1 million pennies
Mayukh Saha
Mayukh Saha
June 2, 2024 ·  6 min read

Family Finds 1 Million Copper Pennies While Cleaning Out Los Angeles Home

When John Reyes was assisting his wife in cleaning out her father’s home from the 1900s about nine months ago, they probably never expected to stumble across a veritable treasure. The husband was simply moving through the crawl space in the basement of the home of his father-in-law. That’s when he ended up finding some loose pennies that were held together by paper rolls, which were almost disintegrating. He then decided to keep looking and then ended up finding dozens of bags filled with copper pennies. The 41-year-old real estate agent in the Inland Empire in California further estimated that the bags contained around 1 million copper pennies. If the count is right, it has a face value of around $10,000. 

Speaking to the media after this remarkable discovery, Reyes mentioned, “There are banks named on the bags I haven’t even heard of or don’t exist anymore.” The family, as well as the real estate agent, had initially decided to take the pennies to a bank. They would rather have them exchanged for the current value of the dollar. For this purpose, he called up a Wells Fargo branch in Los Angeles. However, the interim manager informed him that they didn’t even have enough room to store all the coins. The manager did ask him to bring about $300 worth of pennies at a single time. However, the real estate agent mentioned that it would be pretty impossible- since the coins were tightly wrapped in paper rolls. 

Real Estate Agent Finds A Million Pennies Inside Paper Rolls

John Reyes then decided to call up the local bank and further spoke with the manager. Needless to say, he was naturally quite shocked. Reyes stated, “I showed her a photo and she was like, ‘I’ve been working with Wells Fargo forever and I’ve never seen anything like this. You can’t cash these in. There’s a chance you may have valuable pennies.” For our readers who would like some history behind the bags filled with a million pennies, the official Mint in the US had made pennies out of pure copper. However, since 1943 they were being made out of zinc-covered steel only. This is because copper was needed in heavy amounts during the Second World War. Since 1982, the penny has been made primarily from metals like zinc.

The bags containing 1 million pennies in total in the old family home.
Image Credits: John Reyes

After he got rejected by a couple of banks, Reyes started looking for penny hunters on TikTok. He also considered determining the exact value of the coins. On the other hand, his family decided that they would rather prefer it if someone took it off their hands. For this purpose, he put the million pennies up on OfferUp, which is a resale website.

Read: 19th-century Levi’s Jeans Found In Mine Shaft Sell For More Than $87,000

The Plan For The 1 Million Pennies

He further claimed that he had received a bunch of offers from people who would be willing to take a third or half of their pennies. The house that the pennies were found in was built in the early 1900s. The family is of the opinion that it was previously used as a bed and breakfast. John’s father-in-law, Fritz, and his brother were both German immigrants. They had been living in these homes for decades until Fritz passed away, and his brother relocated. 

Since then, the real estate agent, his wife, and their relatives have been trying to clean out this home. They plan to renovate it for their next kin. John went on to recall that his father-in-law and his brother had kept everything. Hence, the house was filled to the brim with items that had differing levels of importance. He further added that it had taken them quite a few years out of their schedule to get the place ready and clean for renovations. He also mentioned that the cleaning job had turned into a rescue mission one fine day when they had to get on their knees to reach under the crawl space. 

But They Had The Main Problem Of Cashing It Out

After finding the bags with a million pennies, the family’s immediate idea was to cash out and be done with it. The real estate agent recalled, “We’ve got to take these to Coinstar. But later, we didn’t want to pay 8% and there’s no way we could have taken these all the way home to Ontario.” After being rejected, they hoped that their local bank in San Bernardino County would be more willing to work with them and take the coins.

But first, they would have to get the pennies straight out of the basement. Then they have to bring it all the way back to Ontario. Reyes mentioned, “Literally bag-by-bag, we had to take them out of the basement, up the stairs, and into the trucks…it took hours. It took a whole day just to get them out of the crawlspace.” For this, they had to use two separate trucks- one of which was a Dodge Heavy Duty. They loaded the pennies onto the axles of the truck beds. Then, they watched as thousands of pennies started pushing their weight on the suspensions of the trucks. They then drove the trucks all the way to Ontario, where their coins resided while they decided what to do. 

How Much Are Copper Pennies Worth Anyway?

Now for those wondering how much those coins are actually worth, a million pennies financially have a value of $10,000. However, the ones found aren’t the ordinary pennies that you use daily. Interestingly, these pennies are made from copper, implying they could have a far greater value. As it stands, copper pennies are extremely rare, which is why they hold great historical value and are usually considered to be a collector’s item. This implies that they are worth more than just their face value. The real estate agent, believing that to be the case, had actually put the coins up on OfferUp for $30,000, which was thrice their value. However, he didn’t find anyone since then who would take the entire bunch. 

Interestingly, one might believe that coming across a million copper pennies is nothing short of a dream. However, in reality, they are more trouble than it’s worth. The family, currently, is struggling to get rid of this money, and even the banks will not be taking them as they don’t have enough space for storage. 

The Possible History Behind The 1 Million Pennies

The real estate agent mentioned that his father-in-law and their brother had emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1960s, and were war babies since they were born during the war. The house was built in 1904 and has seven bedrooms, three kitchens, and multiple bathrooms. Before passing away, Fritz never mentioned anything, except a cryptic warning, “He just told us to make sure we take our time when going through the home.

Reyes mentioned that his father-in-law had probably started collecting pennies once the US started switching from copper to zinc. Reyes claimed, “You have German immigrants who came over very young, and these were two great men who thought you should own things that are stored in value. They don’t believe in much besides the value of precious metals.” Needless to say, the one million pennies could come in handy, as the real estate agent and his immediate family are thinking of renting the home out. Thus, the money would be a great capital for investment.

Keep Reading: These valuable pennies are worth up to $200,000—and they might be in your pocket

Sources

  1. Ontario family finds 1 million copper pennies in the basement crawl space of 1900s-era home.” LA Times. Summer Lin. June 9, 2023.
  2. Family finds 1 million copper pennies while cleaning out Los Angeles home.” Fox4 KC. Travis Schlepp. June 8 2023.
  3. HOW MUCH IS 1 MILLION PENNIES WORTH? FAMILY FINDS COPPER COINS IN BASEMENT.” HITC. Ellissa Bain. June 10, 2023.