Open your purse, or your wallet. Pick a coin, any coin. How much do you think it's worth?
Face value? Well, obviously.
A little more? Perhaps.
Enough to set you up for life? Probably not.
But, like most of us, you probably save your spare change. Depending on the coins you have lying around, you might be surprised at how much they could be worth.
Send the kids on a treasure hunt.
Want to keep the kids occupied during the holidays? Give them a task they'll actually enjoy.
Here are just four easy steps to keep them busy for hours – with a possible bonus for the family budget.
Step 1: The big coin reveal
It's basically a scavenger hunt for coins. Get the kids to make a list of places to search. They probably have all the spots covered, but you can add a few hints.
For every coin that's in your purse, there are probably twenty saved up in a piggy bank, or hoarded in a jar. Then there's the 'spare change bowl' to empty, and the heap they'll find in the hallstand and the bedside drawers. They're bound to find some under the beds, and between the sofa cushions. Send them out to rescue the coins stuck between car seats and in the glove box. And don't forget the window ledge in the laundry where you put the coins you found in the washing machine and clothes dryer. Now where else?
Step 2: The fun part
This step is easy – but it takes a while. With six bowls in front of them, the kids can sort the pile of coins into denominations. Then each bowlful should be stacked by decade (or by year, if you really want to keep them busy). They'll need good light, and maybe even a magnifying glass for this bit. Tell them to keep a lookout for anything unusual.
Step 3: The Internet search
The kids will be good at this. Suggest they use search terms like 'rare Australian coins' or 'Australian decimal coins that are worth a lot'. The search will produce lists of coins to watch out for and ideas for other search terms. Tell them to jot down the coins to look for when they get to the next step.
Now the hunt begins. The kids can share the task. They'll scrutinise coins for hours.
Hint: When the search is over, have them bag the coins according to their denominations; it'll make it easier when you take them to the bank for counting. Yes, it's time you did that!
Errors in minting drive up the value of coins. Today's minting machinery is precise, and modern coins have fewer errors, but there are still examples to be found.
You might be lucky enough to find a 'mule' coin – a hybrid that results from a minting error. The 10 cent–1 dollar mule was a dollar coin issued in 2000. The die for the 10 cent coin was accidentally used to stamp the 'heads' side. The result was a tiny difference in size and a double-ridged edge, which is easy to spot once you know what you're looking for. Collectors will pay big money for it. No-one knows exactly how many were released – some say up to 7,000 – but there could still be some out there.
Rare coins are much more in demand, and therefore worth more, depending on their condition. You're unlikely to find a super-rare 1930 Australian Penny but, for starters, look for a 1972 5 cent coin and, if you have held on to the defunct 2 cent pieces, tell the kids to look for the 1968 issue.
Interesting finds are an added bonus, even if they won't bring in extra cash. The 1966 circular silver 50 cent coin isn't particularly rare, and only valued for its 80% silver content, but it's an interesting piece of history, and an attractive coin.
Now it's your turn
If you find anything of interest or value, check on eBay or Amazon to see how much the market is prepared to pay. You'll be stunned by what you'll find. Remember, some coins that might not be particularly valuable in themselves could be of great interest to collectors who want to complete a set.
You'll find a huge range of price points. Cross-check the results on coin dealers' sites.
Don't rely on a lucky find to make your fortune. But you never know. It might pay to save your spare change. You might have just the thing someone else is looking for. And the kids will never look at coins in the same way again.