned out to be the most consuming part, but I eventually found something I could use again and again for different monkey perps by easily customizing a few fields.

When all was said and done, I had a dog toy with bad audio. The biggest lesson I learned was to use the same products you plan to use for production in the prototype. I bought the sock monkey and message/recorder button based on a price point and profit I had in mind, but the quality of the audio was pretty bad and the stuffed animal was a dog toy. I could never use these products to create a finished product.

Creating the same product with higher quality materials would force me to charge way more than I wanted to, but not out of the realm of possibility for success. For an item like this, I figure a cheaper price is better, because seriously, there’s only so much (a good amount of) people will pay for a stuffed animal, regardless of how clever the novelty.

Not to worry! I lost interest before there could ever be a round two of the prototype. Anyone got a puppy that needs a new chew toy? I still have a few of them I never cut open. Oh, and speaking of cutting them open, there’s another lesson I learned during this process. I don’t know how to sew!

Selling Coin Jewelry

Years ago I knew someone that worked for a company that exchanged your coins for cash. People would grab their containers of coins, dump them down the chute, and exchange their ticket for fold-able cash. What this company didn’t tell people is that not everything gets returned that isn’t redeemable. This means that lots of things that people forgot was mixed in with their change would get caught in an internal container and not returned in the reject slot.

After every stop the driver would dump the junk into a five gallon pail until it was eventually filled. When they asked their managers what to do with them, nobody wanted to deal with it, so the drivers could either leave it behind tucked into a corner of the warehouse or take it home. The ones that took them home quickly realized these junk bins weren’t just full of junk.

The bulk of it was foreign coins from all over the world, likely the left over change people brought home from vacations and business trips. Most of it was worth very little, if anything, and some of it was money that was no longer in circulation in its home country.

However, there were also hidden gems (sometimes literally) in these pails too. It must have been like tearing open a giant box of Cracker Jacks and digging for multiple prizes. There were earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces, and on one rare occasion I heard someone found a diamond ring. Even US silver dollars would get caught in the internal receptacle which I’m sure made for a nice surprise.

It’s sad to think some people lost some jewelry or a couple silver dollars here and there, but I would imagine returning this stuff to its rightful owners would be a lost cause. These bins were filled from machines covering multiple states over time periods of months. It’s also kind of ironic to think that these people may have needed a little extra cash to drive them to cash in coins, but they had something much more valuable sitting there the while time.

I only heard the stories, but once the stuff was picked over, nobody cared much about the foreign coins except for perhaps the Canadian stuff. I always loved junk coin collecting so I took a bin and spent days separating it by country, and organized a portion of the best looking coins into mylar coin flips that I placed into coin pages in a massive three ring binder.

None of it is worth anything, and the coin flips I bought to protect them are probably worth more than the coins themselves, but I still enjoy having them. I had so much of it that after a decade or so, I started wondering what I could do with the rest of it. I could offer to sell it in bulk, but the folks doing that on eBay don’t get much per pound. I’d rather make something creative out of it and raise its perceived value in the process.

I found this company that sells base metal coin bezels that you could attach to earrings, key chains, and necklaces, so I started churning out coin jewelry. I always liked jewelry with real coins, but I cringe when I see people drilling holes in coins to do so. I don’t care if the coin is worthless. I think once you put a hole in it, it’s junk. Using the bezels fixed that problem and I now had an array of inexpensive jewelry that cost me next to nothing to make.

I liked the idea so much that I even started doing the math to figure out per pound bulk foreign coin costs in the event I ran out of coins. For the price per coin I’d pay, it was still a very feasible business. I sold a number of them on eBay, but as usual, there’s far too many new ideas happening in my head to keep me on just one thing. I still have a ton of them too. You wanna buy one?

Making Money With Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is a fairly new interest of mine. I had heard of Bitcoin when it was only a few dollars, but didn’t understand it enough to see its value or potential. I missed the initial Bitcoin bubble, but what that price rollercoaster did for digital currencies was huge. It showed the world that the future of money is changing.

Bitcoin and other digital payment systems are still in their infancy, so it’s hard to tell what will happen in the future. If I had to take a stab in the dark based on the info I have now, I’d say Ripple will be adopted by banks for their cross border payments and Bitcoin will remain the digital cash on the street equivalent.

