“A penny saved is a penny earned,” Benjamin Franklin once said—but the average life expectancy when he said it was about 35 years. 81-year-old Slaton resident Ira Keyes spent 65 years saving his pennies, until he went to the local Prosperity Bank branch with the 500 pounds worth of coins in tow, and finally traded them in for paper money.

The story ended up becoming something of a national sensation over the slow holiday weekend, with Keyes’s collection of coins capturing attention from media around the country. He explained his buckets full of pennies to KCBD in Lubbock:

Ira Keys hasn’t spent a penny since he was 17 years old, because of advice his father gave him.

“He says, ‘Whatever you do son, save your money,'” Keys said. “Back when I started in ’52, I didn’t have a lot of money, so I saved pennies and I just kept saving them.” […]

Kari Lewis, a personal banker at Prosperity Bank, said she has never seen anything like Keys’s collection before.

“We take pennies for granted,” she said. “You see them on the ground and you’re kind of like, ‘Oh, I’m not picking that up,’ but for him to collect it for years and years was pretty amazing.”

It took employees over an hour to count the collection of about 81,600 pennies.

“We ended up with $816 in pennies,” Lewis said. “Not a typical day at the bank, at all.”

Alarmingly, the 500 pounds and $816 worth of pennies that Keyes took to the bank is apparently not the full extent of his penny collection—just the amount that he was comfortable trading in at the bank. The rest, the shiniest, are apparently going to be incorporated into a room divider. 

That makes sense, to some extent—after literally a lifetime of saving every penny that you find (and finding room in your house for five hundred pounds worth of them), your self-image as “the penny guy” is probably pretty well established, and it’d be hard to give that up. 

Still, while Keyes’s father’s advice—and Ben Franklin’s, for that matter—is sound, it also means that you can spend 65 years picking up every penny on the ground and, at the end of the six and a half decades, have almost enough for a MacBook Air. That’s a nice computer, but not really worth saving for one’s entire life. Meanwhile, had Keyes put that $816 in the bank in 1952, at a standard-for-1952 interest rate of 2.5%, he’d have an extra $1,305—with his initial investment, enough for, say, a 1996 Volkswagen Jetta. Which suggests an addition to Franklin’s maxim: A penny saved is indeed a penny earned, but it’s probably wiser to put it in the bank than in Folgers buckets around your house. 

Image via Flickr