What happens to coins in fountains?

Wish upon a coin and throw it into the fountain and all your dreams will come true. Well, so they say. But have you ever wondered what really happens to those coins?

Thousands of people throw coins into the Trevi fountain in Rome each day. There’s an age-old custom that if you stand with your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your left shoulder, you ensure that the prophet (or you) will one day return to Rome. Interestingly, the Trevi makes so much money each day that it could probably afford to foot the bill for a few return tickets.

The Trevi turns over around US$15,000 in coins each week. So many are thrown in that it requires an hour each day to sweep them up. Some of the money is used for fountain restoration, with the bulk being taken by Caritas – a Roman charity that redistributes the money to those who truly need the well wishes.

The lake at Bellagio in Las Vegas clears about US$12,000 per year. Coin collectors use a giant vacuum to suck the booty off the bottom of the lake. The collected coins are then put into a cement mixer with towels inside for cleaning and once they are nice and shiny they are are donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Minnesota’s Mall of America collects around US$2000 per month, which is donated to various charitable organisations. Fountains at a chain of cafés called Rainforest Café raise around US$25,000 per year, which is donated to environmental causes. Disney World’s fountains raise around US$20,000 per year, which goes towards helping kids in foster homes.

Back home in Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) collects its coins twice a year from the 3200 square metres of moat outside the building, with proceeds going towards buying new artwork for the collection, as well as other worthy causes. Many shopping centres around Australia have smaller fountains and wishing wells located inside that receive coins to be donated to various charities and non-profit organisations. And all coins thrown into the Parliament House fountains go straight to UNICEF.

So whilst your wish may not come true (or maybe it will, who knows?) your coins certainly go to a worthy cause and may well help the wishes of those less fortunate come true.

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What charities do with your money

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