How an American retiree invented a money laundering machine

The first 1-cent coins in the United States of America were issued at the very end of the 18th century. In March 1793, coins were put into circulation, which received the name "Freedom in Chains". The fact is that on the reverse there was an image of a chain, which symbolized the connection of the allies, but the obverse of the coin adorned the portrait of Liberty. More than 200 years have passed since that moment, but coins in denominations of one cent continue to remain in circulation, despite the fact that their purchasing power is not great now.

So, for example, the issue of small change coins is produced by the Denver Mint, which began work on February 1, 1906 and is currently one of the largest manufacturers in the world. Money is transported throughout the country by collection trucks, one of which suffered a tragedy several years ago.

An armored car with a cargo of 7, 600, 000 1-cent coins worth $ 76, 000 left Denver for San Antonio. At this time, there was a downpour, as a result of which the collector vehicle had an accident in the area of ​​the town of Snyder, located in the state of Texas. Two collectors were killed and two of their colleagues were seriously injured. The coins from the truck ended up in a ditch, which was filled with liquid mud during the downpour.

As a result, the valuable cargo turned into a mess. Since the shipment was insured, the mint decided to seek compensation for the loss suffered. But it turned out that this is not so easy to do, because the coins were not destroyed, they only needed to be cleaned of dirt. Nobody wanted to take on this job - "laundering" seven and a half million small coins. And the banks refused to accept them along with the dirt, explaining their refusal by the fact that not a single calculating machine could count them, but would break down from such a "mess".

True, Mrs. Beverly Whitelaw, an agent of the insurance company, said that she knows a person who can tackle this problem, since she loves to solve complex problems. The man turned out to be Robert Messingale, who previously served as assistant mayor of Lubbock, Texas. And now Messingale is retired, he has a lot of free time, and in his city he is known as an innovator who can tackle any puzzle.

Robert Messingale did not refuse the Mint's request, asking only to transport the coins to a specially prepared warehouse. And he began to search the Internet for recipes for "laundering" several tons of dirty cents. Soon Messingale announced that he would be able to assemble a car in which the money would be laundered and sent to the bank in almost perfect condition. The inventor estimated his work at five and a half thousand dollars, specifying that he himself was ready to work for free because of the "love of art", but he would need two assistants plus the purchase of material.

Soon the homemade machine was ready and set to work. First, the coins go through a preliminary cleaning process, and then they enter a container with a solution that consists of water, salt and vinegar. As a result, coins with a portrait of the former US President Abraham Lincoln acquire an almost original appearance and are sent to the bank. The work did not go fast; Robert Messingale himself compared this process to eating an elephant. There is no rush here, you can overcome it only by eating one small piece after another. The weight of one coin is slightly more than 3 grams, respectively, the weight of the entire batch exceeded 20 tons. And that's not counting the dirt.

By the way, for the first time a portrait of Abraham Lincoln appeared on 1-cent coins at the beginning of the last century - in 1909, instead of the portrait of an Indian, which was stamped on these coins since 1859. The design change was timed to coincide with a significant date for the United States of America - the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lincoln. Never before have portraits of presidents, both current and former, appeared on US coins.

The initiator of this innovation was Victor Davis, an emigrant from Lithuania. The US public reacted to such a proposal without much enthusiasm, but the president of the country at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, spoke in support of Davis. The project was approved and Lincoln's profile has remained unchanged on the 1 cent coin for over 100 years.

During World War II, due to a lack of copper, it was decided to make 1-cent coins from zinc-plated steel. Moreover, the weight has decreased by almost half a gram. But, in 1943, one of the employees of the minting house in San Francisco unwittingly became the creator of numismatic rarities, which are hunted by the wealthiest numismatists in the world.

It so happened that several coins were made not of steel, but of bronze. The price of such coins exceeded their face value by a factor of millions. For example, in 2012, one of these "mistakes" was sold at an auction for a million dollars. The buyer was the millionaire Bob Simpson.