Stretching for the dollar

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Margaret Buelow

How many of us would reach to pluck a penny from the ground? Or, would it need to be a nickel, maybe a dime before we would stretch our arm and bend our knee? Not a dilemma for my Aunt Maggie. For this 84 year-old retired nurse, finding a penny or a dollar bill brings equal pleasure because it all adds up at the end of the year.

Aunt Maggie has been finding and keeping track of her "found money" for almost 38 years, although, only thirty-one are recorded. A twelve-ounce 7-Up can, with the old pull off tab, stores her findings for the current year. Paper taped to the can records the years and totals found since 1971, the beginning. During the first recorded year the total amount found shows $2.53. 1978 was the first time she broke the $10 amount with $14.63. The 1990's proved to be a very profitable decade with 1998 totaling $40.75 and 1999 netting Aunt Maggie almost $60. She said she found a lot of dollar bills and this was why the amount was so huge. "Although, finding dollar bills is more rare than finding coins it can happen", says Aunt Maggie, "and this boosts the year end total even higher." The year 2002 netted her a hefty sum of $22.64. So far, in 2003 Aunt Maggie has stretched and bent for a grand sum of $12.01. 2003 seems to be a pretty slim year with April being a very meager as she found only 16 cents.

While there have been some slim years, Aunt Maggie says she finds money every day she "goes to town". It all adds up as her found money for those thirty-eight years of stretching and bending have netted her a total of just over $450.

When I asked her where she typically finds money, she said she scours the checkout lanes of every store but a grocery store is the best. She also said she finds a newspaper dispenser to be a good source for money either left or forgotten. In fact, any type of dispenser where change is rendered, from telephone, soda, to stamp machines, leftover money was sure to be there. Not only can money be the prize, but the items the money was intended to buy like a stamp, candy bar, or a soda can also be found.

1998 proved to be the year with the biggest one time find which took place just inside a grocery store. She did report her discovery of $27.00 to the manager thinking a needy person might have lost it but he told her to just keep the money. Another interesting find she remembered was when she picked up a 1920 penny during one of her outings. In 2001, Aunt Maggie found a quarter in a most unlikely place. She pulled down the kneeling pad in church and there it was. For Aunt Maggie the value of what she finds was one thing but the excitement of finding it keeps her coming back for more.

Not only does Aunt Maggie record the total amount of money she finds each year but she also keeps a daily total. On a single day, Aunt Maggie found the grand sum of thirteen cents. It is as if she has built in radar but it is her keen eyes and knowing where to look that are her best assets. Going to town or anywhere with Aunt Maggie causes me to want to scrutinize the isles, the checkout lanes, and machine returns for just one coin I can show her I found before she did. Also, just to keep things interesting, Aunt Maggie likes to challenge herself and see if she can outdo her previous day's find.

What does she do with her findings each year? Well, according to her she saves it in her savings account. Not a lot of money but it is free and earning compound interest.

How much is enough to stretch your arm and bend your knee? Maybe it depends on your age, your need or just your curiosity to take the extra time to reach for the coin(s). A penny you say is not an awful lot to get excited about. Don't tell Aunt Maggie, as she knows it all adds up and plans to continue her profitable and fun hobby well into the new millennium.

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