And a Coin Saved is a Coin Earned

Looking at the pile of one shilling coins accumulated over two years, an idea occurred to me. Why not take the whole lot to a blacksmith to be smelted and fashioned into an object that will grace my table stand?  But a contrary idea had me thinking otherwise. What if the authorities of the day caught me in the act and charged me with defacing a government property, nay, a national currency?

  Even if the sophisticated safe breaker in Kenya had gained access to my house and pried the little simple safe box open, he no doubt would have got a heart attack wondering whether it was worth the effort seeing that, despite one shilling coins still in circulation, no one would gladly accept them!

  On 1st June, 2019, the Central Bank of Kenya launched new generation currency notes in line with the 2010 constitution. However, not many were amused seeing the retention of the image of Jomo Kenyatta, with financial mandarins defending same claiming the statue is part of the landmark Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). But beyond the fanfare of the new generation currency launch, many are still unimpressed by the new look banknotes, with jokes out there they resembles nothing sort of concert tickets!

  And back to the one shilling coins, their retention was contrary to expectations of many. Given that not even mama mbogas who ekes a living by roadsides selling their greenies can accept them, or even the village shopkeepers, it would then be surmised the one shilling coin would have been withdrawn from circulation like yesterday.

  Recall the times even supermarkets regarded the said coins as sort of a plague, and for any purchase that saw a customer getting change of less under five or ten shilling, the attendants had devised a way where the change was converted into a takeaway thing like few sweets, match boxes or anything of lesser value? That was before the CBK read the riot act insisting there was enough one shilling coins in circulation and customers must desist from accepting alternative change. It seemed the directive was aimed at supermarkets, for going by the trend; many a trader like mama mboga in the dusty village street or an itinerant merchant did not comply, but instead rounded the price to the nearest whole number. You may have thought a bunch of spinach leaves increased in value, or the number of leaves making the bundle were increased, to warrant such rounding, but the truth is the bundle remained the same, or was reduced a bit, with explanation inflation is to blame, or a shilling coin is valueless. For the likes of village shopkeepers, the increasing of an item price, say from Sh7 to Sh10, has more to do with making a super profit than factoring such costs as transportation – buying in bulk from retail stores sees them getting price discounts to begin with.

  That many would rather shop at supermarkets and at a fair price than at the shop around the corner is not in contention. For those in the loyalty card scheme, accumulated points with each shopping, which can be redeemed later, perhaps makes them locked to a particular supermarket. However, every customer may wonder what to do with the one shilling coins given as change. I had seen few threw such change away upon exiting the door. And what may surprise one is that nobody, not even street urchins, seems interested in picking them! Each time I would receive such change, I would simply drop them in a tin container. Not that I was storing them for later use, but to be souvenirs when the coin - the one shilling coin - may no longer be in circulation.

  At times, we may find ourselves in that tricky situation where we may need to make a purchase vitiated by necessity. It could be that time when our finances are down and, remembering there are some coins lying somewhere in the house, curiosity gets the better of us. Being a weekend and in need of detergent and a few items from the village shop, I decided to have a look at the safe box, and emptied it on the table. I was surprised at the treasure trove, and employed myself in the next few minutes counting the accumulated coins and placing piles of ten, one shillings on the table. Seven neat piles, not very bad, or so I thought pocketing the bulky currency and heading to the shop around the corner.

  After ordering few items and asking for the bill, I dipped my hand in the pocket and carefully laid down gleaming and rusty coins on the counter.

  It seemed the shopkeeper was thunderstruck!

  “What is this?” the stunning lady entrepreneur asked, looking at me with those eyes that communicated a silent message that, by any pretensions, must have been ‘are you crazy?’

  I don’t recall whether I mumbled, or words came out in a tangled jumbling in form of a reply, for the next I heard from her was, “no shilling one coins are accepted here!”

  To cut the story short, she allowed I carry the goods on credit, seeing I was amongst her customers who rarely defaulted, but not before she told me in a chagrined voice to bring ‘proper money’ the next day.

  I did not know whether to dispose with the whole lot of coins by either throwing them down the pit latrine or randomly hurling them away by roadsides as I walked home.

  And that is when it occurred to me smelting and converting them to a priceless item would do.

  But come the next day and I carried the whole treasure with me to the supermarket where, gladly, I managed to exchange them with ‘proper money’, to quote the shopkeeper, and walk out with a Cheshire cat smile.

  Well, the safe box is still ringing with the sound of a coin or two anytime I get same as change from supermarkets. And it will be a repeat of the ritual when the coins have accumulated enough to warrant another supermarket ‘forex’ trip.

  A coin saved is a coin earned!


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