Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Unexpected Change

Today, I went to the Coke machine for my daily Coke. I brought two quarters and a dime.

I put in one quarter and the dime, but the machine kept spitting out the second quarter. And by "spitting", I mean this machine literally launches change out of the change chute and onto the floor. I always have to chase it down as it bounces all over the cement floor.

After a few chases after this quarter that the machine just would not take, I noticed that the quarter sounded different than a quarter should sound as it hits the floor. The tone was different.

I'm very perceptive.

So, I ejected the rest of my change from the machine, watching where it was launched so I could chase it down. Then I made the long walk back to my desk to get a different quarter, I returned the long walk back to the Coke machine for my daily Coke, put in the new configuration of change (which was NOT spit back out at me), then I returned to my desk once again... WITH my Coke.

I then proceeded to closely examine the reject quarter that failed to purchase a Coke for me. I wanted to determine if this particular quarter was going to prove worthless to me, or if there was a deeper source of value here that the Coke machine did not recognize.

See, I'm not entirely unfamiliar with coins. I lived in Denver for several years as a kid, and just about every year my class took a trip to the Denver Mint (as though seeing it the year before, and the year before that, and the year before THAT wasn't educational enough, or like money CHANGED so they had to show it to us AGAIN). Those trips, plus the trips we made to the Mint as a family anytime other family would visit us in Denver meant that I've spent considerable hours just looking at coins and learning a few things here and there about coins.

Don't get me wrong. I loved those trips to the Mint. We got out of class, we got to stare at money. And then we would take family, I could say random things about money and that made me look smart. But seriously, they took my class to the MInt every year as though we would learn something new. Every year it was the Mint, the Capitol, the Museum of Natural History, and the Zoo. And my friends, if there are four places in a city (or in HISTORY) that DO NOT CHANGE, it is the Mint, the Capitol, the Museum of Natural History, and the Zoo.

It's not like natural history uncovers anything new.... EVER. If you've seen that dinasaur once or twice, you've pretty much learned all you need to know about it.

The dome on the Denver capitol will ALWAYS be covered with gold, and I've sat on that Mile High step at the Capitol so many times, I can verify the claim that it's marked incorrectly. I've measured.

The zoo? Are there ever any new animals? No. We've pretty much found them all.

And the MInt? It's not like we create new money every year, or change denominations according to numbers that haven't been used much that year. 13 dollar bill? 7-cent piece? I think not. If you've seen one batch of coins travel down that conveyor belt into those big bins, you're pretty much caught up on the latest in U.S. currency.

Anyway, I digress.

Then there's last year when we gave my Mamaw a map of the United States that is specifically made to hold one quarter from each of the 50 states. It's one of those "collector" things for people who want to put 50 perfectly good quarters into a cardboard thing that means you can't use those quarters for the necessities of life.... like Cokes. I spent several hours going through all of my Mamaw's quarters (and I mean every single quarter in the HOUSE), finding the best specimen of quarter for each state, and then putting them into the map for her.

I hope we never buy her anything like that again....

Anyway, I feel that due to this vast experience with staring at coins, specifically quarters, I am somewhat of an expert on quarters. Combining this with my expert Googling skills, plus my musical ear keenly trained on pitch and intonation, I deduced that this reject quarter was made of a different material than your average quarter. And when it comes to coins, different materials affects the true value of a coin.

Upon close examination, I saw that this particular reject quarter had a Washington head (making it a Washington quarter), it was made in 1964, and it had a "D" on it, which meant it was made at the Denver Mint - a place I was very familiar with.

That last part doesn't really have any significance on the value of a quarter, it just sounds dramatic and important and makes all those years at the Mint seem finally significant.

At this point, I turned to Google. And I found that my reject quarter is somewhat unique. Quarters from 1932 to 1964 were made with silver. 90% silver, to be exact. Quarters after 1964 are made mostly of copper. Copper is much less valuable than silver, even though a quarter's monetary value is 25 cents no matter what it is made of.

BUT, these Washington quarters made of silver between 1932 and 1964 have a greater value than 25 cents. Not that using a 1964 quarter to pay for something isn't the same as any other quarter: 25 cents.

But as I Googled, I found that my quarter (a 1964 D Washington quarter) is worth..... $2.32!

So, what wouldn't buy me a Coke today is actually worth, like, 4 Cokes. Not that the machine will take it. And tomorrow I will still need another quarter because the "fancy" quarter won't be worth anything towards a Coke in the machine.

But, I enjoy that I am genius enough to recognize that my reject quarter was probably rejected because it was UNIQUE, and not WORTHLESS or faulty.

Oh, and don't steal my quarter. One day it could be worth, like, THREE dollars.

I will save it and put it in my will so that one day my children's children can inherit my fancy, very valuable quarter.

Along with my giant plastic Coke-shaped bottle that I fill with pennies every time I get a penny. It is now heavier than I can pick up. And one day when the penny is discontinued, I will have a very heavy, very weirdly valuable conversation starter.

My next Google project is to research the relationship between coins and Cokes.

Quarters = purchased Cokes
Pennies = filling up a giant Coke bottle.

I really think I am on to something here.


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