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Chicago Couple Lines Bedroom Floor In $600 Worth Of Pennies

By Melissa Wiley in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 21, 2013 7:00PM

A penny saved may be a penny earned, but what do you do when you’ve amassed a small copper fortune? If you’re South Loop residents Emily Belden and Ryan Lange, you glue those pennies—all 59,670 of them—to the floor. The couple invested nearly $600 in pennies and plated their bedroom floor entirely in Lincoln’s striking profile.

Lange and Belden have never lacked for original design sense. According to Belden, “We had renovated the rest of our condo with cool things like zebra-wood cabinets in the kitchen, marble subway tile in the bathroom, etc., but the bedroom floor just had a cement floor. It was the only space that was unfinished and we wanted to go big.”

So they decided to live large on top of the country's smallest coin. Requiring 128 man and woman hours, the project became a true labor of love, one that involved its fair share of back pain. But the process wasn’t entirely monotonous, mostly because the pennies themselves possess both aesthetic and historical variations. For example, the couple discovered an Indian head penny from the 1800s before Lincoln became president. They also made an exception to their heads-only rule and turned the pennies tails side when they encountered any wheat pennies, which were minted between 1909 and 1958 and feature two crescent sheaves of wheat on the Lincoln obverse.

“It’s unreal to own an artifact that old, let alone wake up and walk on it every day," Belden enthused. "We also fell in love with the variation in color among the pennies. Some are bright and shiny. Others are weathered with a unique teal hue to them. Some are dark and antiqued.“

As their floor became overlaid with currency, Lange and Belden found their minds wandering deeper into the pennies’ past, asking questions like, How many millions of people have collectively touched these pennies now on our floor? And what have these pennies purchased before reaching their final resting place?

These questions are all the more intriguing in light of the long-bruited talk of banishing the penny entirely. Of this speculation, Belden takes a pragmatic view, saying, “If they banish the penny, that would mean the likelihood of a future condo owner digging up our floor and cashing it in for dinner at Alinea is slim to none, which is nice to know given how long and hard we worked on it. However, we’d like to see the penny stick around a little longer.”

For our part, we feel that banishing the penny is eerily analogous to stripping Pluto of its planetary status. Dwarf planet indeed. Happily, the penny layers share our view. “Penny haters are also Pluto haters and should not be trusted,” Belden affirms.