While you’re out buying gifts for everyone on your nice list, chances are you’ll come across a sure sign that Christmas is fast approaching: A Salvation Army bell ringer and one of their iconic red kettles. Most of us will drop in whatever spare change we can quickly dig out of our pockets as we rush by. But for some passerby, the red kettles present an opportunity to play secret Santa in the most generous ways.
Over the years, substantial red kettle donations from anonymous donors have come in many interesting forms. Here are just a few of the valuable oddities that have filled those red buckets in recent years:
Diamonds are a kettle’s best friend?
2011: A worker at a Salvation Army collection center in Shawnee, Kansas noticed a wadded-up piece of paper lying among the coins and bills. He almost threw it in the trash, but decided to open it to be safe. He was astonished to discover that a solitary diamond had been tucked inside. The identity of the generous donor was never found.
To have and to hold….
2011: An engagement ring and wedding band, along with an appraisal, were tucked inside a dollar bill and anonymously slipped into a red kettle outside a grocery store in Henderson, North Carolina. The donor was never identified.
2014: In Cambridge, Massachusetts, a widow placed her engagement ring and wedding band into a kettle with a note saying that the donation was in honor her late husband, who was a “giver.” Another widow later purchased them from the Salvation Army for $21,000 — far more than their appraised value — and returned the rings to the original donor.
A long lost treasure
2016: In Sebastian, Florida, an unidentified passerby placed a 300-year-old gold escudo directly into the hands of the bell ringer. The coin, worth several thousand dollars, had been recovered off the Florida coast from the wrecks of Spanish treasure ships known as the 1715 Plate Fleet. The donor didn’t want to drop the rare treasure into the kettle because he feared it would get mixed in with the other loose coins.
Cold hard cash
2015: A very generous donor dropped a $10,000 check into a red kettle in Jacksonville, FL.
2014: A mysterious donor dropped bundles of ten $100 bills at a time into kettles all over the Minneapolis area, totaling over $14,000.
Silver Bells (“bars”?)
2015: In Syracuse, New York, The Salvation Army received a donation that was too big to fit into a kettle – a 100-ounce silver bar valued around $1,600. The generous donor wished to remain anonymous and was never identified.
Putting their money where their mouth is
2014: Among the most unusual items found in red kettles so far, Salvation Army spokesmen in both Florida and Missouri reported receiving gold teeth in the same year. An anonymous person put four gold teeth in an Orlando kettle, while another donated a single gold tooth in Kansas City.
Worth their weight in gold
The first time a Salvation Army organization reported a gold coin donation was in 1982, when an anonymous donor dropped a Krugerrand into a red kettle north of Chicago. According to legend, the benevolent donor was a World War II veteran who wanted to give something in return for the charity’s service that he received on the front line. Today, Krugerrands and other types of gold coins show up in the Salvation Army’s red kettles all across the country each year, providing solid gold evidence that there is indeed a Santa Claus. For example:
Since 1998: In Fort Collins, Colorado, a pair of 1-ounce gold Krugerrands were slipped into red kettles by the same anonymous donor for almost two decades. The undercover giver always returned later to The Salvation Army to buy back the coins at $1,000 more than their value. Notes and poems in the same handwriting were often attached to the donations, until 2002 – when the coins were accompanied by a note stating that the decades-long secret Santa had died, but the tradition would be continued yearly by the family in his or her honor. And it hasn’t stopped since.
2018: This year, gold coins worth several thousands of dollars have already been anonymously dropped into Salvation Army kettles around the Chicago metro area, including several Gold American Eagles and Gold Krugerrands.
Which brings us to….
Our December giveaway!
We would love to hear about a unique gifting experience you’ve had during the holiday season. Tell us about a time you enjoyed playing “Santa” to put a smile on a special someone’s face, or received the perfect gift at just the right time from an anonymous giver. We may share a story or two on our Facebook page, as well!
Commenting below will serve as your entry for our December giveaway. Submit your comment (one comment only please) by December 31st, and one winner will be randomly selected on January 1st to receive an Argor-Heraeus 1 gram gold bar! Whether you decide to keep it or play secret Santa with it is up to you!
*(No Scrooges allowed! Inappropriate comments will be deleted and disqualified.)