For twenty years, my husband John has been saving his spare change in a big glass water cooler jug. He started the jug on December 2, 1987, when he first moved to the DC area. The jug moved with him wherever he went – its most recent move was when we bought our home, nearly ten years ago. The jug wasn’t full then, but moving it into the house required some major muscle. It was tucked into a quiet corner, where it continued to receive John’s spare coinage over the years.

Serendipitously, the jug was filled to overflowing in December 2006. The holidays were busy and we didn’t have time to deal with it, but John kept saving his coins, this time into a nearby shoe box. Finally, in April, we tackled the task of counting all those coins. Just getting the jug out onto the floor where we could deal with it was difficult, but somehow John managed to wrestle it onto our scale, where it weighed in at a hefty 182 pounds.

I had visited our bank for coin wrappers (“How many do you need?” “A whole bunch.” “How many is a whole bunch?” “As many as you can give me.”) and after memorializing the occasion with photos and signage, we began the process of sorting and counting the coins.

To begin with, the jug has a narrow neck, and it’s not like we could just upend it and give it a shake, anyway. Getting the coins out in manageable amounts involved a certain amount of finagling with a chopstick and a plastic tray to catch what spilled out. We spread a towel across the end of our dining room table and spilled the shiny stuff onto it.

We indulged in a few moments of gloating over the first pile of coins, then got down to business. John had a set of coin sorting tubes from paper routes past, but we discovered that somewhere along the way the penny tube had gotten lost. So we started by separating the pennies from the silver and putting them in a box. A new set of sorting tubes were ordered, and we set to work on the nickels, dimes and quarters.

John did most of the wrapping and sorting, although for several weeks it was a tradition for us to work together on Saturday mornings. Sorting coins may sound like drudgery, but it was actually pretty nice, pawing through the coins as we chatted about this and that. Once the second set of coin tubes arrived, the process picked up speed. As each successive pile of coins was spilled out on the table, sorted and rolled, the level in the jug dropped steadily. One Saturday morning we actually emptied the darn thing – about the time we ran out of coin wrappers. I had to make a run to the bank to get more, and still another trip was required by the time we got to the last several pounds of pennies.

At last the jug was empty, and John tucked it back into its corner to start the process all over again. He carried the wrapped coins down to the basement where we have plenty of floor space, and this past Saturday we tackled the next-to-the-last step in the process. It took a couple of hours to count and recount the rolls of coins. Tomorrow they’ll get lugged to the bank, where no doubt the tellers will be overjoyed to see us.

I would have been perfectly happy to have just counted the coins and be done with it, but John’s an engineer and that means he had to get out his calculator and run numbers and percentages. So here’s a little John-generated problem for you fine readers:

The total weight of the coins (sans jug) was 175 pounds. Of those coins, 23.43 percent were quarters, 20.66 percent were dimes, 12.53 percent were nickels, and 43.37 percent were pennies.

Can you figure out how much money was in the jug?


  1. Anonymous

    Hmm. If the quarters weighed 41.0025 pounds then you had about 3,280 quarters at $820.06.If the dimes weighed 36.16 pounds then you had about 7,225 dimes at $722.45.If the pennies weighed 75.9 pounds then you had about 13,771 pennies at $137.71.If the nickels weighed 21.93 pounds then you had about 1,989 nickels at $99.46.Add them up and I get $1,779.654. I was sure I wasn’t exactly correct but I bet I’m close… 🙂

  2. Donna

    John sez: “Your math is correct, but the actual coin weights have varied over the years from the current official weights. The coin mixture percentages are correct; however, the weight percentages are different. I’m trying to figure out why. In any case, you’re in the ballpark.”

  3. Donna

    Oh, and hi, Perg. John says the weight of the wrappers is negligible.This is why I used to hate math questions like this when I was a kid.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s