Almost everyone has a jar, a tin can or a box filled with old coins and other bits and pieces, untouched for years and virtually forgotten. Go dig out yours and let’s look!
Start by separating out the buttons, paper clips and the souvenir swizzle stick from that wild night you had at Morty’s Supper Club in 1962. Then set aside cufflinks, earrings, lapel pins or anything else that once served as jewelry. (We’ll come back to those in a bit).
What’s left should at least look like coins. Despite appearances, some of these aren’t coins but, at one time, they may have served a similar purpose. Every box of old coins I see during house calls has wartime meat ration tokens, BC Electric transit tokens, Washington State sales tax tokens and one of those bronze medals that every school kid in Canada got to celebrate the Royal visit of 1939. None of these have collector value and you can’t spend them, though, at the price of meat, one can be forgiven for thinking rationing is still in effect. The types of non-coin tokens collectors want are those issued by dairies, corner stores and saloons. Usually these will say “Good for 1 Quart of Milk” or “Good for 5c in Trade” or something similar. These are worth checking further as values can range from a dollar or two to over $100.
As to the coins themselves, pull out all those made of silver. Use a magnet - if the coin sticks, it’s not silver. All Canadian dimes, quarters and half dollars dated 1966 or earlier are worth more than their face value. All Canadian coins dated 1969 or later, which came from your pocket change can be spent or donated.
U.S. dimes, quarters and half dollars dated 1964 or earlier are worth more than face value - a bit more than comparable Canadian coins, as the silver content is higher. Any Canadian or U.S. coins dated before 1937 are worth setting aside to be checked.
If you brought foreign coins home from a trip abroad made in the past 30 or 40 years, most of those that predate the Euro have been demonetized and can be given to a thrift shop that can sell them as curiosities.
To answer a few oft-asked questions, the “brown” nickels from the war are worth well under a dollar, the 1951 “factory” nickel is worth perhaps a dime, and you can spend your Mountie quarters. There is a variety on the Mountie quarter where the beads around the Queen’s head are right up against the rim, worth around $30. If you can see space between the beads and the rim, it’s not a winner, but you still have a quarter.
When you’ve finished with the coins, go through that little pile of cufflinks and other jewelry bits to check for gold or sterling silver. At current metal prices, even a pinch is worth some money.
If you have one-dollar or two-dollar banknotes that you put aside when the loonie took their place, hoping they’d go up in value, put them in your bank account. The slightest crease or wear and tear makes them useless to collectors. If you're feeling particularly mischievous, take a couple into a fast food restaurant and use them to pay for your burger. The kid behind the counter won’t know what they are, and neither will the 19-year-old manager. Just tell them you don’t get out much, and have a good laugh while they phone their head office - or S.W.A.T.
If you find anything strange among your coins, send me an email with a description, and I’ll let you know what you have.
Comments and suggestions for future columns are welcome and may be sent to Michael Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelowna Canning Company token - these were used to pay fruit pickers, and could be spent at local stores who would accept them as coins.
JANUARY 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND