A Three Village kindergartner recently turned a penny into $100.
The East Setauket branch of Gold Coast Bank announced Charlotte Plagainos was the first prize winner of its Oldest Penny Search after she found an 1802 penny. Bank representatives awarded her $100 for her discovery during a March 23 ceremony at Arrowhead Elementary School.
The kindergartner said she found the winning penny while going through her great-grandfather’s jar of change on a rainy day with her mother, Rebecca Plagainos. Charlotte, who just turned 6 years old, said when she found the penny she had a feeling it was old enough to win the contest.
“I was really excited,” she said, adding that she noticed the head of the coin featured a Native American and not President Abraham Lincoln.
Her mother said when Charlotte received the news that she won from Gold Coast Bank, the family was screaming, and the kindergartner did her happy dance.
“I started to jump up and down, up and down,” Charlotte said.
John Tsunis, Gold Coast Bank chairman and CEO, said he was surprised a student found such an old penny.
“I thought we would get something maybe somewhere in the early 1900s, but not in the 1800s,” Tsunis said. “That’s awesome.”
Rebecca Plagainos said the win turned into a counting lesson for Charlotte, who can count up to 1,000.
“We took it out all in [dollar bills], so it was super exciting because it was a huge stack of bills,” Plagainos said. “We could lay it all out and count them.”
After winning the contest, Charlotte’s parents treated her and her sister, Daphne, to a celebratory dinner at Slurp Ramen and then to Roger’s Frigate in Port Jefferson for ice cream. Charlotte said at the Frigate she bought herself and her sister stuffed animals — a parrot for her and a bunny for Daphne.
“I thought we would get something maybe somewhere in the early 1900s, but not in the 1800s. That’s awesome.”
— John Tsunis
Tsunis said the contest kicked off during an assembly at Arrowhead Elementary School Feb. 12 during the school’s spirit week, where bank representatives challenged students to find the oldest penny in the Three Village area. They chose the penny due to the event falling on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The prizes offered were $100 for first prize, $50 for second, and the winner’s school’s PTA would receive $500.
“We were looking for a way that we could communicate with the young kids in the Three Village community,” Tsunis said.
The chairman said each student received a piggybank and shiny new penny. He and other bank representatives met with the student council to introduce the contest and discussed the importance of establishing a pattern of savings. Tsunis said savers would be surprised with their results with compound interest.
“No matter how small you save, save that amount on a regular basis,” Tsunis said. “Get something that’s comfortable, whether it’s 10 cents, 50 cents, a dollar.”
It’s advice Charlotte is taking to heart. She is saving the remaining prize money for something special in the future, according to her mother.
At the March 23 ceremony, James-Henry Parkinson, a fourth-grader who found a penny dated 1847, was named runner-up and received $50. As arranged, Arrowhead’s PTA was the recipient of the $500 prize.