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Posted 7/1/2004 9:48 AM
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Man tries to get rid of million pennies
LOS ANGELES (AP) A man is trying to get rid of his pennies all 1 million of them. Ron England bet his brother 30 years ago that he could save a million pennies in exchange for a dinner in Paris. And he did, eventually stacking up 20,000 rolls that fill 13 boxes in his garage.

Now that he's moving, England wants to cash in the $10,000 in coppers, which weigh 3.6 tons, but is having a tough time finding someone who will take them without a price.

"I've been working seriously for the past two weeks to get rid of these pennies," said England, 60, a Paramount Studios, Hollywood, projectionist who will soon retire with his wife to a home in Oregon. "It's kind of frustrating. Nobody will take them without charging me."

The Coinstar machine at his supermarket isn't exactly made to accept a million pennies.

A Santa Monica artist who welds couches out of pennies declined to call him back.

Coin collectors said to call a bank.

But his bank, Washington Mutual, is charging extra fees and won't take all the rolls at once. The best he's found is a branch that will take 200 rolls, or $100 per week. That's 20 months of deposits.

Tim McGarry, spokesman for Washington Mutual in Los Angeles, said that until recently, the bank charged 10 cents a roll for more than eight rolls. Now, each bank manager determines how many pennies it can accept and charges accordingly. Business rates differ.

"This is a very rare case," McGarry said. "Some of the practicalities are daunting 3.6 tons is more than most vaults can handle."

Even the federal government isn't interested.

The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency doesn't want them, nor does the U.S. Engraving and Printing Bureau.

"We don't buy back currency," said Mike White, a spokesman for the U.S. Mint. "We like to have it in circulation."

England refuses to pay extra.

"I'm stubborn," he said. "If I have to haul all these pennies to Oregon, I will, 'cause I'm not gonna pay."

The bet was made in March 1974, England said. He and his brother, Russ wagered that if Ron could collect and roll a million pennies, Russ would buy him a dinner of fried sweetbreads in Paris.

So England began to roll. Friends and relatives fed him pennies. At one point he was buying about $250 a week in pennies.

About five years later, he was done. But he never got his Parisian meal.

"I don't remember making the wager," said Russ England, 55. "Am I still good for it? I'm not going to answer that question."

Now Ron England says he hopes to buy a John Deere tractor with his money.

"I did enjoy proving my brother wrong," England said. "If he'd pay off, I'd quit bitching. I should have saved dimes. I'd have a lot more money, and it would weigh a lot less."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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