Millions of dollars of forgotten coins retrieved from junked cars

Global: Some entrepreneurs can make a business out of the strangest of phenomena. Take Ronnie Shahar from Australia, who started up a company that buys old coins found in end-of-life cars at recycling yards.

Scrapped cars exported from the USA to China reportedly contain millions of dollars’ worth of forgotten pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters every year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Shahar, who has partners in 25 countries including the Portland Mint in the USA, confirms that there is definitely treasure lurking beneath the seat cushions.

Even coins that have been fed through a shredder and are ‘battered beyond recognition’ still have a value, according to Shahar. He buys them in bulk, predominantly from China where coins are meticulously sorted by hand instead of immediately being run through multi-million-dollar recycling systems.

Shahar then sells the currency back to the US government via the Mutilated Coin Redemption Program for US$ 20 per pound. The US scheme has paid out more than US$ 100 million since 2009. However, a recent spike in large coin shipments from China gave cause for customs officials in Los Angeles to begin an investigation into potential fake coins arriving from the Far East.

This as yet unresolved issue prompted US officials to shut down the programme at the end of last year. An estimated US$ 664 000 worth of Shahar’s coins are now languishing in regulatory purgatory. The entrepreneur has filed a lawsuit demanding the release of the salvaged coins. ‘No-one counterfeits small-value coins,’ he argues. ‘It doesn’t make any economic sense.’



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