There is a tradition with those familiar red kettles the Salvation Army puts out this time of year that stretches back about 30 years. Each year for the last 30, one or more kettles get turned in with an anonymous donation of a single gold coin. This year, the gold coins are coming in all over the country.
On Nov. 9, the first of this year’s crop was discovered in a kettle outside of a Schnuck’s Market in Bettendorf, Iowa. The quarter-ounce coins valued at about $500 wash sheathed in a cardboard sleeve with a cellophane wrapper. It was easily recognizable according to Holly McNomura, the director of development for the Salvation Army’s Quad Cities Corps.
This past Tuesday, the next coin was discovered in a kettle outside of a San’s Club in Houston. This time the 1-ounce coin was wrapped in a one-dollar bill with a note that said, “A child is born, Jesus! Merry Christmas!”
The Quad Cities have received at least one gold coin every year for the last 15 years. This makes 5 years in a row for the Houston area too.
Other locations that have received gold coins this year include a Sam’s Club in Mishawaka, Ind.; at a Jewel-Osco store in Kankakee, Ill.; and in a kettle somewhere in Johnson County, Tenn. IN the case of the latter, the coin wasn’t noticed until it was at the bank so the exact kettle it came from is unknown.
The Salvation Army began its red kettle drive in 1891. Gold coins were more prominently used back then and were likely part of the collections every year. That is much different from the more recent tradition of leaving a single gold coin in random kettles.
The actual beginning of the tradition cannot be verified though most believe it began 30 years ago in Quincy, Illinois. The Quad City branch believes they were the first to receive the tokens but admittedly cannot prove their claim.
The Quad Cities do get a 1-ounce coin every year in such places as Bettendorf and Davenport, IA and Rock Island and Moline, IL. It is believed that the original donor passed away four years ago because coins of smaller denominations began to appear about then.
Over the years, the organization has taken in more than 400 gold coins. The coins themselves originate from several countries. Once they got a South African Krugerrand. Most tend to be U.S. Gold Eagles
In addition to the boost if gives the fundraising, it also motivates the bell ringers. Everyone wants to be the person who got the gold coin.