Call Him Mr. Moneypenny

By Mona Malacane

You know that saying, “See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck”? Well Anthony Almond must be the luckiest person in our department because he has been picking up and saving pennies since he was a kid.

That feeling when you find a penny on the ground and think you'll have good luck.

That feeling when you find a penny on the ground and think you’ll have good luck all day.

Anthony started picking up pennies to give to his dad, who collected coins. “When I was a little kid, my dad would always pick up change and so he told my sister and I to start picking up pennies … Any time we found a penny, he would give us a nickel in exchange for the pennies, to encourage us to pick [them] up.”

Anthony's collector book of pennies

Anthony’s collector book of pennies

Picking up pennies became a habit for Anthony. So, when he started college, he began his own collection. By the end of his first semester he had filled an entire peanut butter jar (about 16.3 ounces) just with pennies he had found in the street. One summer, he decided to go through his dad’s collection – which consisted of about 8-10, five gallon jars full of pennies. Why? To see if he could find a penny from each year. “I had always picked up pennies. And then I decided, ‘let’s actually see how many I have of each one.’” It took him all summer but those pennies made up the majority of his own collection, which he has organized into collector’s books.

The oldest penny he owns is the 1909 VDB wheat penny, the very first of the Lincoln cent. His rarest penny? The 1913-D penny, of which only 15.8 million were minted. values this penny (in fine condition) at $3.51, a 351% increase in worth! His least rare penny is the 1983 penny, which has about 7.8 billion in circulation. Anthony’s favorite pennies are the three steel pennies that were minted in 1943, when there was a wartime shortage of copper.

The 1943 steel pennies

The 1943 steel pennies

These are the only pennies in his collection that he did not find, but instead bought on Ebay. Anthony explained that people often think steel pennies are more valuable and rare than the copper pennies, but that is completely wrong. In fact, over 1 billion steel pennies were minted in 1943. He also cautions against cleaning old pennies with vinegar, explaining that although it may make the penny shiny, it ultimately decreases its value.

Anthony's pet Chinchilla named Penny. RIP.

Anthony’s pet Chinchilla named Penny. RIP.

Even though there are older and more valuable pennies to collect—like the Indian and Flying Eagle pennies—Anthony prefers the Lincoln pennies because Abraham Lincoln is his favorite president. “I don’t really care about the other pennies or any other coin, like nickels with the silly Jackson on it. Who cares about him? What did he ever do for the country?” he laughed.

Anthony has no plans to cash in his vast penny collection. And why should he? He literally owns pieces of history. His oldest penny has been on this earth for 104 years! Only 89 years younger than IU. If you want an interesting history lesson, go into your wallet or piggy bank and find your oldest coin and then look up important historical moments that occurred in that year. If you happen to have a 1914-D penny, I would highly recommend holding onto it because it is valued between $105.83 and $706.25.

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