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A Fun Coin Experiment: Evaluating The Coins In My Pocket Change Jar

A Study Of Coins In Pocket Change

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to do a relatively simple experiment with my pocket change

Sort out all the coins in a jar that I’ve been saving — to see how many coins I have from each decade, from each mint, etc.

The underlying motivation: to see what types of coins I typically receive as change.

So, a little while ago, I did.

The results may be interesting to you. (They were to me.)

For the record, I live in Tampa, a major city in the Southeast United States. There is considerable tourist traffic here. So you might expect to see a good mixture when it comes to mintmarks on the coins I’ve found and held onto.

Also, this is change that I’ve received through common consumer exchanges — such as at fast food restaurants and grocery stores.

The spare change in this particular jar has accumulated largely over the course of a couple months.

Ready for the results?…

A List Of The Coins In My Spare Change Jar

Here’s the breakdown of coins I’ve saved in a jar from pocket change over the course of a few months time:

TOTAL: 278 coins, totaling $15.80 in face value

Oldest coin: 1959 (Lincoln cent)

Newest coin: 2011 (Jefferson nickel)

Other notes about the coins in my jar:

Coins from my spare change jar, by decade:

  • 1950s coins (0.36% of the population) – 1 penny
  • 1960s coins (2.88%) – 1 quarter; 3 dimes; 1 nickel; 3 pennies
  • 1970s coins (12.59%) – 3 quarters; 13 dimes; 5 nickels; 14 pennies
  • 1980s coins (19.42%) – 3 quarters; 13 dimes; 8 nickels; 30 pennies
  • 1990s coins (30.58%) – 3 quarters; 20 dimes; 13 nickels; 49 pennies
  • 2000s coins (30.58%) – 6 quarters; 33 dimes; 14 nickels; 32 pennies
  • 2010s coins (4.32%) – 5 dimes; 1 nickel; 6 pennies

Here’s a list of all U.S. coins that are worth more than face value — by denomination.

Some Interesting Findings

What does all this mean?

Well, since this is not a scientific pocket change census, all you can really tell is what types of coins have gone through one guy’s hands in the Southeast United States over the course of a couple months or so. (I’ve kept all the coins I’ve received during that time in a single spare change jar.)

However, there are some anecdotal tidbits that can be gleaned from this experiment…

#1 – It’s clear that pennies aren’t circulating nearly as much as across state lines as other coins. This is evidenced by the fact that less than 20% of the coins from my pocket change are from the Denver mint or the San Francisco mint. (The Philadelphia mint strikes the coins for my part of the country.)

#2 – Only 23.26% of the pennies from my spare change are mainly made of copper. (The rest are copper-plated zinc cents.) So, clearly people are plucking many of the valuable copper coins out of circulation.

#3 – Absolutely none of the Lincoln cents from my jar are wheat pennies. I recall just 20 years ago, one or two of them seemed to pop up every now and then in my change.

#4 – I find it interesting that none of the quarters are 1776-1976 Bicentennial quarters. I remember that not many years ago, Bicentennial quarters were always turning up in my spare change. Not so much anymore.

#5 – Also, 3/8ths of the quarters from my pocket change are 50 States quarters.

There were really no surprises among the nickels or dimes from my spare change jar.

The Bottom Line

I could have gone the next step and looked up the value for each of the coins in my change jar. That’s what most people are interested in — how much money the coins they’ve saved are worth. But that wasn’t my goal with this particular coin experiment.

You may enjoy doing a similar experiment yourself. Perhaps you, too, will be surprised at the results!

A friend of mine went through her spare change jar and found the current value for each of her coins. She’s got a great “cheat sheet” that shows a list of the exact coins you should be looking for in your pocket change (and how much they’re worth).

Here’s a breakdown of the coins I found inside a few bank rolls recently. Coin roll hunting is something that I do quite often — because it’s a great way to find rare and valuable coins for free!