SURVEY SAYS: How Much Change Would You Pick Up?

Looking at past SURVEY SAYS, I came across one that reminded me of a funny story.

One day, while taking my Dad back home from a medical appointment, I suddenly stopped in the middle of the street and got out of my vehicle (note, in the very small town where he lived, there was no traffic). I had seen a $5 bill on the street, and got out to pick it up. My Dad’s comment was, “Wow, babe, are you that desperate for money?”

It wasn’t that I was desperate for money, but that $5 was a significant enough amount to me to not pass up. On the other hand, I also pick up pennies that are heads up, even though I’m not really superstitious.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “If you saw change (not dollars) on the street, sidewalk, etc., how much would it have to be for you to pick it up?”

The majority (64.3%) would pick up even a penny, while for 16.3% it would have to be more than a penny, but less than a quarter. A little more than 9% would pick up no less than a quarter, and 2% would pick up no less than one dollar in change. For 3.1%, the change would have to amount to more than one dollar. Slightly more than 5% said they wouldn’t pick up any change.

Many respondents explained that superstition—see a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck—or a cliché—a penny saved is a penny earned—is the reason they will pick up even a penny. Some had conditions—only if it’s heads up. And there were other conditions, with readers citing cleanliness, how crowded the street was and who would see them, among other things, and one commenting that he or she wouldn’t stop in the middle of the street like I did. Some folks pass change up in hopes a child or needier person will take advantage of it. Some of those who left comments reported aggregating a nice sum of change to give to charity or to save. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “I just asked my wife last night: ‘If I purposely dropped a penny on the ground so that someone else could find it, would it be considered littering, charity, or recycling (returning the metals to the earth)?’”

Thanks to all the readers who responded to the survey!


I admit that I'm superstitious. I only pick up change (yes, even quarters) if it's face up. Otherwise - bad luck.

It is not that hard to bend down and pick up free money. My best find was $100 on one special day -- lunch was my treat on that outing :-).

All good things in life are achieved incrementally!

One of the funnest ways spending a pocketful of change: Waiting outside a restaurant for a table with our son, his wife and their daughter Reagan (aged 2) I accidentally dropped a coin, and Reagan gleefully picked it up and put it in her daddy's pocket to save for her piggy bank. I couldn't help but slowly dropping all the rest of my coins (more than a dollar's worth) one at a time, just to continue her joy. Fun!

It's a treat for my kids and a good lesson that a penny saved is a penny earned.

My friend picks up any amount of change when she's out on her daily runs. She finds anywhere between $50-$100 in change alone each year!

I just asked my wife last night: "If I purposely dropped a penny on the ground so that someone else could find it, would it be considered littering, charity, or recycling (returning the metals to the earth)?"

I would pick up any amount of money. Silly to just pass it by!

It all adds up and bending down allows you to stretch a bit.

I pick up any change that I find. If it is around a hostess desk or cashier, then I give it to the person.

I like to pick up any change I see and give it to my husband for his "Bald for Bucks" fundraiser at the high school he teaches at.

I used to pick up pennies, now I don't find them anymore. In fact, I don't find much change anywhere. Fewer people use money now a days.

Free money is free money, whatever the amount (though I do draw the line by not picking up change that that is covered in some sort of disgusting slime). I'll bet I pick up a dollar or two a year, sometimes more, which will have added up to a pretty nice bottle of scotch by the time I leave this earth...but I'll have drunk it, one glass at a time. As an aside, exactly on her 50th birthday, my wife picked up a $50 bill that was blowing by as she was walking down the street in South Miami Beach while visiting our daughter, in spite of the omnipresent risk of drug contamination. She and my daughter enjoyed a fine meal, courtesy of the (poor-er) unfortunate soul who let it slip away.

I usually pass by the little stuff in hopes it will be a treat for a little kid. However now that I say that I wonder if today's generation bothers to pick up pennies?

Verbatim (cont.) 

I would not pick up any money I found on the street, in hopes that the next person to walk by would need it more than I do.

I don't pick up money. I do pick up "In God We Trust." I always read that when picking up money and then I give it with someone nearby if I can, for fun. If you place your trust in money, you will always be short. Place your trust in God.

My grandfather said "A penny saved is a penny earned"!

I pick it all up - the pennies for luck and the rest to fill up my change jar (which amounts to about $100 every 6 months!)

If it is there and within reach (w/o causing a danger to myself or others) it goes in my pocket for later use.

I'm more likely to point out the change to my kindergarten kid who gets WAY more excited over small change than I do.

I work in Manhattan so context is important. Is the change just lying on the sidewalk or am I reaching into a pile of trash bags?

Doesn't matter which side is up!

I not only pick up pennies with heads up but also pennies with heads down. My 12 year old daughter has found $20 numerous times but like me she will pick anything she finds.

Never pass up free money!

.... but I don't think I'd ever get out of the car in the middle of the street to pick up money

I was always taught that finding money was "good luck" ~ why would I pass up an opportunity for good luck?

Not going into a street to pick up money.

Other than the obvious issue -- safety -- it has to be somewhat clean. Also, if I was walking with a boss, a pick up for a small amount may be embarrassing!

