Money Laundering at the St. Francis Hotel

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In 1938, the hotel St. Francis in San Francisco began washing all its coins as a courtesy to guests -particularly women who wore white gloves. Back then, it was a full-time job, since coins could pay for about anything. Now Rob Holsen continues the custom, but almost 80 years later, it only takes about ten hours a week, because people don't use coins as much. Still, the hotel has the cleanest coins anywhere.

The process begins when the general cashier sends racks of rolled coins to Holsen, who empties the change into a repurposed silver burnisher.

Along with the coins, the burnisher is filled with water, bird shot to knock the dirt off, and a healthy pour of 20 Mule Team Borax soap. After three hours of swishing the coins around, Holsen uses a metal ice scoop to pour the loot into a perforated roast pan that sifts out the bird shot.

The wet coins are then spread out on a table beneath heat lamps.

This is where once-rusted copper pennies turn into shimmering bronze coins.

Read about the history and process of the charming coin-washing tradition at SF Gate. -via Nag on the Lake


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