Last week, I read this interesting story about a hotel that continues a tradition of cleaning the coins it collects from its guests.
“Since 1938, all the coins the St. Francis acquires through its cafe, restaurants and bars – all of it tarnished by the grime of the outside world – has made its way through the cleaning closet before it leaves the hotel bright and shiny.”
The reason for washing the coins, which was done full time when the practice began in the 1930s, served an instrumental purpose “when hotelier Dan London noticed that coins dirtied a woman’s white gloves.” Since coins could be used to pay for most things during that era–and “it was rare to use a bill”–the hotel cleaned the coins it received as a “courtesy” to its guests.
Now the coin washing, which only happens three times a week, serves more of a ceremonial purpose since the St. Francis no longer has soda machines and pay phones. As a result, “less pocket change enters the building.” In addition to that, paying with bills or credit/debit card is the norm.
As Rob Holsen, who took over the coin washing duties from Arnold Batliner, succintly put it, the coin washing is “a connection to a more gentle time, when to go downtown was a big deal. Dress up, put on a hat and gloves, and go to Macy’s.”