I pick up all change and make it a policy to drop it in the red kettles during the holiday season and in the change boxes for the Ronald McDonald House collections or Dave's Program at Wendy's. Even pennies add up so why leave them lay and go to waste?

I pick 'em all up and toss it in a jar. When it's full I give the contents to charity. It's amazing how often I'll turn it over in a year's time.

Verbatim (cont.) 

99 more and I have a dollar. It must be noted that I do not include what I pick-up on my 1040, so I get to keep it all and do not share with our uncle.

Any change picked up accumulates over time if put aside into a piggy bank. I've rolled up and put into the bank hundreds of dollars worth of spare change and picked up pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

I believe it would depend on the location and amount of people/car traffic.

Sometimes I leave it hoping a child will find it instead.

It all depends on where I am and what I'm doing. If I'm in a hurry, it has to be more than a penny. I found a $20 in a casino once (there was no one sitting near the seat I saw it at) but I felt guilty. So, I gave it to the person I was with.

I wouldn't have a chance to pick it up because my five year old would scramble to pick up any amount of money before I could even think about it.

My Dad told me a long time ago, "the bank will bounce your mortgage check if your account is a penny short." Always pick up the pennies.

But I would only stop if I wasn't going to be run over by a car or pedestrian behind me.

I save change to donate to my Girl Scout troop. Every penny counts when girls want to go to camp!

I believe in find a penny pick it up, throughout the day you will have good luck. It is not about the penny, it is about the tradition. May everyone find a penny today and have good luck or good karma.

I'm a grubber, I pick-up any money I see. If it's over one dollar, I try to find the owner.

I'm old enough to remember when a quarter was "big bucks" thanks to the penny candy store and the tooth fairy. No way am I changing my ways at this age. I'm going for the quarter and up anytime. Of course, I'll use my hand sanitizer afterward. No need to be reckless.

Only pennies that are heads up. Nickels and dimes if it's convenient. I would cross a street for a quarter if not in a hurry.

I pick up pennies heads or tails. If it's heads, I keep it; if it's tails, I throw it over my shoulder hoping it'll land on heads for someone else. I think any denomination is worth picking up, although I typically put it in my pocket and forget about it until it's time to wash or dry clean.

I think the correct answer is, how much will you pick up in public? My answer is no less than a quarter. But in private I'll pick up everything from a penny up.

Verbatim (cont.) 

Yes, I am that desperate!

If I am walking past it, I will stop and pick it up no matter how much. If I was in a car like your example, I most likely would not even notice it because I usually drive to fast to see change or even dollar bills on the ground. If it is a large amount, I would attempt to determine who lost it if that seems possible.

I would have stopped in the middle of the street in the small town where I grew up, too. Sure wouldn't do that where I am now! But, if I'm walking, I will pick up any money I see on the ground!

But like the individual in the story, I do go for those that are heads up.

The real question should be how much would it have to be to pick up money in a port-a-potty at a busy festival. I once had a friend that saw $20 and refused to pick it up (someone that would not hesitate to pick up a penny on a sidewalk). The conversation turned to how much would it take for you to pick up money from the floor of a port-a-potty. I don't recall anyone in our group agreeing to pick up any amount of money in that situation.

I'll pick up any amount of money!

I don't pass up free money 🙂

I don't pick it up because there might be someone behind me who needs it more than I do.

Many years ago, found 3 twenty dollar bills flying around in the street and no one around. It happened to be a desperately tight time for me. Go figure.

I always pick up money on the ground. I didn't become a millionaire by "leaving money on the table"!

if not in a hurry I would pick up a penny, if in a hurry or crowded sidewalk the price goes up to as much as $1

Every little bit helps in the long run. If I found a quarter every day, saved and invested it, I could have a pretty good chunk after a few years.

If it spends, I pick it up. Even though it is a penny, it adds up!

Any amount of found money, is found money!

Fun game to find a restaurant while walking around the city - when you see some change, go forward if it's heads, turn around if it's tails. And then pick the next restaurant on your path

Pennies are "gold" in Jar Wars @ work with "silver" coins put in competitors jars to subtract money raised. We once put 10 rolls of quarters in a competitors jar and shopped 6 banks to buy pennies for our jar. We won! and the total raised went to us to donate to our favorite charity-Armed Forces Service & Rescue Dogs.

Penny but it has to be heads u

Verbatim (cont.) 

I stop and pick up even a penny, because growing up my mother always said, "See a penny, pick it up; all the day you'll have good luck!"

Picking up change is usually decided by my 85 lb. dog and whether he feels like pausing in his endless quest for greener grass.

It would be interesting to see the responses broken down by age. I'd bet more of us old-timers would pick up a penny out of habit.

I save change and once a year donate in a penny drive (I give all change) to Second Harvest.

Like so many things in life, my answer is situational; an assessment of (a) how much effort is required to pick it up, (b) how many people are around to see me pick it up, (c) the proximity of others to whom it seems likely to belong, and (d) if there seems to be anyone around looking to take a picture/video of me picking it up. And yes, by the time I've made those assessments, I have generally walked past the object of consideration...


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.