At first glance, Otha Anders looked like any other guy. Behind closed doors, though, he had a strange hobby. You see, Otha had been collecting pennies for decades. Then, after 40-plus years of saving, he finally decided to hand them in at his bank. But just how much had he made with his massive haul?
Was there a catalyst?
It’s a fascinating story. Would you have the willpower to save coins for that long? We’re not sure if we could.
But at the same time, it also raises a few questions. And perhaps one of the biggest is this: what made Otha decide to start his jaw-dropping collection?
Well, Otha’s in good company, as collecting coins isn’t anything new. Back in Roman times, academics and the rich put stockpiles together.
The great emperor Augustus was even rumored to be into it. Then again, we doubt any of them assembled a hoard quite like Otha’s!
Anyway, it took some time before the hobby really started to gain steam with the public. In fact, we’ve got to fast-forward to the 19th century to see it take shape.
And there are plenty of folks still squirreling their change away today, as Otha’s tale shows. Why do people do it, though?
An easy hobby to start
Well, unlike certain hobbies, stockpiling coins couldn’t be simpler. It doesn’t require a great deal of effort to get a collection going — all you need to do is open your wallet.
Did that play a part in Otha’s decision to save his pennies for more than 40 years?
History, production, and value
There are some folks who love the historical aspect of collecting coins. Others use it as a way of educating themselves about the way cash is made.
And then there are those who just want to use old coins as a nest egg for the future.
But does any of that explain why Otha kept hold of his pennies? Not quite. He spilled the beans, though, when he spoke to USA Today about his collection in 2015.
And his reasoning may just catch you off guard...
“Always be thankful”
You see, after Otha stumbled across a loose coin more than four decades ago, something clicked. He revealed, “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.”
A big change
So, Otha started to stack up these pennies at his home in Louisiana. Sounds innocent enough, wouldn’t you say? His partner and their kids certainly didn’t seem to have a problem with it.
But before long, he wasn’t just keeping hold of the coins he’d find out and about.
The collection grew...
Yep, at a certain point, Otha flat-out refused to use any of his own pennies when buying stuff at stores. Instead, he’d try to walk away from the cash register with even more to add to his collection.
Normally, he’d ask for three or more in his change.
And just like that, the pennies really started to stack up. Folks around Otha realized what he was doing, too, and he was happy to accept coins from them.
But there were certain conditions to be met before Otha could add those pennies to his collection.
“I would never spend a penny. I would break a dollar before giving up a penny,” Otha recalled.
“But I never allowed anyone — not even my wife nor children — to give me pennies without being compensated. I wanted the inner satisfaction that God and I acquired this collection.”
So, yes, Otha would pay people for the pennies. He wasn’t just pulling out his wallet at home, either.
The family man worked at a local school, looking after kids who’d been “in-school suspended.” And word of the quirky coin collection soon traveled among those youngsters.
How did the kids respond to that? Well, they also wanted to help Otha out in increasing his hoard. So, before he knew it, they’d begun to collect loads of pennies themselves.
Then the ever-fair Otha gave them the equivalent money in value.
Yes, the pennies continued to come in as the years rolled on. Yet we can’t help but ask: was there ever a time when Otha at least considered parting with them?
Well, during a television interview, he suggested that he could’ve done so a few decades ago — but something held him back..
“Back in the late 1960s or earlier 1970s, the government was giving $25 extra for every $100 of pennies that you turned in,” Otha explained.
“[But] even then, I refused to turn my pennies in to earn that extra $25 per hundred.” We wonder how much he could’ve made during that spell..
How many jugs?!
By sticking to his guns, though, Otha had a truly staggering collection going into the fall of 2015. We hope you’re ready.
Incredibly, he’d filled up 15 five-gallon containers with his pennies. Nope, that’s not a typo. 15. Holy smokes.
Giving up the collection
So, what finally prompted Otha to give up his precious collection? Had he run out of space? After all, a single five-gallon jug isn’t all that small. Imagine keeping 15 of them in your house! But that wasn’t the reason.
Instead, the decision had been effectively taken out of his hands.
