Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The SWAG Theory For Finding Money

Journal Entry: Weight = 176; Coinage = $1.78; 38 pennies, 2 nickels, 3 dimes, 4 quarters; Glass bottles = 7; Ground Scores = 5. Three great finds. The test came early, would finding 8 pennies on an ATT phone shelf bring joy after finding 821 pennies the two days before? The MoneyWalker passed the test, joy was felt. Fidelity was rewarded by a “walk over” scatter of four soiled and stained coins (quarter, dime, and two pennies); and a newspaper dispenser with three quarters in the coin return.

Feature Entry: Yesterday and Saturday, May 9 and 10, I played a hunch and found one of my all-time high money finds, nine dollars and twenty-one cents, and nearly all pennies. As a seasoned moneywalker I find myself experiencing feelings or intuitions or hunches that certain detours from my established routes of walking will lead to greater success in terms of finding money. I play a hunch because it feels right, and then when the hunch results in a found coin, human nature is such that I want to give the action some mystical power such as Zen power.

Does the scientific literature substantiate the role of hunches as a behavior of consequence? In a word, No! Intuition seems to work best when guided by previous relevant experience. The more that hunches or guess work is “educated,” intuition rises to higher and higher levels. According to B. B. Suran, Ph.D. (his essay in the URL below is informative and funny)


a licensed clinical psychologist, “homework and hard reason carry the day” when it comes to decision making. Suran provides names for all the voodoo strategies. My favorite is SWAGs — scientific wild-assed guesses. Honest scientists admit to the practice of using SWAGs to guide their way through unchartered domains. More philosophical, Emmanuel Kant called SWAGs transcendental reason. G.K. Chesterton noted: “A woman uses her intelligence to find reasons to support her intuition.”

Suran suggests that we should brush intuition and hunches aside and rely upon logic and the scientific method to explain success: “Lay out the legal pad, draw the line down the middle, and line up the pros and cons. Then, let intuition, gut instinct, the sixth sense, transcendental reason, and SWAGs work their magic in the light of day.” In other words, allow experience and research to do the work.

As for moneywalking, as I gain experience and add reflection, I find myself playing more and more “hunches” and with more and more success finding money. It is not Zen or intuition, but learning. With experience I am learning where money is lost and how people thing and behave that leads to the loss.

A hunch led me to look down into the 17th Street Canal, but it was the informed behavior of many previous penny scatters combined with the multiple finds of penny scatters on the canal bank that caused me to wonder, “Is someone deliberately throwing this money away?”, and “If they are throwing money up here, could they also be throwing money down into concrete apron below?”

But why would they throw money away? My belief, it is that some segments of society have a growing contempt for the penny, especially teens and young adults. It is this group that utilize the bus stops that flank the canal. When pennies accumulate whether in the jeans, the purse, or in the car, out they go.

But having zero evidence, I’m putting this whole notion in the SWAG category.



  1. An in-law (age 26)in my family always throws his pennies out the window after going through a drive-thru because he says they are worthless. I just tell him to keep right on tossing them because someone will pick them up. I also believe there is a little arrogance involved here but could be wrong.

    Using your experience of the last week are we to assume that you will be changing your methodology from curb-walking to canal-walking?

    One other question. Now that you have hit the "motherlode" of scatters, I am concerned that from here on out your walks will be tinged with disappointment rather than elation when coming upon a "paltry" under-a-buck scatter.

    My future as a numismatizing ralker has been changed forever by your significant find. I could pick up a $50 bill tomorrow and it wouldn't be nearly as thrilling as 921 coins. Awesome.

  2. The coin total was awesome, but I passed the first test. The next day I found 9 pennies left on a telephone pedestal shelf and felt joy. Then this morning I found a large scatter of pennies and once again felt triumphant.