In 2015, an elderly Louisiana man cashed in a truckload of 55-gallon plastic water jugs he had collected over the previous 45 years at a nearby bank. After the last penny was counted, Otha Anders received over $5,130 as the total amount for his pennies. It’s more than 510,000 cents. To the general public, this news probably sounded wonderful, but for every American numismatist who collects and buys coins for fun and profit, Anders lost a lot of money.
According to the Monroe, Louisiana News-Star, Anders referred to each of his pennies as “a God-given prompting reminding me to always be grateful.” In Anders’ case, however, a “penny saved” can be more than a “penny earned”. Many of the ones he cashed in for instant cash would have been worth more money.
Since Anders began his hoarding in 1970, he is said to have collected many “wheat” pennies that the Mint minted between 1909 and 1958. Even today, there are still many “wheat” pennies in small breads and currency in circulation. When he started saving in 1970, he reportedly found several pennies worth of wheat in very good condition. Over the past 45 years, most every one of those pennies would become more valuable than a penny.
According to RS Yeoman’s “Guide Book of United States Coins 2015”, wheat cent values ranged from $0.10 in “good” condition to several hundred dollars in “almost” uncirculated condition. Also, the guide records some extremely rare pennies that were worth up to $5,000 in uncirculated condition. However, it would be impossible to estimate what the numismatic value of the entire collection might be; every coin should have been looked at by reputable coin dealers who could have helped him sell his collection, but it’s easy to imagine Anders would have made over $20,000 had he had the patience to do them assess.
In addition to the numismatic value, there is a precious metal value for the price of the full weight of the copper coin. All U.S. copper coins minted up to 1981 contained 95% copper. According to the “InvestmentMine” website, in 2015 the average value of copper was $2.86 per pound. All of Anders’ pennies together weighed more than 2,800 pounds. So if he had chosen all the coins, we would multiply 2,800 pounds and 2.86 the copper sum would have been a total of about $8,000. However, a conservative estimate of the number of copper pennies was 75%, we would get about $6,000, which is about $900 more than he received.
Although Anders received over $5,100 for his huge collection, he could have gotten a lot more had he taken the time to have them appraised by a qualified numismatist. However, the good news is that if you live in or near Louisiana, you can buy plenty of coin rolls from local banks and likely find some of those higher value wheat pennies.