My Turn: A penny for your walks

A penny for your walks
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By all accounts, Americans are becoming heavier. The number of people deemed to be obese continues to grow. The remedy is obviously proper diet and exercise, but getting enough exercise is not always easy. People need incentive, and I’ve got one to suggest.

Having had some issues with my heart, the medicos strongly suggested that I get regular exercise. I’ve always enjoyed walking, so I embarked on regular walks of approximately two miles in the vicinity of my home in Downey. In the course of walking, I would occasionally find coins lying on the ground. I began to take note of where I was finding them — mostly beside parked cars and in commercial parking lots. From this I fine-tuned six routes in my neighborhood that consistently yield stray coins, which I record in a journal.

I have gone yearlong stretches without being shut out. The money is always lying there. It keeps me out walking, because I always wonder what I might be missing if I stay home.

As I walk a street, I glance down beside the doors of parked cars, since people (mostly guys) lose coins out of their pockets while entering and exiting their vehicles. Thus, commercial parking lots are more fruitful than residential streets, given the high volume of in-and-out car traffic.


As might be expected, the most common coin to find is the penny. The cost of manufacturing pennies is said to be greater than their value, so periodically Congress proposes doing away with them. In fact, a supposed expert claimed newly minted pennies are only used once. I can certainly attest to the fact that this is not the case, because I occasionally find wheat pennies from the 1950s. I’ve even found World War II-era steel pennies. Maybe it is a sign of our down economy that people are raiding their piggy banks.

My record for pennies found in a single outing is 40. This happened on New Year’s Day 2011, after someone apparently decided to celebrate by throwing a handful of pennies on a residential street.

Curiously, dimes found always outnumber nickels. My theory is that it’s because they make less noise when they strike the ground.

My record for quarters found in one outing is five, which I found in a pay phone coin return slot. I suggested to a friend that they had been left by a drunk. He countered that perhaps five drunks each put in a quarter, but I tend to doubt that.


On any given day in the greater Los Angeles area, there are probably several hundred dollars in loose change simply lying on the ground, waiting to be picked up. Of course, it is randomly scattered over more than 300 square miles.

I must add that this is not as easy as I make it out to be. There are days when two miles of walking will yield only a single penny, but I feel it beats the boring sameness of exercising on a treadmill.

Russell, 72, is a retired truck driver who has been an avid walker for more than seven years. His walks have yielded several hundred dollars. He is a member of JPL Trailbuilders, a volunteer group that maintains trails in the Angeles National Forest.

My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience related to health or fitness. Submissions should be 500 words or fewer, are subject to editing and condensation and become the property of The Times. Email Read more at