Every once in awhile I’ll come across something a bit arcane that will catch my eye and really make me wonder.
For example, consider the pattern on the back of this cat:
I know; I can’t believe it either.
I’ll never forget the time I came across an eggplant at my local grocery store that looked exactly like Richard Milhous Nixon. I’m not kidding.
OK, on second thought, the eggplant didn’t look exactly like America’s 37th president — but the resemblance was definitely uncanny.
Not too long ago I came across something in my change that always made me scratch my head: a red quarter.
In fact, it looked very similar to the one in this photo:
I remember occasionally finding red-painted quarters in my change ever since I was a kid — and I’ve always wondered about their significance. How about you?
The truth is, red quarters are more common than you might think, and there are several good explanations floating around the infallible Internet explaining exactly how those scarlet-colored coins entered into circulation over the years.
Here are a few of the more plausible answers:
They’re old test coins. In the past, repairmen used them to check out the coin-operated pay phones, vending machines, and laundromat washers they were fixing in order to avoid being accused of stealing. That makes sense to me.
They were “house” money. Red quarters are sometimes used by business owners as perks; they give them to their preferred customers for free plays on the coin-operated pool tables, pinball machines and video games. Red quarters were also used by waitresses to “prime” otherwise quiet jukeboxes in order to encourage other patrons to add their own quarters and keep the music coming.
Somebody painted it as a sign of defiance. According to Answers.com, the red coins were part of a campaign in the 1970s to protest New Jersey officials’ decision to increase the toll on the Garden State Parkway from 15 cents to a quarter.
They were once used for free laundry. For some apartment managers, free laundry is apparently a fringe benefit. Landlords will often give their building supervisors red quarters for use in the apartment laundromats. The managers would get their quarters back when the owner or laundromat vendor removed the cash from the machines.
So there you have it. The next time you come across an old quarter that has the remnants of red paint or a little bit of scarlet nail polish on it, you won’t have to wonder anymore.
Now if I could only figure out how to explain that darned eggplant.
Photo Credit: picshag