7 Places Not To Take Pennies From

On our evening walk yesterday, I was fortunate enough to come across not one, but TWO shiny grimey ol’ pennies laying on the ground just waiting to be picked up. As if someone had strategically placed them there – perfectly aligned and spaced out from each other and everything – in order to make a 33 y/o guy all giddy inside when he walked by. (NOTE: it worked!)

Now the first one was totally “legit,” according to my wife as it was on the far side of the sidewalk, but the other one apparently labeled me a thief. Because it may or may not have been in someone’s gravel driveway as we were passing by ;)

We bickered back and forth about it as all good spouses do – me saying it’s in a “gray area” since it was on the verge of being on the sidewalk and they obviously didn’t *want* it anyways or else they’d have picked it up already, haha… And her saying it’s private property so “the end” – but of course in the end I lost. (Like what also happens when good couples argue – the male loses ;)). So I went on my merry way happily listening to my two new friends cling and clang in my pockets as she threw me a bone and kindly allowed me to keep them.

As payback for her kindness and generosity, today’s post is therefore dedicated to my wife :) Which I will promptly print out and lay on her pillow for the next time we have a similar debate.

Here are 7 *solid* places which would cause you to be a Grade A d-head should you take from:

  1. Tip jars. (Not to be confused by the “leave a penny, take a penny” cups where appropriate)
  2. Coin fountains.
  3. Your kid’s piggy bank. (Unless it’s to pay for a window they just broke)
  4. From the floor of your artsy neighbor.
  5. Inside someone’s house. (Different from *outside*, mind you ;))
  6. From your friends’ penny loafers. (You like how I put ‘friends’ there as if you had multiple acquaintances who still wore penny loafers? :) Or who even knew what those are anymore?)
  7. And from the bank. Even if it’s on the floor. (Not the case in other establishments fyi)

Outside of that, it’s free pickings in my book ;) Would you agree? Have you ever found yourself in a “penny gray area” before? I’m reminded of our post onΒ how far you’d go to pick up a coin after last year’s bachelor party experience I blogged about… Which wasn’t nearly as sexy as you’re probably thinking it was right about now ;) You’ll see what I mean if you click.

One of these days I’m gonna scatter a bunch of them all over the roads and then watch everyone’s eyes light up when they come across ’em. I’ll drop like $1,000 worth and then go hide in the bushes and film it! Haha… “I’m rich, bitch!”

[Photo of Trevi Fountain by Dark Rome Tours & Walks]

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  1. Brian August 27, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    You forgot to put not to grab them out of urinals. That is one of my favorite games in a bar. Place your change in the urinal and eventually when it gets to be tempting enough someone comes out with a wet pocket…lol. Now I am older and too mature for that though.

    +1 for the Chappelle reference at the end too.

    1. David Hunter August 27, 2013 at 7:26 AM

      I couldn’t image taking change from a urinal. Unless, of course, it was something really rare and worth some money! ;-)

      1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        Haha… so YOU’RE the one who’s always putting change there!!

  2. Free Money Minute August 27, 2013 at 6:11 AM

    Can you help me out with a similar dilemma? We have a 10c return on bottles in Michigan. If an empty bottle is sitting in someone’s yard right next to the sidewalk (kind of like that penny was), is is fair game? I usually do not pick these up. I only do so if I find them on public property (parks, schools, etc). What do you think?

    1. Aimee August 27, 2013 at 6:45 AM

      I think if it seems like it was tossed from a car and you don’t feel like you’re IN their yard to get it, it’s fair game!

      1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        I agree. I doubt anyone would mind someone picking up trash near/on their lawn – as that’s really what it is. Either that, or left behind by accident from a recyclable pick up? Ooooh… now THERE’S an interesting idea! Go around and just ask if you can take all their recyclables from them and do it your self :) Same goal in the end for the homeowner, only you’re getting paid instead? Interesting…

  3. Aimee August 27, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    I once dated a guy like 9 years ago who HATED change. He would throw it on the ground when he walked out of a store. It only took a couple times of this happening for me to demand that he “gimme that shit!” I made so much money from that guy. I’ve always wanted to collect the change from around the Plymouth Rock (there’s TONS of quarters down there!!), but it’s pretty clear that you’re not supposed to go down there so I’m certain I’d get arrested. That would not be a cool way to be arrested for the first time as a full grown adult.

