Ottawa Transit Inadvertently Collecting Foreign Coinage

Started by Bimat, May 02, 2015, 08:16:09 AM

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Loonies, twoonies and kwacha? Ottawa transit inadvertently collecting useless coinage

May 1, 2015 Updated : May 1, 2015 | 11:23 am

By Haley Ritchie

The city collects a lot of loonies, twoonies, quarters and dimes when people pay their $3.45 bus fare in change.

But Ottawa is a diverse place, and inevitably the odd British shilling, Malawian kwacha, or Icelandic króna ends up getting thrown in with the rest.

That's how the city has ended up sitting on a pile of foreign coinage and bills from 149 countries, some of which aren't even in circulation anymore.

Jeff Byrne, the city's chief procurement officer, wouldn't disclose the value of the collected coinage, but he did say it had been collected "over many years."

The cold hard (and currently useless) cash is currently being stored in a vault, so the city is now trying to find someone to buy all of those foreign coins and bills.

"The city is interested in parties that accept all variety of coins and bills and who will provide an all-encompassing end-to-end solution, including but not limited to pickup, transportation, counting, sorting, disposal and exchange," says an internal contracting document.

Currency from the United States, which is probably most common in fare boxes, isn't included in the list of foreign coins.

Not surprisingly British coins are the most common, but the range of countries demonstrates the diversity of the city and includes the Isle of Man and the Baltwick of Jersey.

Source: Metro News
It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. -J. K. Rowling.


Has nobody thought of giving it to a worldwide charity? They can use the money that's still valid, they have volunteers to repackage the rest for sale to dealers or collectors and they would have the truck to haul it off. The city wins vault space, so nobody loses.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.



The charity option is what I go for, for those coins in bulk lots that I neither want, nor have anyone likely to want to swap them. I tend to collect them in one of those cardboard cylinders that whisky comes in and when full take it to the charity shop.


I do not know if Canadian cities have surplus disposal rules for the sale of property, but this kind of material, would fall under that type of bureaucratic guideline.

But, given that the coins are in Ottawa, home to one of the world's largest minting facilities on a global scale, I would think reclaiming metal of any sort would be the expertise of the Royal Canadian Mint.  Reclaiming nickel and copper is actively pursued with Canadian coins, why not those from overseas?


I'm not sure simply reclaiming the metal is the most economically worthwhile way of disposing of them, though. Most currently circulating coins are worth more in face value than they are in metal (when this occasionally isn't the case, as with bronze pennies in the UK, it makes the news). These coins would raise more money by being separated out, taken to their country of issue and paid into a bank. For an individual shop it's obviously not worth someone crossing the Atlantic to pay €1 in 1c coins into a Eurozone bank, but if you've got thousands of euros worth, it probably is worth shipping them.

For the non-circulating coins, some of them will have residual numismatic value above their notional face value and metal content, and would probably be most profitably sold as kiloware to a dealer, or on eBay as kiloware directly.


Generally, you do not find collector coins in such lot. You may find few circulating commemoratives.

Temples in Nepal, which get huge number of coins from foreign tourist who visit Buddhist shrines from Japan, China and other South Asian countries, hold regular auctions of such coins. I had an opportunity to attend one such auction in company of one of the top numismatic dealers of Nepal. In the end, it is sold at anticipated melt value only.

Srilanka had tried to import its own coins from famous bid hits temples in India and total sorted Srilankan coins were of the order of 4 Tonnes but it was found to be economically non viable.


Define "collector coins".

You will probably not find anything of any great value, this is true; but that is not the same thing. If there is a coin you are looking for in such a lot, then by definition it is a "collector coin".


Here, by collector coins, I meant those which could be sold to collectors.
They are generally in uncirculated condition.
Even if a tourist happens to drop an uncirculated coin, the way they are subsequently handled, they end up as being heavily worn out.
I did study coins which were collected by agency in Trevi fountain, Rome.
Although, they are primarily euro coins but one does come across substantial US and other European coins. Due to the way they are collected, they loose the shine and are meant for melting pot alone.
With increasing tendency towards plated steel coin, even the melt value of material is so low for lower denomination coins ( and they are the ones which get thrown in fountains, wishing wells and other popular water bodies) that objective of charity is barely met.


Quote from: Pabitra on May 03, 2015, 11:42:37 AM
Here, by collector coins, I meant those which could be sold to collectors.
They are generally in uncirculated condition.

I dispute the bit in bold.

I don't know about Indian eBay, but the eBay-related sites I'm most familiar with (UK, US, Sweden, Germany, plus QXL in the rest of Scandinavia) have large numbers of listings of bulk coins, either sold by country or simply as unsorted kiloware. The fact that people continue to sell these lots implies that there are buyers for them. The larger charities in the UK (Oxfam, Age UK, Cancer Research UK and so on) will generally apply a similar process for coins as they do for books: they will find among their volunteer base people with the knowledge and willingness quickly to go through incoming coins for obvious rarities/precious metals etc. and sell these separately, either to dealers or on eBay, and will then sell the rest as kiloware on eBay. Note directly on eBay, not via dealers. I can well imagine that a consignment of general coinage did not sell well when presented to the premier coin dealership in a country, even if that country is both small and relatively poor, as Nepal is. While some dealers may be snooty about coins worth less than X, made more recently than Y or having/lacking some other characteristic, I can assure you that there are people who collect standard issue coinage or a subset of it. It is simply a question of pairing up the goods with the buyers.


Quote from: FosseWay on May 03, 2015, 11:55:59 AM
I can assure you that there are people who collect standard issue coinage or a subset of it.

I can not disagree with that at all since I myself collect only standard issue coinage ( although in uncirculated condition).
That should also explain why I took interest in that auction in Nepal or clearing agency in Rome.
However, much to my dismay, I failed to get even a single piece for my collection at either place.

No disputes, the world is too big for generalisation and I accept what you imply.


This is why donation to charity is the best way forward. The Ottawa transit authorities won't have the time or the expertise to sell the coins directly. A dealer would have the expertise but would not wish to spend the time required to sort the coins and list/administer them on eBay because of the nature of the coins, as you say. Charities have both time, resources and expertise - especially in the specific context of this story. Any charity selling coins in Ottawa has the whole of North America as potential buyers - a very different position to, say, a charity in Ireland or New Zealand, where the shipping costs for bulk lots out of the country effectively restrict the market to the local population, or one in a larger but poorer country/region.