Monday morning, a one ounce gold coin dropped to the bottom of the red kettle hanging beside Cecil Clements as he stood in the chilly winter air unknowingly ringing his bell and wishing passersby a Merry Christmas.
The coin was donated at the Walmart Super Center on Skyline Drive during Clements’ first shift of the holiday season.
Clements said he typically watches the kids more than anybody, so he doesn’t know who donated the generous gift.
"Whoever did it is a great person," he said.
Sometime between Clements’ shift from 10 a.m. to noon, a 22-karat gold coin from the South African Mint known as a Krugerrand was donated as part of the Salvation Army’s annual kettle drive that collects monetary donations to help others at Christmas time.
One side of the coin has an embossed image of Paul Kruger, an early South African president. The other side has the country’s native springbok antelope.
Salvation Army Capt. David Robinson took the coin to be appraised at a local pawn shop Tuesday morning when he and his staff found it while counting the previous days donations.
"I took it in this morning to see if it was real," he said.
The pawn shop attendant tested the coin, looked it up and compared it to everything he had.
"He said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s real,’" Robinson said.
Jackie Worman, owner of the Old Coin Shop, said Krugerrands are selling on the market at an average price of $1,250, but are worth about 10 percent more in South Africa.
"Coins are a good investment," she said. "If the person who donated it held onto it for a long time, it appreciated to the price it is today."
Donating Krugerrands to the Salvation Army has become a national trend with more and more coins appearing in kettles across the country in the last several decades.
Monday’s donation marks Conway’s first Krugerrand donation. Over the weekend, the Salvation Army received a Krugerrand wrapped in a $100 in Spokane, Wash., and another in Naperville, Ill.
Robinson said once everyone has taken a look at it, he plans to take it to a gold dealer to sell, so the money can be put toward the kettle fund.
"The money helps us to help others at Christmas time," Robinson said. Money raised from Thanksgiving to Christmas is used to buy food for families in need and help with expenses like rent and utilities, he said.
With Thanksgiving falling later in the month, the donation period is one week shorter this year.
The Salvation Army of Conway is $19,000 behind where it usually is in donation money at this time due to the two days lost from ice and snow last week.
"[The Krugerrand] signifies our hope for the Christmas season," Robinson said.
Robinson is working to get as many volunteers as he can to fill the kettle locations around town.
"I know the great support we get locally, and I hope people will think about us and give more if they can," he said.
Salvation Army kettles can be found around town until Dec. 24. However, the kettle campaign will continue through Jan. 31 through online and in-store donations.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)