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I found a treasure chest with money in it. For real. I was about 20 years old and I was crawling under my parent’s house to bury a treasure of my own (some silver bars), when I came across a wooden chest. Inside there were Vietnamese coins and bills, along with other items.
I’ll never know if any of it was worth much, because the chest also had the name of the owner on it (the previous owner of the house), so I returned it to him. But it was still fun to find the money, and that treasure hunting aspect is the what keeps me looking for cash today.
I have no expectation of hitting it big. I was happy last week to find 13 pennies scattered on top of our communal mailbox. On the other hand, people do sometimes find large amounts.
For example, there is there is the Goodwill employee who found $45,000 in cash in a donated slow cooker. He returned the money, which happens more often than you might think. In fact, I just found a list of ten people who found big money and returned it.
But then there is the man who for 34 years collected up to $1,000 per day in coins from the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome (Business Insider says visitors threw $1.5 million into the fountain in 2016 alone). He paid the bills with his ethically-questionable collections.
Taking coins from fountains is not for me, but I’ll leave the ethical decisions for you to decide, and get on with our list of places to find coins and paper currency…
1. Mall Parking Lots
Sitting and then standing causes coins (and sometimes currency) to fall from people’s pockets. People also tend to lose things from door pockets and seats when they exit their cars. That makes a busy parking lot a prime place to look for lost money.
One Reddit.com discussion of money found in parking lots has a stories of people finding $50 or more, and many more stories of smaller discoveries. So keep your eyes open when you’re in a mall parking lot, and maybe take the long way to your car, to increase the odds of spotting lost money.
My biggest parking lot find? A $20 bill.
2. Melted Snow Piles
If you live in the north you’ve seen snow piled up in large parking lots. But do you know what else is in those piles? Anything scraped up by the snow plow, including money. A snow plow concentrates everything into a small area, where it becomes visible when the snow melts.
I was in a mall parking lot one spring day and there, at the edge of the lot, where the snow piles had melted away, numerous coins, a necklace, and other items were scattered across the wet pavement. Start searching the edges as soon as a snow pile is half-melted.
3. In And Around Vending Machines
As a kid you may have checked the change slots on vending machines for coins left behind. Some of us continue to do this as adults. You’ll rarely find more than a quarter, but perhaps it will all add up to a decent amount if you use a few of these “treasure hunting” strategies.
In addition to forgetting their change, people often drop coins when using vending machines. Look on the ground or floor under and around the machines.
4. Buried Stashes
You may have heard about the California couple who found gold coins worth $11 million in their backyard. The coins were in eight cans buried under an old tree.
Why is there buried cash waiting to be found? Because people like to hide money and they sometimes forget where (think senility), or they die before sharing the location with others.
You can start your search in your own yard, or around old houses. Look for depressions in the ground, because the loose dirt leveled on top of a buried stash usually settles in time.
A metal detector will speed up the process, and may locate paper currency as well, since it is often buried in metal or meat-capped containers.
5. Car Wash Vacuums
I’ve found coins on the ground at do-it-yourself car washes, but you know there are more coins inside those large vacuum canisters. Who hasn’t heard the clink and clank of coins and other objects getting sucked up when vacuuming out their car?
In fact, I just watched a YouTube video on how to find coins (and possibly currency) in car wash vacuums. The makers of the video only found about $1 in coins in the vacuum featured in their tutorial, but you never know… sometimes bills can be vacuumed up too.
I’ve previously covered how to make money dumpster diving, and it usually involves finding things of value that can be sold. But sometimes you might find cash too.
For example, in one recent video on dumpster diving, treasure hunters found hundreds of dollars worth of wetsuits, designer purses, and… a five dollar bill.
7. Places Where People Drink
I once lost $100 in a bar in Banos, Ecuador, while dancing with my wife. It bounced loose from where it was (poorly) strapped to my leg. Drinking may have had something to do with the loss.
Any place where people drink alcohol there is the possibility of lost coins and bills. Check bar parking lots and known party spots.
My wife regularly finds money in her clothing. Especially common is bills in the pockets of winter coats. After all, you never know when you’re going to wear a coat the last time of the season, so it tends to be just forgotten at some point, along with whatever is in the pockets.
Check the pockets of any other clothing too, of course.
People often lose things from pockets when they sit down, and when they sit on the beach they not only don’t hear coins drop out, but the coins also quickly disappear in the sand. When I had a metal detector, my best finds were always at the beach.
10. Swimming Holes
Another great spot to bring your metal detector is to lakes, ponds, and rivers where people gather to swim. Changing clothes there is common — and a good way to drop things from pockets.
With my metal detector I once found 60 coins in fifteen minutes in a small patch of sand at a swimming hole, in the woods, a mile from the nearest road.
11. Heating Vents
Drug dealers hide not only drugs, but stashes of cash. Kentucky police say one method they use is to tie a bundle of bills to a thin fishing line and lower it down a heating vent.
So if you’ve moved into a new house or apartment that might have been previously used by drug dealers, poke around a bit.
12. Slot Machines
In my article on ways to make money at a casino without gambling, I cover “credit hustling,” which involves checking slot machines for leftover, forgotten credits that can be cashed in. One couple who does this has found as much as $900 at once.
Most slot machines do not use real coins, so this isn’t technically a way to find cash, but getting the cash is as simple as pushing the “redeem” button and walking to the cashier window with the credit slip, so it’s close enough to finding cash.
13. Drained Bodies Of Water
When bodies of water are drained, all sorts of things appear on the ground revealed, including money. So when my wife and I heard they were draining a pond in a park near us, we went to have a look.
I walked around picking up coins from the mud — no tools needed. A guy with a metal detector had his pockets filled, and he said he had found a few old coins that were worth a lot more than face value.
