For years, a heart-warming tradition has been circulating around the U.S. during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Across the country, anonymous Good Samaritans have made a tradition out of donating a variety of gold coins to the Salvation Army through its signature red kettles.
Somewhat inconspicuously, generous folks have been dropping American Gold Eagles, South African Gold Krugerrands, and Mexican 50 Pesos coins into these donation kettles to the great surprise of local volunteers.
It's difficult to say exactly when or where the "kettle coin" phenomenon originated. It often involves the donation of South African Krugerrand coins, which were introduced to the international community in 1967. This a fairly strong circumstantial evidence for finding the earliest date for when the practice began; there were very few legal tender gold coins, aside from British Gold Sovereigns, that people could have used before the Krugerrand came along.
Here are several recent news stories from just the past month that are examples of carrying on the kettle coin tradition.
Rare Half Eagle in North Carolina
During the week of Black Friday this year, the Salvation Army branch of High Point, NC got an incredible surprise. Not only did someone deposit a gold coin into the kettle, but the donation turned out to be a rare 1881-S $5 half eagle gold coin. Unlike the modern bullion coins that are made for investors (Gold Eagles, Krugerrands), the half eagle was a circulating gold coin with a five-dollar face value that was used as money. While the melt value of the coin's gold content was in the range of $280, an appraiser purchased the collectible gold coin from the Salvation Army for $500.
Gold 50 Pesos in South Florida
Thanks to its "Treasure Coast" and the high number of retirees living in the area, South Florida has long been a hotbed of coin collecting activity. Pompano Beach has come to expect annual gifts from its local "Coin Crusader," and he or she didn't disappoint this year.
For the third straight year, the local Salvation Army received gold coins—this time, once again a pair of 1947 Mexico 50 Pesos gold coins, also known as "centenarios." (Last year, five such Mexican gold coins were donated to the Salvation Army at the same Wal-Mart.) Each of these enormous coins retails for over $1,400. They were wrapped in a dollar bill when discovered in the kettle last weekend.
Gold Eagle in Portland, OR
Meanwhile, the same weekend saw the decade-long tradition of kettle coins being deposited at the Salvation Army in Portland, Oregon continue. According to Salvation Army spokesperson Teresa Steinmetz, the local organization has been fortunate enough to receive at least one gold coin for about the past ten years.
The donation this year was a one-ounce American Gold Eagle coin, the official gold bullion coin of the U.S. Mint. The coin was found in a kettle stationed outside of a Nordstrom department store on Sunday morning.
Krugerrand in Spokane, WA
Around Thanksgiving, the Salvation Army chapter in Spokane, Washington got its own kettle surprise in the form of a South African Krugerrand. The gold coin was enclosed within a $100 bill, bringing the approximate value of the donation to $1,300. A letter accompanying the donation explained that the anonymous benefactor is a firefighter who has received help from the Salvation Army throughout his career.
Each of these stories not only appeals to our sense of giving during the holiday season, but goes to show that there may be no better gift than a legal tender gold coin!
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