    1. Celina August 27, 2013 at 9:43 AM

      Throw change on the ground?! That is odd…and a little disgusting. Not only is he wasting money that would be helpful to someone else, he also litters. Is ‘littering money’ a thing?

      1. Aimee August 27, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        Yeah he was nuts and stupid. I’ve never thought about it, but I suppose it IS littering!

        1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 12:53 PM

          My biz partner Nate St. Pierre likes to dump change places too. I don’t really get it myself, but of course as a friend it’s awesome when we’re hanging out cuz then I get free coins!! :)

          (And I’ve been to that Plymouth Rock too a cple years ago – sooooo beautiful!! Loved it there!!!!!!!)

  4. Alicia @ Financial Diffraction August 27, 2013 at 6:54 AM

    My Mom is the “Queen of Finding Change”. On her daily 5 mile walk she picks up both bottles for recycling deposits and loose change. I can’t complain too much because even though her children are grown she saves it up and gives it to us when it reaches about $50 each.

    The silliest change story I have from her is when it appeared someone emptied a handful of pennies from their wallet, in a parking lot… but in the thoroughfare. No joke she made me spot and watch for cars as she ducked over to pick up sixty cents!

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      HAH! I love your mom! :) I can see mine doing the exact same thing.

  5. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle August 27, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    Taking from the take a penny, leave a penny cup if you are not using the penny for an immediate transaction is stealing.

    Canada has eliminated the penny. I kept a few but turned the rest in to the bank. The mint will be melting them down for scrap. I have some Canadian pennies from the 40s and early 50s when George was king. They were still in regular rotation in our money supply and I would keep them when I saw them. The royal baby will be the next King George in the future and I will have a great gift for future grandchildren.

  6. John S @ Frugal Rules August 27, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    I’d say no to the Take a Penny Leave a Penny as you’d likely get some strange looks and assumed you’re a thief. This actually makes me remember about the Seinfeld episode (it was on the other night actually) where George leaves a tip at the calzone restaurant and the guy doesn’t see him so he takes it out in order to tell him he did it and the guy sees him taking it and thinks he’s stealing.

    Our oldest has gotten smart though, she says that her piggy bank can only hold quarters and higher, smart kid. ;)

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      Haha I’ve never seen that episode but I can totally understand that! Classic Larry David style :)

  7. Brian August 27, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    Is change on someones car floor off limits? Wait isn’t it thrown there for good luck?

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      Is it? Never heard of that one before. I usually don’t pick up change in someone’s car though unless I’m cleaning it out for them. Which is actually a good idea if you wanted to go down that route: “how about I clean and vacuum your car, but I get to keep all the spare change I find in it?” :) That would be worth it for both parties!

  8. EL @ MoneyWatch101.com August 27, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    I agree with all of these coin no no’s. But behaviors can vary from person to person. I have a question J. would you pick up a penny from a dirty fast food floor, with a pretty girl standing behind you watching the entire thing?

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      Yes to picking it up off the floor in general (I’d just wash my hands, and the coins, afteward), and ESPECIALLY yes if a pretty girl was watching me do it ;) That’s prime time ice breaking material right there!

  9. Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce August 27, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Absolutely stay away from the fountains! I don’t know what will happen, but it won’t be good. Karma is a bitch!

  10. No Waste August 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Does a larger coin value affect this determination?

    If there’s a half-dollar in a public fountain, I may be getting my feet wet.

  11. Ann August 27, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Love the photo! I totally threw a few coins in the Trevi fountain when I was in Rome. Oh, and who didn’t put pennies in their loafers? That was the coolest part!

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      Loving your blog name!! Flirt on, el burrito!

  12. Retire By 40 August 27, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    My 2 years old picks up coins whenever he sees one. Fountains or on the floor in any building is fair games to him.
    Picking coins up from fountains is no big deal. If he doesn’t get it, the fountain cleaner, or someone else will.

  13. Ally August 27, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    OMG! Last night I was watching a commercial where an old man was feeding pigeons and then he threw some candy on the ground and people came running. I turned to my mom and told her that I would love to take a jar of coins and go to the park and throw the coins on the sidewalk and watch as people came by picking them up. It would be like feeding the birds only it would be people. Haha!

