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?