This German bank worker spent half of 2017 hand-counting 1.2 million coins
If you've spent 2017 in a job you despise, you'll know all about the pain of a repetitive workday. Opening your eyes in the morning and knowing exactly how your day is going to pan out, from beginning to end, is something uniquely soul-destroying, something that can't be truly understood unless you've been there yourself. My own personal most harrowing experience is probably the time I interned at a big name newspaper and spent hours on end photocopying a 1,100-page book, page for page. All with an "I'm so happy to be here" grimace on my face, of course.
But no matter how monotonous your past year in work may have been, I can pretty much guarantee that it's nothing on Wolfgang Kemereit's. Let me start off by introducing you: Wolfgang is a German bank worker who spent half of 2017 hand-counting 2.5 metric tonnes of coins. Yes, that's right. Half of 2017. And you thought your year was bad.
The unenviable situation reportedly came about when a truck driver bequeathed money to his relatives after he sadly passed away in May. But it wasn't your average inheritance. The family, from Lower Saxon in Germany, faced an unanticipated challenge when they realised that their deceased family member had left them his fortune completely in one and two penny denominations, the smallest units of the Deutsch Mark, which was the currency of the Federal Republic of Germany until the introduction of the euro in 2002.
Normally, Deutsch Marks can be easily sent for exchange in the mail - but, again, this wasn't your average inheritance. The truck driver had collected so many coins over his 30 years of travelling, they had to be taken to the bank in multiple vans, bundled in freezer bags. Once they arrived at the Oldenburg branch of the Deutsche Bundesbank, employees are likely to have had a nasty shock, not only from the sheer number of coins, but from the realisation that using a machine to count the coins wasn't going to cut it. Apparently, some of the small change was so rusted and stuck together that it was impossible to use coin-counting instruments to tally the value of the 2.5 metric tonnes of coins. So, the job fell into the lap of one incredibly persistent bank employee, Wolfgang Kemereit.
As stated, Wolfgang spent six months counting the family's inheritance, amazingly doing so alongside his regular bank duties. According to the diligent worker, it took about one hour to tally up the contents of a single bag of the coins, which eventually totalled around €8,000 ($9,400). Talk about patience.
If you or I were given that undesirable task, there's a strong chance we may have thrown in the towel, stormed out and had nightmares about one and two penny coins for the rest of our lives. However, Wolfgang, a better man than all of us, says he didn't mind spending half the year on his assignment. "I had every piece in my hand," he told TV channel NDR 1. "I like to do this kind of thing, so it wasn't a problem."
As bizarre as the story initially appears to be, it's completely and utterly true. VT received confirmation that the tale, originally reported in Germany by NDR, was accurate. In a statement the Oldenburg branch of the Deutsche Bundesbank confirmed: "It is true that we exchanged the specified amount of Deutsche Mark into euro. The Deutsche Bundesbank is legally obliged to exchange Deutsche Mark currency for euro without limitations in terms of the amount and the date of submission. In some difficult cases (damaged or soiled coins and banknotes) our machines cannot automatically count and check the authenticity of banknotes and coins. In such cases, these banknotes and coins have to be checked manually."
The Deutsch Mark was Germany’s official currency until the country adopted the euro back in 2002, after a transitional period of three years where the currency existed as "book money". However, even nowadays, Deutsch Marks and pre-2002 coins can be exchanged indefinitely without fees - some would say luckily for the family of the deceased man in this story. However, despite Germany living with the new currency for over 15 years now, according to Deutsche Welle, the Bundesbank estimates that there are 12.65 billion Deutsche Marks still floating about in the country. On the bright side, at least they know that 1.2 million of them have been found.
So, hands up. Who thinks Wolfgang Kemereit should win the Employee of the Year award? I certainly think so; imagine heading to work in the mornings with the knowledge that you'd have to hand-count one and two penny coins every single day for the next six months. Wolfgang, we commend you.
Featured illustration by Egarcigu