Picture the scene. You’re walking along a canal towpath in London on an unseasonably cold, grey spring day, when you see a pile of something shining and amber-coloured, glimmering on the ground ahead of you. At first, you can’t figure out what it is. And then you get closer, and you see – spilling out across the damp cobbles – a small mountain of bright, coppery 2p coins.
You can’t figure out exactly how many coins are there in total, but it looks like a lot. And there doesn’t seem to be anybody around.
What do you do?
The question of how people react when faced with the prospect of apparently free money has been explored in countless social experiments before, and yet it never ceases to fascinate. Recently, photographer Lana Mesić decided to test it out for herself in London.
Mesić is originally from Croatia but lives in Holland, and was staying in the UK capital while creating work for an artists’ residency. She had built a tower of £300 worth of 2p coins as a commentary on London’s status as a “prominent global financial capital” – but once the project was over and the tower dismantled, Mesić wasn’t sure what to do with the money. With 15,000 coins weighing in at around 235 lb, transporting the cash back to Holland didn’t seem like a particularly practical solution.
Eventually, Mesić and her Airbnb host Jamahl McMurran struck upon the idea of leaving the mountain of coins on a canal path close to McMurran’s property, and watching to see what happened next.
McMurran posted photos of the events that followed on his Twitter feed, in a thread that has since been liked and retweeted thousands of time.
One man threw a handful of coins over his head in a distinctly frolicksome manner:
But of course, the magic couldn’t last.
Mesić and McMurran tell Mashable that they weren’t surprised at the response to the experiment online. “I think the social experiment has gone viral because people love watching other people's behaviours,” says McMurran. “Humans are naturally interested in what others do and how they behave in unusual circumstances.”
“When you have something like this, it’s almost like a treasure pile,” agrees Mesić. “Like a pirate with a chest of coins. It appeals to something magic.”
Main image: twitter.com/JHM_UK