Fountain change

The Bryant Park fountain
The Bryant Park fountain

By Shayla Beley

Have you ever thrown your spare change into a fountain and stopped to think where that money ended up?  Where it should end up?

Two years ago, New York Times released an article inquiring about the same thing. Frank Runyeon, the writer of the article, focused on a fountain in one park, the Bryant Park in Manhattan. After speaking to a few of the maintenance workers, he discovered a few things: how the money was removed and handled, how much was typically collected, and what the money was used for.

After draining the fountain, workers take buckets and fill them with the change.  “It will take days to dry, clean and count the money, but the park estimated the take – three months’ worth – at about $2,000,” states Frank Runyeon.  That’s enough money to cover a typical college students rent for 6 months.

Luckily, the money collected from the fountain goes towards “the cost to clean the fountain” says vice president Jerome Barth.

What about the fountains in places like Las Vegas? “I’d imagine it probably goes to whatever casino the fountain is at, I have no idea, but I think that’s what it would be,” says local college student, Zak Stoddeare. “I actually went to Plymouth Rock and saw someone stuffing change into their pocket. It’s a historic site, I could only hope the money went to help restoring it,” says another fellow student, Colleen Hauff.

It makes sense that most people would assume they’re going back to the casinos but an article written in the Review Journal by Sonya Padgett back in 2011 discovered otherwise.

In her findings about what happens to the money thrown into strip fountains in Las Vegas, to a surprising discovery for most, the money often ends up being donated to local charities.

Often being the keyword, as student Colleen Hauff also noticed, part of the change does end up in people’s pockets. There seems to be a significant amount of evidence to support this in numerous videos on YouTube.

According to Naples News, Back in 2008, a man was actually arrested in Naples for stealing 42 cents from a fountain in the Coastland Center mall. Apparently, there was a sign attached to the fountain stating the money was being donated to Habitat for Humanity of Collier County.  The man was sent off to the jail with a bail of $500.

Like the Bryant Fountain, the money going towards charity in these Las Vegas fountains is also drained and collected by maintenance staff.  “It’s not as easy as taking the money out of the water and then giving it away, though. From the moment they’re in fountains, the coins begin to corrode.

Maintenance staff cleans them with vinegar and towels before counting the money,” says spokeswoman for the Forum Shops at Caesars, Maureen Crampton.

On average, the money is said to amount to about 10,000 yearly and goes to the Simon Youth Foundation, a foundation created to help students who can’t afford the cost needed to obtain a college degree through the help of awarding scholarships.
There are currently no regulations stating the money collected from fountains has to go anywhere in particular. However, it must be a relief to many to unfold the mystery and find out most of the money is going to good places.