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

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By Joshua

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.)

Do you know what a study of the coins in your pocket change might reveal? Here's a census count of coins from my own coin jar - with some surprising results! I wonder what the coins in YOUR coin jar will reveal.

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

See the results of my unofficial study of the coins in my pocket change jar!

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

Have you examined the coins in your pocket change yet?...

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!