To locate these opportunities Google “pond to be drained,” “lake will be drained,” “reservoir to be lowered” and so on, plus the name of communities near you. Then refine the results to find only recent news items.
14. Street Gutters
Things dropped in the street eventually get moved by cars, wind, and rain, until they’re in the gutters alongside the street. This includes coins and loose bills, so watch the gutters when you’re out walking.
15. Near Ticket Booths
People often drop money when they’re getting money out of their pockets. That makes ticketing areas a good place to look for lost coins and bills. Train and subway ticket booths may be the best locations because they’re busy, and because cash is often used.
16. Near Cashiers and Registers
Who hasn’t seen coins on the floor near the cashiers in a grocery store? I even found a dollar bill one time. Keep your eyes open.
17. In And Around Coin Counting Machines
People are most likely to lose money in places where they handle it, so look for dropped coins around coin sorting/counting machines. Be sure to check the return slot, because these sorters reject many of the coins fed into them.
For example, a blogger reports that one time she found over $4 in U.S. coins in a counting machine, and coins from several other countries. Naturally, the foreign coins are rejected, but U.S. coins that are dirty, bent, or just poured in too fast can be rejected too, and people often forget to check the return slot before they leave.
18. In Items Left Behind
If you spot bags, purses, briefcases and other items people have left behind by accident, there might be money inside. For example, in San Jose, California, a man found a backpack with $100,000 in cash in a Burger King, and in Santa Barbara a teen found a purse with $10,000 in it.
Of course, the right thing to do is return such lost items (and the contents) to their owners, but with finds that big you might get a cash reward.
19. Highway Rest Areas
At some rest stops thousands of people daily get in and out of their cars, walk their dogs, and use the vending machines. Those activities provide plenty of ways for them to lose coins or bills, so look around.
I’ve also read that drug dealers sometimes hide cash in the woods at rest areas. The money can be located by looking for a recently moved rock or log to dig under. On the other hand, maybe it’s best to leave those stashes alone.
20. Fast Food Drive-Through Windows
Having worked at more than one fast food place earlier in life, I can tell you from experience that coins are dropped outside the drive-up window just about every day. In fact, when I worked opening shifts at one restaurant, I would start my day by collecting coins on the ground there.
Of course, to beat the opening manager to the punch you might have to take your morning walks really early.
Parks are yet another place where people sit on the ground, and so drop things from their pockets. And coins don’t make much noise dropping into grass.
A metal detector helps here, but you might find money with just a sharp eye if you walk around the most likely picnic locations.
22. In Furniture
Under couch and chair cushions is a good place to start your search for coins and currency, but look a little deeper too. Sometimes coins slip past the framework under the cushions and are trapped in the material that covers the bottom of the couch or chair. Shake it and listen for anything moving around in there.
23. Bus Stops
People reach into their pockets at bus stops, and sometimes drop a coin or two. They also spill pocket contents when sitting, so the best bus stops for finding loose change are the ones that have seating.
24. Shopping Carts
Some stores, (like Aldi grocery stores and 99-Cent stores, for example) use carts that require shoppers to insert a quarter, which is returned when the shopper returns the cart.
Not everyone returns the carts, and I’ve found carts with a quarter in them several times. Just scan the parking lot for any abandoned carts and return them for your cash reward.
25. ATM Machines
A quick Google search reveals that people often leave cash behind when they use an ATM. In fact, one commenter on Quora.com says he found $3,000 in the cash tray of an ATM. Of course, you would have to return the money to its rightful owner, but a cash reward might be offered.
26. Cigarette Packs
I’ve watched my smoking friends stash currency in the plastic lining of their cigarette packs many times. I doubt they remember to retrieve the money every time they finish the cigarettes, which makes me want to at least flip over and examine any discarded pack I see on the street.
27. Under Carnival Rides
Carnival rides often cause people to lose stuff from their pockets — especially the ones that go upside down. Of course, you won’t be allowed to get too close to the rides, but coins bounce and currency blows in the the wind, so keep your eyes open near that “Zipper” ride.
People may hear when coins drop out of their pockets in a movie theater, but the coins roll, and it’s dark, so they don’t necessarily try too hard to retrieve the lost coins. Look around when you enter and when the lights come on again at the end of the movie.
29. Near Parking Meters
Although more and more parking meters are taking credit cards, enough people still use coins to make this a good place to look for lost change.
30. With Shopping Receipts
Have you ever folded up a bill with the receipt when shopping? Many people do this, and sometimes those receipts get lost. So if you see a folded up receipt lying on the ground, you might want to check it out.
How Much Can You Find?
There are many reports of people who have found large amounts of money, some of which are linked to in this post. But, of course, most of the time you won’t make much searching for lost coins and currency.
For example, Blogger Katy Wok-Stanley created her own “Found Change Challenge” and wrote that after two months she was up to just $23.77, and still working on her $65 goal.
Blogger Jayme Kinsey reported that in the first three months of the year her “found money” total was $27.07. Of that amount, $7.50 was from newspaper machines, $5.47 from soda machines, and $8.32 (mostly in bills) from gutters and debris piles.
Of course, you could get lucky and find a large stash of cash. You also might do well if you combine your coin and currency searches with other treasure hunting strategies. To get you started, here are some of my previous posts on that subject:
- 10 Ways You Can Go Treasure Hunting And Earn Money
- 10 Ways to Go On A Treasure Hunt Without Leaving Home
- 12 Extraordinary Treasures Found By Ordinary People
- 7 More Treasure Hunting Strategies and Locations For Finding Free Cash
If you’ve found money recently, tell us about it below … and keep on frugaling!