Human ingenuity: a new way to count

images-1My business is collector coins, which I often have to count. When they’re all identical they can be counted in stacks of ten. But for non-uniform coins, there seemed to be no alternative to, well, just counting them. Counting by twos helps a bit. But it’s still laborious, requiring concentration, and it’s easy to lose count, especially when dropping a coin or two.

Recently I had a mess of about 5,000 mixed coins I planned to sell in bags of 200. So I asked my wife, “Darling, do you have a little spare time?” And she agreed to help.

But my wife can have her own way of doing things.

UnknownSo after a while, I thought I’d better check on her, and lo, found a strange sight: a vast array of coins spread out in neat rows. Could this make sense?

Then she explained the method in this seeming madness: on a newspaper sheet, she’d marked out a grid of ten squares by twenty, to put one coin on each square. When done, she’d roll up the sheet to neatly funnel the coins into a bag.

imagesThe light bulb went on: I instantly grasped the system’s beauty. Laying coins out on the grid is actually faster than counting them one by one or two by two. Moreover, you cannot lose count or miscount. And no mental concentration is required – she did the job while watching TV!

Through all my decades counting coins, I had never thought of this. And when she finished, I carefully kept her grid sheet for future use.

I guess this shows my wife is smarter than me; but I was pretty smart to marry her.

4 Responses to “Human ingenuity: a new way to count”

  1. DAN FAREK Says:


  2. Doug Smith Says:

    A side benefit of this system is that it allows a last glance over the group if it was important that the stock was being evenly/fairly divided or that you were trying for a ‘good mix’ as opposed to 200 Canadians.

  3. rationaloptimist Says:

    (This reply is from Frank’s domesticated wife who holds a master’s degree in poetry.) As a working poet, I endorse the wise insight once made by the inimitable Mr. Robert Frost that, “all science is domestic science.” Throughout 27 years of marriage to my darling Frank S. Robinson, I have experimented with various ways of accomplishing the tasks of cooking, cleaning, decorating, operating appliances, loading the dishwasher, tending to kids and pets, inventing and recalling passwords, efficiently packing suitcases, etc. Every now and then, one of my endless experiments yields a useful strategy for solving practical problems. Most often, however, Frank is thoroughly convinced that I’m just playing around, messing up, daydreaming, or wasting time. 🙂 I still love him very much, of course. 🙂

  4. Wilfred Toenjes Says:

    I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this web site. Thanks , I¡¦ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your site?

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