Family Finds Small Fortune in Late Man's Home, All in Pennies

And the 1 million coins are worth more than $10K—they're made of pure copper
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
Family Finds Small Fortune in Late Man's Home, All in Pennies
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/John_Brueske)

For years, California real estate agent John Reyes, his wife, and members of her extended family have been slowly (as their schedules allow) cleaning out the home of her late father, Fritz, located in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles. One find in particular, however, in the deceased German immigrant's residence has left the family stunned: a million pennies, stuffed into a crawl space in the basement, per NBC Los Angeles. KTLA details the day last year when family members got on their knees to access the cramped area and started spotting loose pennies on the ground.

"Loose pennies led to crates, which led to boxes, which eventually led to the discovery of dozens of bank bags filled with an undetermined amount of pennies from decades ago," KTLA notes. After weighing the heavy bags, the family estimated there were about 1 million pennies in total, which normally would equate to $10,000—except these aren't just any pennies, but ones made of pure copper. Today's pennies are made of zinc and coated with copper, a move made in 1982 by the US government. Reyes says say Fritz and his brother apparently hoarded the copper coins during World War II, when pennies were temporarily made of zinc to conserve copper.

Reyes says that his family decided against cashing in the pennies at a Coinstar site—"we didn't want to pay the 8% [fee]"—and keeping them permanently in their own homes wasn't an option, either. Even local banks balked, with one Wells Fargo branch saying all those pennies wouldn't fit in their vault. For now, the family has placed the pennies up for sale for $25,000 on the OfferUp resale site. Reyes says they're not sure exactly how much the pennies are worth—one 1943 penny once sold for $1.7 million in 2010—but he adds his family simply doesn't have any more time to spend sifting through them all. Reyes says any interested party who's ready to take the entire stash off their hands can contact him via his Instagram. (More pennies stories.)

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