Family found a million pennies in a crawl space, now trying to sell them all for $25,000

Originally published at: Family found a million pennies in a crawl space, now trying to sell them all for $25,000 | Boing Boing


Something tells me they are about to be haunted by a very boring and annoying ghost. Either that or they’ll suddenly discover those pennies were the only thing holding that side of the house up…


How old were the pennies?


It sounds like they have a point. There genuinely could be some valuable ones in there, especially if the collection is very old. Good luck finding it though. Maybe you could presort them by year or weight.


How is the bank allowed to not accept them? They’re legal tender? Can they be exchanged by some government agency? The US Mint?


The bank can refuse them if they are not rolled, I’ve had that happen on much smaller amounts of money. They did give me some roll paper tubes, though maybe that’s because it was just a few.


Why would you exchange them 1:1 when you can sell them 2:1?


Okay, but that doesn’t answer my question about why they are allowed to.


I wish I knew.


The pennies holding the house up might be the least of their problems; what if they were ballast?

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Edit to add “house”


Damn, I know a guy just down the street here in Tijuana who would love to sift through every single penny to look for the rare ones if he could have a cut of the profits. Too bad he’s averse to getting his green card renewed, so he wouldn’t be able to cross the border. :man_shrugging:

Right now, I’m just trying to help him get a good, working cellphone so he can post finds to eBay.


Yea, I don’t think they have counters anymore…
But depending on where they live, they could take them to a casino. They still all have counting machines. That’s what I would do.


I understand banks not taking rolled coins. But if they rolled them, would they take them? Wouldn’t they have to?

Honestly, people love a treasure hunt. Bag up a 1000 pennies (give or take, sell by weight), sell them to collectors as unsorted. Make 10,000 penny bags as well.

Sell them for well above face value. Include add ons like the little collectors books for pennies. Instant collection starter! There is bound to be some errors and rare ones in there.


Coins are not legal tender, and can be refused, unlike paper bills which are legal tender and, as it says on the bits of paper themselves, “This note is legal tender for all debts public and private.” There have been several cases, some of which were posted to this site, where coins were refused for payment of such debts, or accepted despite not being legally required to. The exact legal bits are far more complex, but in essence coins are supposed to be representative of their inherent value as precious metals, so nobody would refuse them as they have a real value, whereas paper might not be worth even the paper they’re printed on and so require laws to force their acceptance.

While coins have been decoupled from their metal value for some time – most banks will cheerfully give you the nominal $20 value of some gold coins, and I doubt there is a dollar’s worth of brass and copper in a Sacagawea coin – there has been a general reluctance to declare them tender for all debts, partially to avoid someone buying these million pennies and going to pay parking fines with them or something, but no doubt for many other societal and political reasons as well.


i think it’s about practically. it’d be a lot of labor for the bank to package up all those coins.

some banks ( or at least credit unions ) have free coin sorting machines for their members. even those have limits, and it would take a while, but the family could do a few hundred runs of it :crying_cat_face:

( some sort of optical sorting for valuable pennies would be really cool… someone surely has such a machine )


The Vons by my house has one of those Coinstar machines - but it charges a fee if you want actual cash. Or you can take Amazon cards (and probably other ones, too) for the exact amount. That would take a lot of trips to the store, tho.
I never use cash, but when I do I stick change in a Ball jar in the kitchen and when it’s full, I’ll generate a gift card when I go shopping. :slight_smile:


Really? Wow, today I learned. I had no idea there was this legal distinction between bills and coins. Weird and fascinating. I wonder if that’s true of my country also. I need to look that up…

In Canada we’ve been phasing out smaller bills gradually because coins cost less (paper bills degrade quickly) and have been dropping lower value coins like pennies and nickels. All very pragmatic and rational but that would have weird effects if the legal distinction for coins exists.


There are coin rolling machines, though. Since banks are regulated as a public service, it seems like a reasonable thing to ask them to do.


Honestly, I cannot understand why they’re balking at an 8-9% fee for CoinStar. That’s some miserly behavior, right there.

Michael Caine Christmas GIF by Sky


The bank is a business, just like any other. They don’t have to do anything they don’t want to, barring laws that require them to do so. They might lose a customer, but a customer with $8k in pennies may not be a customer they want.

Honestly - they don’t have to take legal tender. “This bill is legal tender for all debts…” - when you deposit, you’re not fulfilling a debt. If you showed up with a suitcase full of hundreds, there’s a good chance they won’t take that either.

My advice would be to sell them at face value to someone who wants to dig thru them. They won’t be getting the full potential value, but they also aren’t putting in the work to find those valuable coins.