What would you do if you found 1 million pennies? A family in California found a gigantic hidden stash of the copper coins, but they are having a difficult time cashing them in. Even banks do not want to deal with the hassle of all those pennies, which would take two to three trucks to move. Some of the coins are still contained in bank-sealed bags and boxes. Some are from financial institutions that no longer exist.
One Too Penny
Last fall, John Reyes and his cousin were cleaning out the basement of Reyes’ late father-in-law’s house when they discovered dozens of bags and boxes in the crawl space filled with an estimated 1 million pennies worth around $10,000, reports the New York Times.
Their penny jackpot is not the boon you would think it would be. The first obstacle was physically removing the pennies from the crawl space. Reyes explained that moving the haul left imprints on his fingers because the bags and boxes were so heavy.
The find was certainly unexpected. Reyes told the NYT: “All we could think was how in the world did my father-in-law and his brother do this on their own? Crazy.”
On the plus side, each parcel has the number of pennies inside written on the outside, making that part of the process a little easier.
Reyes nixed the idea of using a Coinstar machine to convert the pennies because the company charges an 11.9-percent processing fee for each transaction. When he attempted to take the pennies to local banks, he discovered that they did not want them. One bank did not even have a vault large enough to accommodate them.
A Wells Fargo manager, however, gave him a bit of hope, suggesting he may have a million-dollar penny within his haul. “That was one of the first times I had heard about pennies being worth more than a penny,” Reyes explained.
A Needle In A Haystack
Before World War II, pennies were made of pure copper. During the war, copper was used for ammunition and military equipment, so the coins were made of zinc-covered steel instead. Pennies made from 1982 onwards are largely zinc with just a little bit of copper.
Reyes’ father-in-law was a German immigrant who believed copper pennies would increase in value, so he and his brother started collecting them. He may have been on to something—sort of. There are some rare pennies that are valuable, particularly a collection from 1943 that was the result of a printing error. In 2022, one of these 1943 pennies sold for nearly $300,000.
But sifting through 1 million pennies for a rare one is like searching for a needle in a haystack. It is an arduous task that Reyes and his family are not interested in attempting. They have listed the lot on online sales marketplace OfferUp for $25,000. An interested buyer must pick them up. The listing notes that some of the coins may be valuable, but there is no guarantee.
Over 300 people have expressed interest in the pennies. The family just wants to sell the collection of pennies as is and is not interested in allowing potential buyers to go through them first and negotiate deals over potential rare coins.
Reyes has only examined about 1 or 2 percent of the pennies, so you can imagine the work required to go through all of them!
By Noelle Talmon, contributor for Ripleys.com