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Still Washing Coins at the St. Francis Hotel

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

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Yesterday the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle had a most fascinating article that caught my eye. The Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco employs a coin washer, yes, a coin washer---something they've been doing since 1938.

In the mid-1930s, this employee cleaned the change women were using to pay for lunch so they wouldn’t get their white gloves dirty. Today, coin washer Rob Holsen cleans about $700 to $800 in coins a week in an old, manually operated machine.

Holsen says, "It's a connection to a different time. A connection to a more gentle time, when to go downtown was a big deal. Dress up, put on a hat and gloves, and go to Macy's."

Rob Holsen runs cleaned coins through a sorter, which assembles the change in paper rolls. Then uses a heat lamp to dry the coins. {His predecessor Arnold Batliner's portrait on the wall--Batliner held the position for 31 years!}

It is believed the the St. Francis Hotel is the only hotel to still wash its coins. Every penny, nickel, dime and quarter. Mr. Holsen even inspects and weeds out the funky coins that are bent and mutilated. Amazing.

I'm thrilled to know that some old traditions still exist during these fast-paced, different times.

You can read the entire coin-washing story here.

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