Free money is free money.
But as any economist might say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and somebody pays for all things “free.”
For some Kansas State students, their “free money” comes from loose change they find and pick up around campus. Their eyes scan the ground for shiny coins in hope of finding quarters for their coin jars or to buy a candy bar.
Stephen Kucera, senior in accounting and music, said stopping to pick up coins is worth the effort required to kneel down and pick them up. He has collected over a dollar in loose change since he got back to campus after winter break.
But sometimes “free money” can be a little bit sticky, especially when coin collectors discover the not-so-loose change has been glued to the ground in more than one place on campus.
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Jael Whitney, junior in marketing, said she has fallen victim to glued change every single year she has been at K-State, and in two different locations.
“The first time it was a quarter glued to the hill that goes up to Boyd Hall,” Whitney said. “I think there’s one there now, actually.”
Megan Hiser, senior in family studies and human services, said she has fallen for a dime glued to the ground, also in front of Boyd Hall.
“It’s still there and I fall for it every single time,” Hiser said. “Right in front of Boyd hall on the side walk there’s this dime and there’s been maybe five times where I legitimately thought I could get it. Now it’s kind of a game to me and I just kick it every time I walk by hoping it will come off the next time. It’s infuriating.”
“There was actually a time where I walked past it and it was gone and I was actually sad I wasn’t the one who got the dime finally,” Hiser continued. “Then I came back a week later and saw that someone glued a new one, so someone is committed.”
The glued change is not just in front of Boyd Hall, though, as Whitney said she most recently attempted to pick up a glued quarter from across the bridge over campus creek.
“The very first time, I struggled a lot harder to try and pull it up,” Whitney said. “It never occurred to me that someone might have glued it there until I noticed the dark grey spot underneath. This time around, as soon as the quarter wouldn’t budge, I knew what was up. I was still embarrassed about it, though, so my immediate reaction was to audibly say, ‘It’s not real’ and quickly stand up and walk away.”
And of course, there were plenty of people around to see the failed attempt at earning a free quarter.
“I was on my way to class, so there were lots of people around,” Whitney said. “I’m sure someone saw, but it’s K-State, so they were nice enough not to laugh at me.”
Kucera said he was able to laugh at himself when he fell victim to the glued change, mostly because this was not his first time around.
“I saw the quarter on my way to my early morning class,” Kucera said. “I rounded the corner and a glint of the sun on metal caught my eye. I bent down to pick up the quarter only to discover that it had been glued to the sidewalk. I laughed, because I had fallen for this exact same quarter last semester.”
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Hiser said it does not matter if the coin is heads up or tails up, she is still going to attempt to pick it up.
“I always, always (pick up coins on the ground),” Hiser said. “It’s something my mom and I have always done and we get excited when we find some. Now she’ll text me like, ‘I found a lucky penny,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Oh that’s awesome, I found a quarter today!’ Free money is free money, man.”
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Hiser collects her coins in a jar and only spends it if she is really desperate for something.
Also an avid coin picker-upper, Whitney said she always picks up any loose change she finds.
“Finding a penny is supposed to be good luck and all that change adds up after a while,” Whitney said. “I just found a regular quarter last week. Actually, last year, I found a wad of about $50. I turned it in, but no one ever claimed it, so I got to keep it.”
Whitney said on average she makes enough to buy a candy bar or two with her found change.
“As you can see, I am clearly making a lot of dough off this change-grabbing deal, so I’d rather not have too much competition,” Whitney said. “But if you are thinking of getting in the business, kicking the change before you try to pick it up will help deter you from wasting effort on a glued-down quarter.”