US Coins

Offers pour in for million-cent hoard in California

The cache of Lincoln cents after being pulled from their hiding place stored for decades in the crawl space off the basement of a Los Angeles home.

Original images courtesy of John Reyes.

News coverage of the discovery by a southern California real estate agent of an estimated 1 million U.S. Lincoln cents in the crawl space of his late father-in-law’s home went viral, prompting more than 100 offers to buy the hoard, including from interested purchasers overseas.

The agent, John Reyes, told Coin World June 12 he was meeting with one of the interested buyers that day to seal a deal.

Reyes said the prospective buyer, from northern California, had submitted an aggressive bid to remove the sealed cloth bags, boxes of rolled coins and crates of loose coins comprising the hoard from the home. Reyes said the exact acquisition cost for the cents is not being disclosed, but is many multiples of the face value.

The hoard was discovered by Reyes and other family members sometime in 2022 while clearing out the home to ready it for renovations and use by family members. The early 1900s home in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles had the coins stored in a crawlspace in the back of the home’s basement, according to Reyes.

Reyes says his late father-in-law, who passed away 10 years ago, had lived in the home for decades along with his brother. The brother subsequently moved. The more than 100 cloth bags containing thousands of coins each were each sealed with a lead clamp and wire. Many of the bags are imprinted with various names of the banks from which Reyes’ father-in-law secured the cents. Some of the financial institutions are no longer in business.

The hoard includes also more than 75 $25-face-value boxes of paper-wrapped 50-coin rolls of cents, with another half dozen boxes of $50 face value in rolled coins. The metal containers also hold loose coins in addition to the paper-wrapped rolls.

The cache of cents was discovered by family members taking turns searching every nook and cranny in the basement, when someone looked into the cramped crawl space where the bagged, boxed and loose cents had languished for decades.

Reyes said three of the cent bags were randomly selected, the lead seals removed and the contents sampled to determine the coins were all pre-1983 copper-alloy cents and not copper-plated zinc cents to which the U.S. Mint had transitioned in 1982.

The bags were weighed and calculations made to determine an estimate of the number of cents overall in the accumulation, settling on the 1 million estimate.

Based upon the 1 million cent estimate, the face value of the cent hoard is $10,000.

Faced with the laborious task of redeeming the cents, Reyes said consideration was given to  circulating the coins locally through a Coinstar kiosk, but that option was abandoned because the 12.5% handling fee would have siphoned $1,250 from the overall face value of the coins.

Reyes said because of the extensive news coverage, interested buyers were blowing up his cell phone with prospective bids to resolved Reyes’ dilemma. Reyes said he received inquiries from as far away as the UK and India, but  he wasn’t able to contact all those that tried to reach him.

Reyes said his father-in-law set aside a portion of his weekly paycheck as a butcher to obtain the cents from various California banks. Reyes said his father-in-law also set aside funds to acquire significant numbers of other U.S. numismatic collectibles, which include Franklin half dollars and 1964 Kennedy half dollars, Kennedy half dollars from 1965 to 1969, $20,000 face value in silver dollars, and Crisp Uncirculated red seal $5 United States notes in straps with the notes bearing consecutive serial numbers.

Redemption of those items is for another day, according to Reyes.
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