Portland Company Plays Key Role In $100 Million Market for Orphaned Coins

Wall Street Journal highlights niche within booming scrap metal market.

If a penny falls in a crack, many people won't bother to retrieve it.

Australian businessman Ronnie Shahar realized 25 years ago that people's indifference to coins could be a business opportunity.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports, the scrapped automobiles the U.S. exports to China carry inside them millions of dollars worth of orphaned pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters every year. And even if the coins get bent in the recycling process, they still have value.

Entrepreneurs such as Shahar collect the coins and sell them back to the U.S. Mint as part of the "Mutilated Coin Redemption Program." The U.S. Mint has bought $100 million worth of such coins since 2009.

And, the Journal reports, a Portland company plays an important role in Shahar's business, receiving the coins Shahar collects overseas and delivering them back to the U.S. Mint.

Alas, the U.S. government thinks the overseas pickers who extract coins from scrapped cars may be getting too aggressive, adding other materials to the masses of coins that are sold back to the U.S. Mint by weight.

Portland Mint, which has been working with Shahar since 2008, and Shahar are currently suing the federal government over shipments of coins they say are worth $664,000 but have been seized over the feds' concerns that all is not right with the mutilated coin program.

The initial complaint in that lawsuit it here.