Dick Johnson writes:
News stories on parking meter rejects are not that rare. But this one has an unusual twist. Two 13-year girls as a summer project are sorting through a dozen bags accumulated from Providence, RI, parking meters over the last 50 years.
They get excited over unusual finds among the metallic flotsam in those bags, a Panama coin, an 1844 coin, and such. Could these be budding coin collectors of the future?
Dusty time capsules from a half-century or more ago, a dozen canvas bank bags pregnant with metallic mystery reposed in a neglected corner of City Hall's attic until archivist Paul R. Campbell grew curious and severed one old-fashioned lead-and-twine seal.
Out poured pieces of Providence's past — thousands of coins, tokens, slugs and odd, inexplicable discs. Some glitter. Others are battered or bent, or dulled by time. But all are curious.
His best guess as to why public officials of the past accumulated the hoard?
"Amazing what people will put in parking meters."
So far, coins have been identified from 28 countries, and there are a variety of tokens from defunct transportation agencies.
The archivist has been assisted in his numismatic inquiry by two 13-year-olds — Emma Jutras, a student at First Baptist Christian School, Warwick, and Sophia Jordan, a student at Park View Middle School, Cranston.
The girls are friends. Sophia's mother works elsewhere at City Hall. They plan to make school projects out of their summer vacation hobby.
Campbell said that when Sophia recently visited her mother at work, the girl found the bags of coins and started poring through one of them.
"When we were ready to close, she was still going through it, fascinated," he recalled.
The youngsters work with white gloves at a table. A steady clink, clink filters through the air in the quiet depository for old records. A row of plastic cups sits in front of them, bearing such labels as England, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Pakistan and India.
Campbell isn't sure if the collection is worth anything more than scrap value, but he plans to consult a coin dealer to get an estimate.
Until then, each metal memento may have a tale to tell, but time has robbed coin detectives of their witnesses, leaving only the sparse clues of dates and perhaps country of origin — or the name of a vanished utility — for present-day speculators to ponder.
This sounds like a fun summer project, and would definitely make for an interesting study of foreign coin availability in the U.S. in those decades.
To read the complete article, see:
Parking meter cache a ticket to Providence's history
On a related note Tom DeLorey adds:
I once beat a parking ticket in Sidney, Ohio because the meters in front of the Post Office offered 12 minutes for a "penny" or one hour for a "nickel." There are, of course, no such U.S. denominations. The ones down the street offered two hours for a dime, which does exist, but these meters did not.
There was no court case and no legal precedent was set, it just went away. I may have been helped by the fact that the number two man in the city Police Department was the Treasurer of the Shelby County Coin Club, of which I was Secretary at the time.
By the way, all of the parking meter money was delivered to his desk before being counted, and he got to check the dates before the coins were deposited. Over the years he found TWO dime-sized $2-1/2 gold pieces!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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