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1,000 Nickels Found on Sidewalk (1954)

(This story was originally written and recorded for Retrocast 26, released on May 15, 2024.)

On Tuesday, May 18, 1954, as 70-year-old Cincinnati resident John Elsasser walked to work, he spotted what appeared to be bingo chips strewn on the sidewalk. Curious, he decided to stop to examine them.

He was probably glad that he did.  That’s because they weren’t Bingo markers at all.  Instead, those little round things were genuine United States nickels.  And it wasn’t just a few coins that he found.  In total, he picked up 1,007 of those shiny bits of currency. Today, some people wouldn’t put the effort in to pick up those lowly nickels, but this was 1954 when they had much greater buying power.  Adjusted for inflation, John’s $50.35 find would be worth approximately $585 today.

The press did not report how he carried all of those coins away, but he somehow managed to get them all to his place of employment.  Later that evening, he did the honest thing and reported his find to the District 3 police station.

After hearing his story, Detective William Hasenmuller concluded that the coins had been pilfered from the Mt. Echo Tavern situated at 481 Elberon Avenue on Sunday evening. Owner Robert Jasper had reported the theft of $100 in nickels from two of his pinball machines. The thief didn’t get very far, as the nickels were found right around the corner on Basset Road, mere steps away from where the crime occurred. Later, police discovered an extra $2.35 (equivalent to $27.29 today) at the exact same location. The recovered nickels were returned to Jasper, who, in turn, rewarded John Elsasser with 500 of the coins.  That amounted to $25 (equivalent to $290 today) for his honorable actions.

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