Counting coins

counting coins

My bank, TDBank, is very good. Its rates are low, and its staff members are invariably friendly. (It’s one of the main reasons I transferred my account over from the expensive unfriendly Citizens Bank a few years ago.) Also, TDBank has many hidden advantages. For example: its foreign exchange rates are very low (perhaps because it’s based in Canada).

Also: it has a coin-counting machine in its lobby.

This is a huge advantage for people like me who hoard coins. I learned the habit from my parents, who hoarded them also; in my childhood, we spent many happy evenings counting and rolling coins.

But rolling coins is tedious. It’s so much easier to feed them into a coin-counting machine and take the resulting calculation to the cashier and get your money. (Every bit of it, mind you, not like CoinStar, which keeps 10% or more of it as a “fee.”)

The TDBank machine is set up for children. There’s an animated character on the viewscreen named “Penny,” who talks you through the whole process. “My goodness,” she says periodically, “you sure have saved up a lot of money!”

This is a little annoying, but there you are.

The other day, when I was running some coins through the machine, Penny stopped suddenly. “You’ve save up so much money,” she said, “that I’ve filled up my coin sack! An attendant will come help you shortly.”

And an attendant did. As she finished up, she turned to me and said (I thought): “Just touch your nose and you’ll resume.”

I thought she was joking, or that I’d misheard. So I touched my nose.

The attendant grimaced and pointed to the viewscreen. “Her nose,” she said. “Touch her nose.”

Ah. It all made sense suddenly.

Am I not a stupid funny old man?



Canada recently decided to stop making pennies. “What will they do?” Apollonia wondered.



“Presumably,” I said, “they will start rounding prices at the five-cent point.”



She grimaced. “I wouldn’t like that.”



“No one much cares what you’d like,” I said. “Pennies are a curiosity, a thing of the past. Get modern, babe.”



In Tunisia we had aluminum coins worth five millimes: five one-thousandths of a dinar, less than an American penny in those days. It was the smallest change available on a daily basis. Street vendors sold single cigarettes for a few of those coins, which were called “durus.” Quite a few people didn’t bother to spend them.  I knew people who had huge jars full of them. Some people actually threw them away.



Smaller coins – worth one or two millimes – were available, but you seldom saw them. Everything in the market was generally priced in a rounded amount – 1 dinar 500 millimes – but your electric bill was always precise: 7 dinars 879 millimes. And, when you paid it (say, with a ten-dinar note), they gave you exact change, in coins smaller than the nail of your little finger.



Ah! That was fun.



Also back in those days, when the Italian lira was 2000 to the American dollar, they gave you change in hard candy. If your change came to 25 or 30 lira, they’d gesture to the bowl of hard candy on the counter and say, “Take one!”


All things considered, Canadians (and Americans, eventually) can live without the penny.



Who doesn’t like a little piece of candy once in a while?


The gold bug


Partner, who knows a lot about finance, was advising a friend recently on the purchase of gold. “I want it,” she said, “but what happens if the government collapses? Can I trade the gold for a quart of milk?”

He tried to explain the system to her. He even helped her to buy some small gold coins on the Internet, from a reliable dealer who offers decent prices. (She bought half an ounce of gold, so the coins will be very small. I think she expects to receive a chunk of gold about the size of a manhole cover.)

Why gold? It occurs naturally worldwide. It’s malleable and can be made into almost anything. It’s beautiful. It’s rare, and difficult to obtain.

It is, in Karl Marx’s terminology, a “fetish.” You can’t eat it, or benefit from its ownership in any natural way. But you know that you (and many others) are fascinated by it, and will give you outlandish amounts of useful goods (currency, food, clothing) in exchange for a small amount of it.

Gold will keep its “value” if even a vestige of the current civilization continues. People will still want it, and will barter valuable items for it. (Don’t barter it for milk, however. You can probably find something else around the house to barter for milk. Extra bedsheets? Candles? A family member?)

I’ve seen gold coins in museums, and I can vouch for the fact that they’re beautiful. They are also usually (as I said above) very small.  (I saw a great advert in Reader’s Digest recently offering gold coins for $150. The picture accompanying the advertisement made the coins look as if they were the size of Oreo cookies. Given the price, however, they can’t be larger than the nail of your little finger, and perhaps smaller than that.)

But gold enchants people.

Partner’s friend has been bitten by the gold bug.

She will never be the same.

(I’ve looked at the websites too. My goodness, those coins are pretty. And they’re not all that expensive . . . )

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