Telemundo & The Penny Madness

Things got pretty intense during the New Year, and it’s now the middle of February and I’m only just able to take a breath.  That’s how crazy it’s been.  Anyone who saw me at the last two coin shows I was at knows that I’ve been sick for ages (sorry for coughing all over you), and on top of that we’ve had a few interesting things going on at the shop that have just devoured all of my time.

“Gee,” I hope some of you are thinking, “Where is Amanda’s Coin Show Chronicles for the last Long Beach show?”  The answer is, at this point it’s a bit too late to write it but I will post the Coin Porn pics I took at the show as soon as I can find a few spare minutes.  We had a pretty crazy week at the coin shop, and it was all unplanned: Telemundo and The Penny Madness hit us like a hurricane.

Last Thursday (February 5th, 2015), the local Telemundo news crew called us out of the clear blue sky and asked if they could come in to use us as experts on a bit they were doing about valuable pennies.  Sure, why not?  They rolled in with their one little camera guy, and were in and out in about an hour, max.  This is what they aired (sorry, I couldn’t find one with subtitles):



What began as a story about “valuable pennies” quickly became “The 1943 copper penny is worth $100,000”, and apparently it got some 20 million hits on their website in just a handful of hours. The very next day they called about a followup story and were back filming in the shop again.  We all went about our lives, but by the end of Friday that called us back yet again.  The “Penny Story” was garnering so many hits they wanted to come back on Monday morning and set up a camera to do a live international broadcast.

By this point we had already gotten more than a handful of calls from people who had 1943 steel pennies and 1944 copper pennies that they thought were worth hundreds of thousands, so we saw this as a great way for our helpfully-fluent-in-Spanish James Hill to clarify matters.

The live broadcast was to air, well, live, as we shot it at 1:00pm PST on the East Coast at 4:00pm EST, then there would be a delay and it would air at 4:00pm PST.



This is what we stared at for the next 6 hours.

This is what we stared at for the next 6 hours.

Thirty seconds after the live interview began, the phone rang.  Then it rang again. And again.  And again.  In moments, all 7 of our lines were lit up, and stayed lit up.  I once foolishly attempted to make an outgoing call, but every time I tried to hit a clear line immediately after hanging up with a caller, there would be a voice on the other end the second I lifted my finger up.

For the next 6 hours, everything shut down at the shop except the phones. It was overwhelming. It was crazy.  It was a lot of Spanish.  We only have two staff members who speak fluent Spanish, and so we just did the best we could communicating with the callers.

As tends to happen whenever the ’43 penny comes up, there was a lot of confusion.  We received hundreds — probably thousands — of calls from people who had 1943 steel and 1944 copper pennies they were looking to sell.  It was so crazy that the host of Telemundo, Jorge Miramontes, graciously offered to help us out on the phones and speak Spanish for us.  The rest of his crew had all packed up and left, yet he stayed for almost an after they’d all gone answering calls.

Penny Madness (10)

Jorge Miramontes, reporter and generally awesome guy.


We normally close at 5:30, but the volume of calls was so intense we stayed an extra hour before finally calling it quits and turning on the voicemail.

The next morning we were not surprised to see the deluge continue.  We had some 600 voicemails from the night before, and the calls were flooding all seven lines once again the second the voicemail system was deactivated.

Other dealers near and far were taking to Facebook to ask “Where the heck are all these calls coming from??” — they were getting swarms of calls about the cents as well, and Tuesday morning seemed like the dawn of another day of Penny Madness.  Instead, in the blink of an eye, at 2:00pm Tuesday afternoon the madness was over.

The calls dropped off sharply, and as suddenly as it started the storm had passed.  Now it’s almost eerily quiet in the shop.

Don’t misunderstand me: this story is not me complaining about or lamenting the Penny Madness … this is me marveling at the power of the media and how it hit our shop like a whirlwind.  For a hobby that’s generally considered to be dying, I was very pleased to see that we can still spark the interest of the greater public.  The Penny Madness was a good thing.

Business is going on as it ever has, and the Penny Madness almost seems like a weird, fevered dream.  Normalcy has returned to the coin shop — for now.  Yet we mustn’t let our guard down. No, we must be ever vigilant lest the Madness return to take us all and as a precautionary measure I’ve made a helpful graphic that’s ready to go in case the Penny Madness should ever descend on us again:





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