The clink of change in a Salvation Army red kettle is usually the sound of quarters, dimes, nickels or even pennies.
“We count out the money every night, and most of the kettle income is quarters and dollar bills, so the counting crew gets excited if it’s a $20,” said Salvation Army Major Kevin Van Zee. “Very rarely, we see a $50 or $100.”
So when the kettle from the bell ringer at Kroger on Marter Road at Jefferson Avenue was counted the evening of Dec. 7, the charity was amazed to discover a 1980 South African Krugerrand coin.
The gold coin, first minted in 1967, is popular among coin collectors and has an estimated value of $1,200.
“The room was just full of energy, the excitement of that — it just really perks us up and gives us a little more energy to keep counting,” Van Zee said.
In the three years he’s been with the Warren branch of the Salvation Army, Van Zee said nothing like that has been donated. One time, someone donated a 1/4 ounce piece of gold but nothing that was ever a full ounce.
A good day in that location would typically bring in $300-$400 in donations, Van Zee said.
“So you’re talking bringing three or four days normal income in one coin,” he said.
Bell ringer Vernard “Vicki” Current, of Oak Park, said she remembers a man putting a gold coin into the bucket, but at the time, she thought it was just a dollar coin.
“I always thank everybody; I don’t care what they put in,” she said.
The coin was donated sometime between noon and 8 p.m. Dec. 7, Van Zee said. He said he was doubly amazed the donor gave the gift anonymously.
“It helps tremendously,” he said. “Twelve-hundred dollars will feed 10 families with food for the year, (or) it’ll provide about 10 nights of shelter in the shelter that we operate here or about 48 coats for kids.”
The Salvation Army operates an 86-bed shelter for the homeless on Mound Road between 9 and 10 Mile roads.
Van Zee said the charity is unsure how it will monetize the gift.
“If we sell it to a gold dealer simply to be melted down, then obviously, they have to make a little profit on it so then we don’t get face value,” he said. “If we could do an auction or online where we could get face value, that would be a wonderful thing. It’s still a favorite among collectors.”
The Salvation Army in Warren serves the southern half of Macomb County, from 14 Mile Road south, “and it stays for our local use obviously.”
This is Current’s first year as a bell ringer. She took the position at the urging of a friend after her retirement.
“I thought I’d try something new,” Current said. “My girlfriend, she talked me into doing this. … She didn’t even do it.”
When she turned in the kettle that night, she didn’t think anything of the coin she had seen.
“You don’t know anything until the next day,” she said. “They called me that Tuesday and he said, ‘Did you know you had a gold coin?’
“I had no idea. I was so surprised.”
She said donors have been very generous this year.
“Whatever they put in, I thank them for it anyway because every little bit helps.”
Donations are still being accepted to the Salvation Army at www.salmich.org, by calling 877-SAL-MICH, or texting SALMICH to 80888 to make a $10 automatic donation.
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