    Retire By $40: The coins in fountains are donated to charity. That’s why people throw them in. If your son takes them, then he is stealing from charity. It is a big deal.

    1. Aimee August 27, 2013 at 4:33 PM

      Are you sure that ALL fountains are for charity? I would think that it would be posted on the fountain, and then people wouldn’t let their toddlers take coins from it after seeing the signs.

      1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 1:08 PM

        It’s definitely not for entertainment or for other people, that’s for sure. Guess I never thought about it all going to charity, but makes sense. Perhaps others use it to maintain the fountains and keep ’em clean or something?

  14. Money Beagle August 27, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    I once worked for this guy that hated change. He went to the vending machine and would buy a drink that cost $1.10 and would leave the $0.90 in the change bucket. I tried giving it to him once and he didn’t want it. Needless to say, I started keeping an eye open for when he hit the vending machine.

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      I alsways check those slots anytime I walk by anyways. People are crazy with what the leave behind! Also, I heard once that people store lots of money in them sometimes to surprise people with gifts – kinda like a “pay it forward” type thing :) One of these days I hope to be a recipient of it!

  15. Giddings Plaza FI August 27, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Hee hee–all good advice! Sidenote: ever since I got rid of my car and started walking / bussing / carsharing, I find coins EVERY time I walk somewhere. It feels like good luck. I’m not just saving a ton of money and getting a ton of exercise, I’m also at least one penny richer every time.

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      No doubt – that’s great. I’ve been averaging one found coin every 3 walks over here :) Mostly all pennies, of course, but soon I’ll find a quarter – I just know it.

  16. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen August 27, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    If its in a public area on the ground I’ll take it! I’m curious about the bank one. Wouldn’t it be okay to pick it up as long as its only a coin or two and you’re in the public area?

  17. Financial Black Sheep August 27, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    I don’t pick up change at work unless its in a communal area and I’m on break. I’m allowed all over the hospital, so I feel it’s wrong if I take change that’s on the floor of let’s say a locker room. I will usually pick the change up and put it on a dirty scrub bin, so someone will either see it, or hear it when they open the bin.

  18. Martin August 28, 2013 at 12:47 AM

    The trick is to distract the dude in the washroom who gives you towels for a tip. Then your buddy takes it and runs! Okay, you won’t get far but it’s worth a shot lol.

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      I’ll see you in hell ;)

  19. James Brooks August 28, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    What about in an office?

    There are people leaving coins around our studio ALL the time. What’s your take on that?

    In my mind, if no-one picks them up, they clutter the place!

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      I would stand up and shout “I’m picking up all loose coins around the office from now on – so if they’re yours, and you want them, better go pick them up now!” and then in an hour – and going forward – pick all leftovers myself :) That way everyone gets warned (you can do it in email too) and from then on you’re good.

  20. Christopher @ This that and the MBA August 28, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    HAha this is great. Back when i was younger. We used to sit back and glue some change to the ground with super glue, and watch people try to pick it up…Thanks for bringing back the great memory. Obviously now I am not that mischievous.

    1. J. Money August 28, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      I hated people like you!! Haha… I’m glad you’ve since stopped that ;)

  21. Orange Crayon August 28, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Every time I go to my Mom’s house, there’s not only change but sometimes some big bucks laying on the bathroom counter. If she didn’t love me so much, I’d think she was baiting me. I’d add this to the list, never grab coins from Mom’s bathroom stash!

    1. J. Money August 31, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      Hahahha… good one :)

  22. Mike Carlson August 29, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    I remember having a friend who has a quick eye for pennies on the street. She easily sees coins and even bills while walking on the street.

  23. Mal August 31, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    I actually have a neighbor who will leave pennies on top of neighborhood fire hydrants for the local children to find. Gives them such a thrill!

    1. J. Money August 31, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      Awww I love that!! What a nice thing to do!!

  24. Full Time Finance September 23, 2016 at 7:24 AM

    You missed the mother of all opportunities in the Delaware a few weeks ago. A tractor trailer of the currency crashed on the interstate and spilled about 40000 lbs of the things. They were I minted though. It leads me to an addition to your list though. Anywhere it would be dangerous for me to pick one up, like on a heavily trafficked highway.

    1. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 10:59 AM

      Oh wow!! What a site to be seen!