Barry Cole (72) has been volunteering with Martlets since 2013. He is our coin and scrap metal expert, sorting up the change that no-one else wants. So far, his efforts have raised over £18,000, which is an outstanding achievement. Here is his story.
I had retired from work in 2012 and decided to volunteer for the hospice after coming along to a volunteers’ open day. Initially I helped out in the pound shop and with the online sales, but one day I was asked to look at some coins with a view to selling them on eBay and it all started from there.
What I do is to take all the foreign coins that are donated and separate them up into different yoghurt pots, depending on the country that they’re from and whether they are legal tender or not. Once a pot is full, I’ll sort it up and grade them according to how worn they are – the closer to mint condition, the better. Legal tender coins are sent off to an online company that specialises in exchanging them into English currency and pays the returns directly into the Martlets’ bank account.
If it’s old currency, such as French francs, then I look through them carefully for collectables; sometimes I find rare versions that can be quite valuable. I’ll work out what they’re worth and then we’ll sell them on eBay, and we’ve had some good results. Other, rarer, coins we’ll sell through specialist dealers – we had three gold sovereigns donated by a volunteer who had been clearing out her mother’s effects. She didn’t know what they were but was still happy to donate them to us when I told her of their value. They were probably the highest value coins that we have ever received and, together with another sovereign and a half sovereign, they raised £985 for us.
The oldest coin
The oldest coin that we’ve sold was a 1723 George 1st Halfpenny, which was in a quite worn condition, but it still sold for £22.00. I’ve also found a 1797 Cartwheel tuppence, which was huge and quite thick. It was in good condition, but had a hole drilled in the centre to hang it on a neck chain – which was something poor people often used to do, so that they always had money on them. Unfortunately, the damage meant it only sold for £30, but it was an interesting find.
One day I came into the office and my donation box was far too heavy to lift; someone had dropped off sixty kilos of old English pennies, which sell for £3 per kilo. No-one knew where they had come from; they had just suddenly appeared!
Where coins have no collectable value or are no longer legal tender, or we have smaller scrap metal items such as saucepans or ornaments, I split them up into their different metal types and sell them onto a scrap metal specialist in Brighton. It’s surprising how much money we can make from the things that people would normally just throw away. I never know what we are going to get, sometimes it’s just a small money bag and sometimes it’s a boxful – it’s always a surprise.
Why I enjoy volunteering
I enjoy volunteering, it’s so rewarding. The team here are always thanking me for my efforts and people are genuinely pleased with the amount that I’ve raised; it’s nice to be appreciated. I was so proud when I got my 5-year and it was the icing on the cake when I reached the finals of the Brighton Evening Argus Community Stars award for Volunteer of the Year in February.
I’d set myself a target of reaching £10,000 by last August and we’re now well over that and at £18,000. So now, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to get to £20,000 by this August. It is quite a time-consuming task, but Martlets is such a worthwhile local charity to be fundraising for.