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Two ancient coins anonymously donated to the Tampa Salvation Army will be auctioned on Friday

The gold coins date back to 42-40 B.C. and were dropped in a red kettle outside the Publix near Plant High School in December. They could be worth thousands.
Last December, an anonymous donor dropped two ancient Greek gold coins into a red kettle outside the Publix located across the street from Plant High School.
Last December, an anonymous donor dropped two ancient Greek gold coins into a red kettle outside the Publix located across the street from Plant High School. [ Courtesy of Heritage Auctions ]
Published Apr. 22, 2020
Updated Apr. 22, 2020

TAMPA - The Salvation Army of Tampa/Hillsborough County brings in around $400,000 annually during its wintertime Red Kettle Campaign, which has the familiar volunteers ringing a bell and collecting money.

This week, they will belatedly add to last year’s total.

In December, an anonymous donor dropped two ancient Greek gold coins into a red kettle outside the Publix located near Tampa’s Plant High School.

The coins will be auctioned online at 3 p.m. on Friday through the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. They could bring in thousands of dollars.

It is part of a larger auction featuring thousands of coins from throughout the world and history. But the auction house will not take a commission on the Salvation Army’s coins.

“Isn’t it amazing?” said Andy Miller, Salvation Army area commander for Hillsborough County. “Whoever made that donation isn’t even getting a receipt for it. It is completely anonymous.”

The first coin was dropped into the red kettle on December 6.

Six days later, a second identical coin was donated and wrapped in a note that read, “My hope is to continue drawing attention and publicity to such a wonderful organization. The whole country should know about the amazing things the Salvation Army does for their community.”

It was signed, “Doing the most good.”

Last December, an anonymous donor dropped two ancient Greek gold coins into a red kettle outside the Publix located across the street from Plant High School.
This note was wrapped around one of the coins.
Last December, an anonymous donor dropped two ancient Greek gold coins into a red kettle outside the Publix located across the street from Plant High School. This note was wrapped around one of the coins. [ Courtesy of Heritage Auctions ]

Heritage Auctions heard of the good deed through news reports and offered to sell the coins for no charge.

Each has a gold value of around $450, said Heritage Auctions’ vice president Todd Imhof, who described his company as "the largest rare coin dealers and auctioneers in the world.”

But “the collector value is bit more," he said. "We think if the Salvation Army had sold them to a coin dealer, they would have gotten $1,000 each. Hopefully we can deliver a higher price.”

The coins were manufactured between 42 and 40 B.C., according to Heritage Auction’s website.

One side features a Roman consul accompanied by two lictors, who were civil servants who acted as attendants or bodyguards in ancient Rome. The other side displays an eagle with spread wings that is standing on a scepter and clutching a laurel wreath in its right talon.

“Maybe a thousand are known to exist,” Imhof. “A hoard of these were discovered in the mid-1500s in the area that is now Turkey, Iran and the Black Sea."

This auction comes at an opportune time for the Salvation Army of Tampa/Hillsborough County.

Miller said the Salvation Army has experienced a 500 percent increase in calls for help throughout the southeast during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but donations are down.

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It is during the winter season, which includes the Red Kettle Campaign, that the Salvation Army raises 75 percent of the funding necessary to operate its downtown emergency shelter that helps the homeless get back on their feet.

The rest is raised throughout the year.

“We have other appeals like an Easter appeal,” Miller said. “We’re still waiting for the numbers to be finalized but it’s looking like it’s down.”

The shelter is currently at its 120-person capacity.

“We help them get jobs while they save up 80 percent of what they make so they can put that toward getting into their own place," Miller said. "That cycle has slowed down for us because entry level positions have dried up.”

The money raised through the auction will support the shelter.

“The challenge is we still have to operate it,” Miller said. “We need to provide that service.”