The home insurance policy
You see, when Otha looked to extend his home insurance policy, he wanted the pennies to be included in the coverage. Understandable, right? But the contract wouldn’t allow it, and other companies toed a similar line.
That essentially meant he couldn’t claim compensation if something happened to his coins.
A difficult choice
With that in mind, Otha had two choices. He could either take a chance and continue to collect the pennies knowing they wouldn’t be protected, or he had to cash out.
Given what we’ve learned about Otha, something tells us this would’ve been a very tough decision to make.
Heading to the bank
Otha eventually opted for the safer choice, which brings us back to the moment when he arrived at his bank. And it was quite the scene.
Given the sheer number of jugs he had, the dad couldn’t bring them in by himself. On top of that, a normal-sized car wouldn’t have been big enough to carry all the containers, either.
What did Otha do, then? Well, he called upon some relatives and pals to assist him on the journey to Origin Bank in Ruston. They eventually managed to get the 15 jugs into a truck.
And once the group got there, the staff were a little baffled. We don’t blame them — it was an unusual situation!
The bank’s response
The bank’s vice president was at least gracious about the situation. Jennie Cole also spoke to USA Today, and she confirmed that Otha had held an account there for years before this moment.
“We value his business, as we do all of our customers,” Cole said. “If we can help [him] with his endeavors, we’re happy to do so.”
Counting the hoard
Anyway, Otha’s party and some of the workers at the bank started to wheel the jugs off the truck using carts. Then all 15 of them were eventually transported to a “coin room” so the collection could be counted.
Yeah... about that. How in the world would anyone be able to sort through that many pennies?
How did they get the coins out?
Thankfully for the staff, it didn’t need to be done by hand. Instead, the money could be emptied into a coin counter.
The relief must’ve been palpable! But that brings us on to the next issue: how would they get the pennies out of the jugs? This wasn’t like tipping over a standard piggy bank, after all.
Grab the ax!
The solution was simple — and suitably quirky. The group used a hammer and ax to break into the containers.
Then they poured the cash into a large bucket. And from there, the pennies were scooped up and gradually dropped inside the coin counter. As you can probably guess, this wasn’t the quickest of jobs.
A long wait
In total, it took roughly five hours to empty the 15 containers and count the coins. Wow.
And the wait had to have been tense for Otha. Wouldn’t you be anxious to find out how much you’d saved over the last 40-plus years of collecting? Well, he got his answer in the end — and it’s sure to blow your mind.
Half a million pennies
Overall, Otha had been sitting on a sum of $5,136.14. To break it down even further, that came from roughly 500,000 pennies.
Not bad! Those coins would ultimately be moved over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, otherwise known as the FDIC. And as for Otha, he had big plans for his lifelong coin savings.
How did Otha spend it?
You’re probably curious what Otha did with the cash. Well, we can tell you that the timing couldn’t have been better.
You see, he had a dentist bill to cover, and thankfully the $5,000-plus covered the cost of the procedure, but even better, he still had money left over to spend on something fun.
Otha planned to spend that remaining money on a vacation with his relatives. He also decided to keep some aside for his church.
And with every last penny officially counted, Otha needed to give credit where credit was due to an individual who’d played a large role in building his tower of pennies.
Jack “Domino Kid” Brown
During his chat with USA Today, Otha namechecked his coin-collecting buddy Jack “Domino Kid” Brown. He explained, “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.” And as time passed, their collecting took a competitive turn.
“Our exchange became competitive”
Then again, it didn’t take long for Otha and Jack to make a contest out of it. That sparked a friendly rivalry between the pair.
“Our exchange became competitive by each trying to outdo the other. And consequently, our collections — his nickels, my pennies — began to multiply,” Otha added.
We wonder how much of that $5,136.14 was because of that contest, then? A few dollars at least, you’d think. But even once Otha cashed in, it couldn’t have been easy for him to stop grabbing pennies.
And the collector has offered some further insight into how instinctive it’d become over the previous four decades.
