This Penny-Covered BMW Up For Auction Is A Fantastic Investment

It’s always tricky to really get a good sense of a car’s value from an online auction, but sometimes there’s some hints that can really help. In the case of this 1997 BMW 318TI up for sale over at Copart, there’s a pretty good clue about the car’s value: it’s covered in money.

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Yes, this auction is for one of those nifty little BMW hatchbacks, only entirely covered in pennies. The auction description does mention some ‘MECHANICAL’ primary damage, though it’s not clear exactly what that refers to, and lists secondary damage as ‘ALL OVER,’ which I can only take to mean the pennies that have been glued all over the car’s body.

They may call that “damage” but I call it cold, hard cash. Really, this little car could be a hell of a deal; first, these 3 Series Compact hatchback BMWs I always liked, sort of like a fast, rear-wheel drive Golf, or, if you prefer to stick with only actual RWD hatchbacks, a non-shitty Chevette.

Plus, whatever you pay for it, you’ll be getting money back because the car is literally covered in money? How much money? Let’s figure that out.

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Since I don’t have exact measurements, we’ll do this via rough estimates, but I think they’ll be close enough. An average car has a body surface area of around 60 square feet—since this BMW is a bit smaller than average, let’s take it down to 50 square feet.

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A sheet of pennies that covers 0.9 square feet contains 224 pennies, so if we increase that by 10% to get to a full square foot, that comes to 246 pennies per square foot. The pennies could likely be packed in a bit tighter, for a theoretical maximum of 304, using alternating rows of 16 and 15 pennies, but these tiles seem to match the rough density on the car.

So, 50 square feet times 246 pennies is 12,300 pennies, or $123. There’s your discount!

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As far as weight goes, each penny weighs 2.5 grams, so 12,300 of those is 30,750 grams which is about 68 lbs. That’s not as bad as I thought.

At this moment, the current bid on the car is $30, which means if you win the auction at, say, $40, you come out with a guaranteed profit of $83! Well, after you pry off all those pennies, roll them into rolls, and take them to your bank.

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And after that, you still have a BMW hatchback with terrible paint and unspecified mechanical problems! You can’t lose!

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)