The penny is the lowest coin we have as far as value goes, and yet it seems to hold our fascination more than all the others. Some people collect pennies while others avoid them, and still others take advantage of their novelty to promote a good cause. There are also people that attempt to voice a protest by paying traffic tickets or taxes with them. How many pennies would it take to pay your taxes? To buy a car? What if you had a million pennies? How much would they be worth?
I’ve known a lot of people with penny jars. I noticed after a while that some of the penny jars turned into penny jar collections. One turned into a penny jug and then a penny jug collection with no thought as to how to get the pennies out of the jug. I guess you would just shake, shake, shake the jug until the pennies came out, but of course we know that never works well. They all head to the bottom and if it’s more than half full, you really can’t shake it so that they come out. Another possibility is to bust the jug, but it’s a pretty thick jug, so he would probably have to use a hammer to crack it.
People and their pennies. In 2015, a Louisiana man cashed in half a million pennies that he had collected over the past forty years. That represents an average of 35 pennies saved every day. The seventy-three year old teacher brought fifteen five gallon water jugs chock full of pennies into his local bank. The bank did not put them on a scale, but the estimated weight of the pennies is more than a ton. Even with specialized coin counting machines, it took the bank over five hours to process them.
He said he only cashed them in because his homeowner’s policy would no longer cover them in the event of a loss. Oh, and these were plastic jugs, probably much easier to cut off the tops to get out the pennies than it would be to free those in my friend’s glass jug.
Making a payment under protest can make the news if you do it with pennies. Here are a few examples of how it’s done.
In July 2015, a college student in North Carolina protested the practice, required by state law, that sent the majority of parking fines paid by students at his school to other public schools in the state. He found out pretty innocently, just wondering what the money would go for before paying the fee, but learning that only 20% stayed at his school upset him. He bought in 11,000 pennies, unrolled them, and then made an appointment to pay his bill. As far as protests go, he was really polite and cooperative about it.
In August 2015, a man in Pennsylvania paid his most of his delinquent property tax bill with pennies, waiting until the very last day before his home was to be taken out from under him. Protesting that said taxes were “unethical,” and something he is forced to do “against my own will,” he posted his plight to Facebook with photos of 40,000 pennies. He applied the hash tags, #TaxationIsTheft and #StickItToTheMan to his post. Although he had visited more than fifteen banks in the three days leading up to the due date, he was only able to collect 50,000 pennies, more than 30,000 short of the amount to cover his taxes. He made the rest of the payment with a mixture of other coins and small bills.
A penny protest is not always successful. Back in 2010, a Washington state man planned to pay his property taxes with 33,000 pennies. He collected all the pennies and dragged them into the treasurer’s office, where his payment was sternly refused. The administrator said there was not enough staff to take the time to count the pennies.
The honest truth is, no business, organization, or individual has to take payment in the form you offer it. Just as a fast food restaurant can refuse to take a $100 bill because it will drain them of change for other customers plus their being aware that more counterfeit bills come in larger denominations. Any government office can refuse payments in pennies or other small change and denominations citing that it is a misuse of taxpayer dollars to assign staff to count it.
No doubt, the school accepted the student’s penny protest because schools are supportive of students that way, plus as I said, the guy was as polite and considerate toward them as he could be while still making the protest. The Pennsylvania man was successful in his attempt at protest because his payment was taken into a bank, and banks are set up to count lots of coins. Counting money is pretty much what they do, as long as you do not try to cram it into the tube at the drive-thru.
As large as those penny payments are, they all fell far short of a million pennies. Even the penny exchange the teacher in Louisiana made was only half a million pennies, and it took half a lifetime for him to gather those.
What does a million pennies look like? Who would want a million pennies? Who could deal with so many?
There is a real-life answer to that which we will discuss in a bit, but for now, let’s get the answer to our title question: How much is 1 million pennies worth?
One million pennies at face value is worth $10,000.00.
Another interesting fact I’ll throw in is that the cost to make those million pennies is $17,000.00.
That’s right. A penny costs more to make than it is worth. The mint loses money every time they make them. On the face of it, that is. Really, if the penny were not made, it would cost our economy a lot more. Without the penny, it would be almost impossible for states and localities to collect sales tax. Plus, it would be a pain for a lot of businesses that like to price things out at the psychologically enticing $9.99, $29.99, and so forth.
Here’s one more fun fact. If your one million pennies are dated between 1909 and 1982, you’ll get more than face value, about $14,000 today, if you melt them down for the copper and sell it.
Is A Million Pennies Practical?
What if you had a million pennies? What would you do with it? If government offices balk at the idea of taking in 33,000 pennies, what are they going to say if you manage to haul in a million of them?
Most places are not going to let you in the door with it, but there are a couple of organizations that will probably take them. Maybe.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has been encouraging students to collect pennies for the cause since 1994. Schools take on the project and the class bringing in the most pennies gets a pizza party. How many pennies has the Society collected with the help of school children? The 15 billion penny threshold has been breached. That is billion with a B. They’d surely consider taking your measly million. I bet you’re wondering how much 15 billion with a B pennies are worth: $150,000,000. Great job, kids!
Another organization that will take your million pennies is the annual Penny Harvest in New York, New York. It all started when a little girl asked her father, founder of Americans for Common Cents, why a homeless man had to be cold when people could easily help him. Since its inception in 1991, school children in the city have collected more than $10.5 million by going door to door in their neighborhoods. That’s a lot of pennies for children in just one city to bring in for charity!
What Do A Million Pennies Look Like?
Thanks to the results of the Penny Harvest, we can see what a million or so pennies looks like in real life. The photo below is of Penny Harvest pennies spread into Penny Field in Rockefeller Center.
Another way to see how a million pennies looks is through the MegaPenny project. Their web site offers views of how one through one quintillion pennies would look, stacked neatly, of course. Their images also help us understand concepts like the difference between a million, a billion, a trillion, and more, all the way into the Q’s. Be sure to jump over to the site there so see all of the other pics and be amazed at how big numbers can get.
So, you see, even the lowly penny can add up to a hefty sum if you’re patient enough to keep saving them – and have a place to keep them. Be sure it is also a place with a really strong floor if you are aiming for the million. Maybe you have a good cause you want to support and can use the penny as a kind of gimmick to get attention and encourage participation. A penny can do a lot of good when it’s in the right place. Why not share some of your penny stories in the comments here? I look forward to seeing them. Thanks for reading!