How low would you go?
Everyone loves student election week.I don’t know what it is… perhaps it’s the colourful t-shirts, the memorable conversations with strangers, or the general hubbub of street level banter.
But just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Independent Media – running for a position on Student’s Council – have put together a lovely little magazine. It’s called Schmarrago, and it’s chock-a-block full of wonderful articles. Here is my little contribution, a conversation about the lowest form of currency worth picking up off the footpath…
The five cent piece is becoming an obsolete relic of Australian history.
It no longer affords us candy, and is useless at scrapping mud off our shoes. The currency only exists so that we can practise those rare moments of generosity. That is, when paying for a $19.95 dinner with a $20 bill, we can say “Keep the change” and revel in the philanthropic buzz.
With inflation soaring, five cents can’t even buy you… five cents. According to the Australian Royal Mint, each piece of copper is worth 3.6 cents alone. Once you add overheads to the equation, a fiver blows out to be more trouble than it’s worth.
The real question is, if you saw one lying on the ground would you bother to pick it up?
Indeed, what is the lowest form of currency worth squatting down for?
One and two dollar coins
Whether it’s to reward a talented busker, to appease a needy beggar, or to purchase a train ticket for your unprepared (and stingy) mate, gold coins are an invaluable commodity.
There’s nothing more satisfying than finding one of these shiny blonde beacons on the footpath. With Albert Namatjira screaming “Pick me up!” to the hordes of pedestrians, you have every right to add his portrait to your personal collection.
Fifty cent coin
The fifty cent faux-circle tends to be a little chunky. Weighing in at a whooping 15 grams, this monolith is hardly your ideal pocket companion. But for all its mechanical flaws, the fifty cent has a lot of street value. Not only does it share the name of 2003’s hippest rapper, but the world’s most famous dodecagon has some practical uses.
Pig fat ice-creams are the most obvious buy, but op shops can open one’s world to a plethora of cheap options. Fifty cents should be enough to purchase 50 Cent’s groundbreaking single In Da Club, on either CD or cassette.
So next time you pass by a rogue fifty, remember this; you’re not only rejecting Auntie Liz II, but Curtis James Jackson III as well.
Twenty cent coin
There is a certain class linked with the upper echelon of Australia’s coinage. But there’s no glitz and glamour associated with twenty cents. If you’re making an effort to claim one of these bland tokens off the sticky pavement, you’re probably in need of a job.
But what the twenty lacks in social status, it makes up in aesthetic value. Sure, the Queen isn’t much to look at, but don’t forget the flipside. Your coin may be a commemoration of Will and Kate’s Wedding, a primary school artist’s impression of Tasmania, or a celebration of the Australian Tax Office.
It’s an exhilarating game of lucky dip, only that your prize lies discarded on the bitumen.
Ten cent coin
There’s not much you can do with a dime. Indeed, with five cent pieces awaiting the imminent chop, these miserable slivers of silver are heading toward the bottom of the economic food chain.
While infamous for their uninspiring lyrebird design, the ten cent piece is redeemed by one essential feature: its size. A single coin may be of little value to your typical Aussie, but two ten cent pieces form a penetrating combination. When lathered with super glue and spray painted gold, the double header is transformed into a united one dollar imitation.
Sure, it’s a thrifty practice – and humiliating if you get caught – but who could argue against a cheap thrill?
Five cent coin
With the Mint churning out 160 million five cent pieces every year, there are roughly four billion of these little buggers floating around the nation. That’s 175 per person.
An inspection of my piggy bank revealed just 38 Echidnas, leaving 137 unaccounted for. Assuming that I am a representative sample of the Australian population, that equates to a national total of $155 million in unclaimed small change.
Imagine that; $155 million is glued to the bottom of our public urinals; stuck to the gum in our jacket pockets; lost at the back of our vending machine coin slots.
It sure balances out the public embarrassment of jumping into a wishing well for the sake of a solitary silver winning.
One and two cent coin
You may see little value in leaning over for yesterday’s pathetic equivalents of the five cent scrap. But an eBay search reveals that these bronze treasures can fetch you a bucket-load.
One opportunistic trader sells these seemingly worthless artefacts for $4 apiece. A few optimistic vendors, meanwhile, auction off their sets to gullible collectors for $15.
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Pavement scrounging may not be everybody’s favourite money making scheme, but it’s a game that benefits all.
Onlookers laugh sadistically at your over-zealous coin detecting. You, however, may gleam with pride, pondering the copious spoils that await.
Just to reiterate, this article first appeared in Schmarrago, Independent Media’s test edition. Vote  Independent Media for Student’s Council General Representatives if you wish to support student journalism at Melbourne University.