There are so many other alternatives out there, and many of them bring their own interesting and potential uses to the table. For example, Namecoin 1 includes censor-resistant domain name registration of the .bit TLD, Dash 2 adds additional privacy to its transactions, and Ripple 3 with its XRP bridge currency is used for protection against denial of service attacks.

I wish I could afford to have a chunk of change to invest in dozens of different cryptocurrencies because you can never be sure which might be the next big thing. At this point, I’ll just have to pick a few of my favorites to use and hold for now. If you’re skilled at trading or finding arbitrage opportunities among the different exchanges, you’ll probably find ample opportunities in crypto.

I’m not particularly adept at either, so what I look for is something I see as being in demand for a long time. Not every alt coin will last, but if there’s a decent market cap, acceptable daily volume, dedicated devs, and a large community using and supporting it, I think the coin has a shot.

The buy and hold approach isn’t very sexy, but you can still earn money through mining. I’ll use one example of a lesser known favorite called OKCash. I own some OKCash, and in the first year the staking rewards (proof of stake mining) is 69%. Year two staking rewards are 20%. This is like finding a dividend paying stock on steroids.

Of course, you always have to carry some risk, the most important is wondering if this (or any) alt coin is going to be around in a year or two, and if so, at what price. But if you’ve been able to check off all of the aforementioned traits, I’d say the potential reward is most definitely worth the risk.

You also have to keep dreaming too. One of the digital currencies you buy/mine might just end up being the next big thing and create a whole new bunch of cryptocurrency millionaires. You won’t see me turning blue from holding my breath, but it’s still fun to dream.

  1. Namecoin, Wikipedia (last visited Aug. 9, 2015).
  2. Dash, Wikipedia (last visited Aug. 9, 2015).
  3. Ripple, Wikipedia (last visited Aug. 9, 2015).

Create A Working Cool Pillow

I’ve always wanted to figure out the hot pillow conundrum. I know some companies have given it a shot, but nothing I’ve tried or heard about from others seems to work. I tried the Chillow and I only used it for a few nights. It’s super skinny so it’s not something you’d typically use as a stand alone pillow, but trying to get it to stay in a pillow case with another pillow was impossible. It was also uncomfortable and I didn’t feel any coolness on my hot head.

This is one of those common problems that people have wanted to find a solution to for a long time, but it seems nobody can get it right. It’s not just a comfort thing, but a number of studies (or just people parroting back what they’ve read like me) suggest we sleep better in slightly cooler temperatures.

I know that’s true for me. I’m a bit of a side to side thrasher and usually wake up a number of times each night. If I keep the air conditioner on, I get a much better sleep and rarely wake up at all. I still must flail around since I always wake up with a mohawk look to my hair, but I certainly don’t remember doing so.

So how would we create a pillow that stays consistently cool to avoid having to keep flipping it all night? That idea you had about putting an ice block in a Ziploc bag won’t cut it either. That gave me a stiff neck and I had a wet head by morning.

My first thought was to investigate those cold packs athletes use to control swelling of an injury. If you’re not familiar with them, it’s a plastic bag containing ammonium nitrate crystals and a small pouch of water. When you give the bag a squeeze, the inner pouch of water breaks. When the ammonimum nitrate dissolves in the water, it creates an endothermic reaction that absorbs heat.

The thing is, if I recall correctly those cold packs don’t last more than 15 or 20 minutes, so that won’t cut it. Even if you could devise a way for crystals and water to be combined every so often to create a recurring reaction, you’d still be replacing the ammonium nitrate and water every night, and that could be costly over time.

My second thought was those blue gel packs. You know those blue ice packs you can throw in the freezer, but they don’t freeze completely solid? This might be a solution if you had an inner plastic lining to control condensation or moisture that you could access via a zipper on the pillow or something.

My last thought was similar to the previous, but inspired by the PackIT Freezable Lunchbags. 1 These lunch bags have a freezable gel liner and you can fold them up smaller while it’s in the freezer. It just might work if you used the same concept to create a pillow case with the gel liner. You’d probably have to work with a softer fabric because the lunch pail external material is a bit rougher.

It would still be something you’d have to replace every night, but it doesn’t seem like much of a chore to fold up and throw your pillow case in the freezer on your way out the door. If you’re a tad on the lazy side with making your bed in the morning, just order a few of them so you always have one ready to go.

OK, so who’s gonna take the reigns on this one? Do I at least get one of the first pieces right off the manufacturing line? I’ll even be your first affiliate by mentioning/selling them here.

  1. Amazon affiliate link