Gamma Dose Rate Meter

The Gamma Dose Rate Meter was probably the coolest thing I saw at the Picc-A-Dilly flea market on Sunday. Me, Kate, Eric and a few other people drove there and spent a few hours. It’s been close to a year since I visited that place. I didn’t buy it, though. I did buy a couple books, some padlocks to pick and a 9-LED flashlight for just $3.00. Went on some hikes too, one on Saturday morning and another on Sunday evening.

Last night me and linear did epiosde #4 of The Phone Show. If anyone reading this wants to listen to the archives, visit I’m enjoying doing it. I thought it would be kind of a drag, having to come up with an hour’s worth of show every week, but we’re not even preparing for it. We just take phone calls for most of the hour and hope for the best. So thanks a lot for the show, Party 934!

Last month while looking through all my old envelopes to discover my old addresses, I also came across this handwritten chart, written on the back of my work schedule from Union Station Cine, showing how much money I could make doing quarter roll scams:

This is something I wrote about on my Travels page, but never went into too much detail on. But here’s how it went… In 1992 I discovered that I could pass off rolls of pennies as rolls of quarters to convenience store clerks and other businesses. I did this by taking a roll of pennies and removing 4 of the pennies, then wrapping a couple strips of construction paper around the roll. Stick the finished product into an ordinary paper quarter roll and you’ve got yourself a roll of quarters worth just 46 cents.

In 1992 I’d passed a few of these around Alton and it seemed to work perfectly every time. So Chris Tomkinson and I decide that we’ll spend an entire day, driving from Alton to Paducah, Kentucky, passing out quarter rolls to as many businesses as possible. And by we, I mean me. Chris wasn’t dumb enough to pass the quarters, but I still wanted to split the profits with him if he came along with me.

We had a great time during the trip and the fake quarter rolls paid for our gas and excessive amounts of food and drink all the way there. We also had fun exploring some of Paducah. I don’t know why Chris picked Paducah of all places, but it was a good destination and we got to visit Metropolis, Illinois, the home of Superman! (Or so they claim.)

What I would do is buy something for under $1.00 (usually) and then say, “Could you use any quarters? I happen to have this roll here.” and they would almost always accept it. Then I’d get my $9.00 in change and quickly leave. For the most part, passing the rolls of quarters went smoothly, but I did have occasional close calls. Like one lady who really needed the quarters for her register and started banging them on the edge of the counter to break them, only they wouldn’t break because of the extra layers of paper. I quickly made my way out the door and ran to the car.

Another time the guy opened the roll before giving me my change and saw that there were pennies inside. I had to pretend that I was the one who got scammed by some other store. “The clerk at 7-Eleven had to give me this yesterday because they were out of large bills!” I can’t remember if he seemed to believe me, but at least he didn’t jump over the counter and tackle me for it.

And then there’s the lady who discovered the fakes as I was talking to her and backing out the door. She sees the pennies and goes, “Hey!” I quickly exit and run to my car. Luckily she had to walk around the long counter before she could make it out the door. I was in my car and starting it when she burst out of the front doors and towards my car. I backed out of my place and just kept backing up out of the parking lot and down the street. This particular incident actually happened before Paducah, in East Alton right across the street from the police station.

In between hitting stores, Chris put together the fake rolls of quarters while I drove. I had a metal file box filled with all the necessary supplies for making fakes. I guess we weren’t too worried about fingerprints because I don’t remember us taking any precautions against that. Guess it’d be hard to lift prints from construction paper, though.

Our last close call was very late at night as we were making our way home. On some Illinois highway, cops were stopping all cars and checking for drunks. Before we got up to the checkpoint we were pretty sure that it was some kind of state-wide manhunt for quarter roll scammers. They check my drivers license and talked to us for a few seconds to make sure we weren’t drinking. They shined their light all over the inside of my car. The metal box full of counterfeiting supplies was on the floor in the back.

The problem came when I couldn’t find my insurance card. I looked everywhere for it and couldn’t find it. Not in the glovebox or the visor. Checked all over the floor. Nowhere. The cop kept leaving and coming back to see if I’d found it. And each time he kept shining his light around my car. He finally had us pull to the side of the road to get out of the way of traffic. Chris was freaking out, sure that they would eventually search the car and find our box. After what seemed like forever, I finally found my insurance card amongst all the trash on my floor and we were allowed to leave. It was a stressful search though.

Our final profits for the day were pretty pitiful. Nowhere near the possible $9,500 that I fantasied we could take in. We didn’t keep track of the money during the trip, but we just spent a lot of it on food, gas and other junk and didn’t have much left by the time we got home. But it was still a fun and completely free trip. After our scamming roadtrip, I gave up on the idea of quarter roll scamming being profitable and never tried it again, mostly because it seemed just too risky. Took me a few more years, though, to give up my dream of scamming for a living.

Our quarter roll scamming did make the police log in the Alton Telegraph. I remember they claimed we’d hit places that we didn’t actually hit, such as the Wood River Donut Shop. So either the police were trying to anger us into calling them and telling them how wrong they were, or there was a copycat criminal out there.

One comment

  • If Metropolis, Illinois is supposed to be the home of Superman, then how come Christopher Reeve was always flying past the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty?

    Did they have those in Illinois in the 1980s? No? Because we totally had the hell out of those in New York back then.

    What I’m trying to say here is, comic book superheroes are totally real and they live near me and we’re best friends.

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