“I’m keeping it”
“If I was at someone’s house and I found a penny, I would pick it up and I would keep it,” Otha revealed to USA Today. “I will always tell the person that if it was a quarter, I would give it back, but since it’s a penny, I’m keeping it.”
Unless he planned to start from scratch, though, those days were over..
While Otha cashed in on his penny stash, many other Southerners would have used a few of those pretty pennies very differently. Walking down the streets of Georgia or Kentucky during the summertime would provide a perplexing sight for someone from out of town: Ziploc bags full of pennies and water hanging from people's porches.
Why on Earth would people do this?
A curious sight
Two friends were chatting over a nice meal on the patio of one of their favorite restaurants when they noticed something strange that caught their eye: “zip-lock baggies pinned to a post and a wall.”
Immediately this peculiar sight piqued their interest..
Searching for answers
"The bags were half-filled with water, each contained four coins, and they were zipped shut,” the woman recalled, going on to admit that “Naturally, we were curious.” So, they decided to ask their waiter what the deal was..
A common oddity
What the friends didn’t know at this point was that this phenomenon is actually an extremely common one, at least in the Southern United States. Such adornments can be found not only at restaurants and stores, but also hanging from residential windows and door frames, porches, and even trees..
A sacred offering
In ancient Europe, pious people used to make a habit out of offering up tributes to their gods when they believed that the deities were displeased with them. The most common location for these gifts? Wells.
And even today the action continues, with people across the world making wishes by throwing coins into fountains.
Of course, while we all like to think that the pennies we throw into fountains are sacred (come on, we spent our one wish on that!), it turns out that these tossed coins can actually serve as huge money-makers. Just take the Trevi Fountain in Rome!.
Raking in the big bucks
This popular tourist destination accumulates up to $4,500 worth of coins a day. Talk about a piggy bank! And in 2007, those in charge of the site decided to do something worthwhile with the money, donating the funds to worthy charities.
Still, the explanation for the mysterious bags is more involved than mere superstition…
Cleanliness is next to godliness
It turns out the odd fad came into widespread use after a single Facebook post on a group known as “Hinch Army Cleaning Tips,” full of followers devoted to an Instagram star named Sophie Hinchcliffe. The guru shares hacks for maintaining an organized home..
Solving the puzzle
But what could these bags filled with pennies and water possibly have to do with cleanliness? Well it all goes back to a problem that isn’t unique to the South per se, but one that occurs there at an alarming rate..
Anyone who’s spent even one summer day south of the Mason-Dixon line knows that the weather can be pretty punishing at times. Especially in Southeastern states such as Georgia or Florida, the days can run extremely hot and, even worse, very humid.
Naturally, then, cracking a window to let the breeze in seems like an obvious step...
Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, unfortunately for those in the know, there actually is. You see, while cooling down from the heat is necessary, even the simple act of opening a window can come with unwanted consequences.
Specifically, flies — and lots of them.
Count me out
Nobody likes house flies, but they’re more than merely inconvenient or annoying; they can also carry a variety of diseases, some of which (like cholera or tuberculosis) are potentially lethal. Flies are also pretty gross.
They thrive in disgusting environments like garbage, feces, and rotten food. And the worst part?
The silent threat
Given that these pesky bugs are only ⅓ of an inch large on average, they are also incredibly skilled at getting into places they shouldn’t — like window screens and cabinets. We don’t have to tell you why this isn’t ideal.
Luckily, this is where the penny and water-filled bags come in.
Testing the theory
You see, the answer that woman and her friend got from the waiter when they asked about the bags was actually quite simple: “The owner told us that these baggies kept the flies away naturally.” The perplexed customer thought it was too good to be true, so she stayed around to watch for herself..
A smashing success
Sure enough, the bag seemed to work like a charm! “We actually watched some flies come in the open window, stand around on the windowsill and then fly out again. And there were no flies in the eating area!” the satisfied diner raved.
But how does the weird trick really work?
According to the user who originally posted the hack online, “Flies don’t like water, and they don’t like the colors given off from the pennies. Flies have compound eyes so the bags look like a giant body of water to them.
Therefore, they leave.”