(originally posted 3/31/2021)
There is a washing machine at a laundromat in San Francisco that has been in service for sixteen years and is only three days away from breaking down. The perfect premise for a modern-day fairy tale, except for the fact that it involves a washing machine in San Francisco. The stains that this particular machine has wrestled with over the years preclude it from ever featuring in a modern-day fairy tale. Even if in the next thirty six hours it is visited by a princess, a unicorn and a dragon.
The machine itself is not of much interest anyway, unless of course you’re a fan of unspeakable stains, the interesting thing is what lurks beneath the washing machine. Some of them are unspeakable as well, sixteen years sitting in one spot is bound to collect quite a few nasty things, but some of them are very speakable and to be expected. Among those items are coins that have escaped their owners hand and disappeared under the machine.
In this case a number of very interesting ones.
For example, a 2005 quarter that has “In God We Rust” printed on it. A simple printing error on this Kansas state quarter, caused by a build-up of grease on the minting machine, makes it a favorite of collectors. You can easily sell one of these for $100.
Sitting on top of that coin is a 1982 dime that does not have a letter indicating where it was minted. The Philadelphia Mint apparently let 10,000 of these dimes out before catching their error. They are currently worth $300.
Inches away from these two coins, stuck to a large wad of gum, is a 1955 penny that that features a double image due to misalignment in the minting process. Interestingly enough, only 20,000 of these pennies were released in 1955, and most were distributed as change from cigarette vending machines. On the open market they now fetch $1,800.
Further under the washing machine is a coin covered in four different types of animal hair. If I told you the four types of animals you would shake your head and be left to assume that this laundromat is frequented by a lot of folks who work at the zoo. Some of you might not be inclined to even pick up the coin, which would be your loss as it is a 1943 Lincoln Head Copper Penny. A penny worth as much as $10,000.
But that isn’t even the most expensive penny hold up under the washing machine. That honor falls to a penny near the back, almost completely hidden by fluff and stray fibers. A 1969-S Lincoln Cent with Doubled Die Obverse. Less than 100 were produced and they have an estimated value of $125,000.
As easy as it is to picture someone accidently dropping a quarter as they attempted to put it into the narrow slots that hold the coins before they are thrust awkwardly into the machine to begin the washing festivities, it’s stands to reason that many times the pennies were intentionally discarded. You can almost see them picking through their change while trying to balance their laundry and detergent and hurling away the bothersome pennies in disgust.
All five of these coins, along with another seventeen of varying denominations, are just sitting there, blissfully unaware that the machine providing them sanctuary has started to shimmy and shake and make a very unpleasant grumbling. A noise that in another twenty hours will turn into a prolonged screech and signal the beginning of the washing machine’s death throes.
The following day it will stop, never to wash again. Its battle with the forces of staindom at an end.
The owner of the laundromat will then call Devon Mothersbaugh, his local handyman, to stop by and haul it away to wherever washing machines end up.
This will excite Devon to no end because of his hobby.
Devon is a coin collector. He does a lot of odd jobs, mostly involving manual labor, but if you ask him what he does for a living he’ll tell you he’s a numismatist (“noo-miz-ma-tist”) without the slightest hesitation. When he was a child he had a stutter but he outgrew it. A fact he celebrates every time someone asks him what he does for a living.
And dammit, stains aside, if that’s not the stuff of fairy tales then I don’t know what is.