There was a time when going downtown was a big deal. People would get dressed up and women would put on their clean white gloves. This is when the Westin – St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco first started washing dirty and grimy coins. It was noticed that the tarnished coins would soil the gloves worn at the time. So since 1938, the Westin – St Francis Hotel has washed all the coins that are taken in by the hotel from their bar, restaurants, and cafes.
In a hidden room away from prying eyes, a lone employee scrubs the coins until they are clean and bright. The coins are then returned into circulation by the hotel once the scrubbing process is complete. It is believed that this is the only hotel that continues the coin cleaning process.
In a recent article it also states that:
“It’s a connection to a different time,” Holsen said as he rolled up his sleeves and tucked his tie into his dress shirt. “A connection to a more gentle time, when to go downtown was a big deal. Dress up, put on a hat and gloves, and go to Macy’s.”
Money washing at the St. Francis began in 1938 when hotelier Dan London noticed that coins dirtied a woman’s white gloves.
“Coins were used to pay for lunch tabs,” Holsen said, “tips, taxi rides, everything. It was rare to use a bill.”
Less coins are taken in by the hotel since Coke machines and pay phones are now a thing of the past. Coins that are bent, painted, or Canadian are removed prior to being placed back into circulation at the hotel. Only the cleanest and shiniest are allowed to circulate among the guests and patrons of the hotel.