As It Happens

Phoenix man says he built the world's largest coin pyramid out of pennies

Pyramids are testament to heights of human achievement — from the great pyramids at Giza that entombed ancient Egypt's royalty, to the pyramid of a million pennies in Cory Nielsen's garage.

Cory Nielsen's pyramid took 3 years to build and contains 1,030,315 U.S. pennies

Cory Nielsen of Pheoniz, Ariz., poses next to his penny pyramid — which he says contains 1,030,315 pennies. (Penny Building Fool/YouTube)
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Pyramids are testament to heights of human achievement — from the great pyramids at Giza that entombed ancient Egypt's royalty, to the pyramid of a million pennies in Cory Nielsen's garage.

Nielsen, an automotive marketer in Phoenix, Ariz., has spent the last three years building what he believes is the world's largest coin pyramid.

He says the structure contains 1,030,315 U.S. pennies, beating out the current Guinness World Record holder of 1,000,935 Lithuanian one-cent litas, built by Vytautas Jakštas and Domas Jokubauskis in 2014. 

"Hard to believe I've finished, but a very good feeling," Nielsen told As It Happens host Carol Off. "I enjoyed doing it. It was a good stress reliever."

It all started, Nielsen said, when he made a spontaneous promise to his colleagues.

"I opened up my big mouth and committed to a project without knowing all the details or the work that would be involved," he said. 

At the time, he had a smaller pyramid on his desk of about 41,000 pennies, and his co-workers asked him if was the world's largest.

"I said, 'You know, I don't know — but if it isn't, I'll make sure it is,'" he said. "And then I found out just how big the world record really was."

No glue used 

Nielsen says he worked on the pyramid for about 20 hours a week for three years.

He estimates the total build time to be about 1.8 years of separating shiny new pennies from the old dirty ones and stacking them to create an elaborate diamond pattern.

He used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of his daily penny usage, and documented his progress on YouTube

Along the way, he had to meticulously remove several defunct Canadian pennies that got mixed into his collection because Guinness rules stipulate the coins all be of the same currency. 

And while he built it entirely on his own, he says he couldn't have done it without the support — and penny donations — of his community.

"My co-workers and colleagues, they're completely supportive," he said. "You know, they'll leave a couple of pennies on the keyboard here and there."

Altogether, he said he received about 30,000 pennies as gifts, most of them donated via his local credit union, and collected the other million on his own.

"It's not going to make me or break me," he said. "But certainly once this is officially through the Guinness Book of World Records, then I'll go ahead and get the pyramid turned into cash."

Guinness confirmed it has received Nielsen's submission and that it is under review. The process could take up to 15 weeks.

In the meantime, Nielsen just has to keep the unglued structure standing for a little while longer.

"It's always in the back of your head hoping that there's never any earthquakes or tremors or some freak accident," he said.

"The pyramid itself is so heavy. I mean, it's just rock solid. It's not going to move."

Written by Sheena Goodyear and Allie Jaynes. Produced by Allie Jaynes. 

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