Staff at Rustin Origin Bank in Rustin, Louisiana, are unlikely to ever forget the day in October 2015 when Otha Anders arrived at their branch to make a deposit. Why? Because Anders wasn’t making an ordinary deposit. He was making a deposit of pennies. A lot of pennies.
In fact, Anders had so many pennies to deposit that transporting them to the bank required a truck, while actually bringing them into the premises needed a cart and a hand barrow. The whole operation also required the help of five friends and family members, and the coins were stored in 15 large water bottles, each with a capacity of five gallons.
Well aware that his penny stash was out of the ordinary, Anders had actually contacted the bank ahead of time to warn them. Speaking to ABC News, the bank’s senior vice president, Ryan Kilpatrick, said, “It’s shocking, for sure. I would say he’s done a lot of collecting over the years.”
Now in his mid-70s, Anders had 45 years prior decided to begin saving the pennies that came his way. As for the very first penny he saved, it was one he had found lying on the ground. Speaking to The News-Star in 2015, Anders said, “I became convinced that spotting a lost or dropped penny was an additional God-given incentive reminding me to always be thankful.”
“There have been days where I failed to pray, and more often than not, a lost or dropped penny would show up to remind me,” Anders continued. For years, he had been happy to keep the pennies in his Ruston home. But in 2015 he learned that their total value meant they weren’t covered by his house insurance, so it was time to take them to the bank.
Anders had previously worked for the Jackson School Board as a supervisor looking after students who had been suspended from class. He recalled that the children would save up their pennies and that he would buy them to add to his collection. “But I never allowed anyone, not even my wife nor children, to give me pennies without being compensated,” he recalled.
Anders singled out his old buddy Jack “Domino Kid” Brown as being particularly helpful with his coin-saving efforts. “Jack saved nickels as I saved pennies, and every nickel that passed through my hands, I would save for him. He did likewise with pennies for me,” the hoarder extraordinaire remembered. “Our exchange became competitive by each trying to outdo the other and consequently our collections. His nickels [and] my pennies began to multiply.”
Meanwhile, Anders displayed a certain ruthlessness in his penny-collecting habits. “If I was at someone’s house and I found a penny, I would pick it up and I would keep it. I will always tell the person that if it was a quarter, I would give it back, but since it is a penny, I’m keeping it,” he told The News-Star.
In fact, Anders stopped spending pennies altogether, instead saving them all up to add to his ever-growing collection. He even tried to engineer his spending so that he would always be due a few pennies in his change. “I would never spend a penny. I would break a dollar before giving up a penny,” Anders said.
This extraordinary penny collection furthermore gave Anders both satisfaction and pleasure. Even when, in the 1970s, the United States Government offered a premium of $25 for every $100 worth of pennies handed in, Anders didn’t waver. He hung on to his precious pennies.
But when the time came to finally let the coins go, just trucking them to the bank was a job in itself. The incredible estimated weight of the pennies was, it’s worth noting, around 2,800 pounds. To put that figure in perspective, it’s more than the weight of an average American bison.
Now once the 15 water bottles filled with coins had been hauled into the bank, the next challenge was how to efficiently release them from their plastic homes. And it turned out that the quickest way to do this was, well, to take an axe to the containers. Who says subtlety always pays?
Then, after the pennies were retrieved from the bottles, the task of counting could start. Unsurprisingly, this was done with automatic counting machines. After all, nobody wants to count 2,800 pounds of pennies by hand. Plastic buckets, then, were used to pour the pennies into the counting machines.
But even with the use of automatic counters, tallying up all the pennies took five hours of continuous counting. As Anders watched on, the machines gobbled up the pennies he’d saved for 45 years. Incredibly, too, bank staff had to change the coin machine bags about every 20 minutes because each could hold only a maximum of $50 worth of pennies.
Eventually, all of the pennies were counted – so now came the moment of truth. What was the final value of the pennies that Anders had spent 45 years of his life collecting? The answer was an impressive $5,136.14 – not a penny less, not a penny more.
In total, then, Anders had collected 513,614 pennies in 45 years, or 16,425 days. This means that on an average day, he had collected around 31 pennies. Here was a man who certainly lived by the adage “See a penny, pick it up. Then all day long, you’ll have good luck.” And his “luck” came in the shape of a cool five grand.
Actually, Anders admitted that if it hadn’t been for the home insurance factor, he would have carried on collecting. “I wanted to fill five five-gallon water jugs. That was the goal, but I couldn’t stop. If I hadn’t turned them in yesterday, I was not going to stop,” he told ABC News.
However, Anders isn’t the only one who likes to hoard coins on a grand scale. In 2015, the BBC reported on the amazing way in which a Mr. Gan had paid for a new car in Shenyang, a city in the northeast of China. Yes, Mr. Gan forked out for his purchase with 660,000 coins and 20,000 notes, each one with the value of one yuan – about 16 cents. What’s more, his stash of small change weighed in excess of an astonishing 8,800 pounds.
Back in the States, meanwhile, Ira Keys was another person who liked to save his pennies. In 2015, the 81-year-old took his coin collection to the Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas. Keys had an impressive 500 pounds of the coinage, amounting to a cash value of $816. Speaking to NBC station KCBD, the senior citizen said his father had told him, “Whatever you do, son, save your money.” And Keys had taken his dad’s advice and started saving in 1952.
So, back in Rustin, Louisiana, what was Anders going to spend his hard-saved 5,000 bucks on? A wild weekend in Vegas? A Rolex watch? Maybe a gold ingot or two? Disappointingly, the truth was far less romantic. Anders had recently had some expensive dental treatment – is there any other kind? – and the money was to go towards paying off the bill.