Tomorrow I'll be stopping at the post office to drop off a box filled with foreign coins and banknotes.
Last year, at Newcastle International Airport, I showed my nephews an easier way to dispose of foreign currency. I led them to a big, bubble-shaped currency donation bin, then handed them some UK coins. As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, they were happy to perform The Disposal.
They didn't think to rush over to a concession to buy candy with their new-found wealth. I'm grateful they want to help others.
I was thinking about this coin-drop the other day as I was sorting through my collection of leftover foreign currency. I always tell myself the money will be useful "the next time I go."
Eight of the currencies are no long in circulation. Euros have overtaken francs and lira, China has superseded the UK as master of Hong Kong. Some coins are probably worthless, and can't be traded for today's currencies. I regret not always following the example I taught my nephews.
In Japan I have a currency disposal system. Before leaving Japan I tip a bagful of my accumulated 1 and 5 Yen coins into a temple donation box.
This is a noisy exercise, so I always choose a quiet temple where I won't alarm local sensibilities with my ostentatious display of apparent generosity. I'm grateful for the peace and beauty of Japan's temples.
But what do I do with all the different currencies I've collected in a drawer over the years?
UNICEF has a Change for Good program. All I have to do is mail the currencies to a New York City address. Here's the inventory of currencies I'm sending:
Country Amount Currency US Dollars Notes Argentina 1 Peso $0.06 Chile 3000 Peso $4.55 Canada 3 Dollar $2.29 Denmark 27 Krone $3.86 Finland 74 Markka $12.04 France 56 Franc $9.10 Pre-euro, possibly worthless Germany 30 Mark $62.45 Pre-euro, still convertible Hong Kong 8 Dollar $1.03 Pre-sovereignty transfer, probably still legal Iceland 10 Krone $0.88 India 173 Rupee $2.50 It's illegal to take currency out of India Israel 41 Shekel $10.73 Italy 60 Lira $0.03 Pre-euro, probably worthless Japan 1408 Yen $12.29 Small coins I don't want to carry on my next trip Macau 12 Pataca $0.25 Pre-sovereignty transfer, probably still legal Netherlands 1 Guilder $0.48 Pre-euro, probably worthless Norway 18 Krone $2.12 Spain 5 Peseta $0.03 Pre-euro, probably worthless Sweden 96 Krona $10.77 Switzerland 8 Franc $7.94 Thailand 2 Baht $0.06 Turkey 5 Lira $1.34 UK 3 Pound $3.65 Small coins I don't want to carry on my next trip Total $148.45
This picks up on three of my current themes:
Eliminating abandoned bags of coins and notes helps unclutter our lives.
- Small steps.
$148 is a small donation, but it's better than no donation. In 2010, we walked through the north of England for 330 miles, one step at a time. Next week, I will complete 39 radiation therapy sessions, one morning at a time.
- Act on what I am for (rather than what I am against).
The UN is a necessary, though flawed, institution. As well as providing a forum for nations to at least pay lip service to world peace, the UN runs vital agencies like UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the World Meteorological Organization.