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The coin counting machine at Herndon’s Northwest Federal Credit Union branch recently got the biggest workout it has ever experienced.

George Shoemaker, 66, a credit union member for nearly 20 years, took to heart Benjamin Franklin’s adage “a penny saved is a penny earned” and brought in all the coins he had been collecting for 22 years — thousands of dollars worth.

During the more than two decades of collecting, all his pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters added up.

“By the time he brought the coins to us for deposit, it took over two hours to count them all in our coin counter, and they totaled $7,124,” said Northwest Federal Credit Union spokeswoman Amy Richards.

“This was the largest, single deposit of coins ever counted at Northwest Federal, which offers its members free access to coin counting machines. I have worked here for six years and nothing else has come close to this amount.”

Shoemaker said he decided to start collecting coins after being asked one day if he collected anything.

“In 1990 I was asked by a flea market vendor if I collected anything. I thought about it for a few minutes and had to answer, ‘No.’ At that point I didn’t actually collect anything at all,” he said.

So, as a result, Shoemaker said he began saving all his pocket change, putting them into old pickle and mayonnaise jars.

“I would save all my change,” he said. “If something cost $1 and some change, I would offer $2 and then save all the coins I got back.”

Shoemaker now lives in Albany, Ga., but he maintains an account at the credit union’s Herndon branch and frequently visits family members who still live in the Herndon area. He says he plans to use the money for his retirement.

“When I was a boy, I used to run up to my grandfather and he would pull out a big handful of coins and let me pick out all the pennies,” Shoemaker said. “So when I got it in my head that I would start collecting something, that memory popped up and I decided to collect coins. It was a no-brainer. I work at a grocery store as a meat cutter and had access to those old barrel-style pickle jars to store my change. When I turned all of them in, I had filled up more than 20 large-sized jars.”

Some may see pocket change as a small or unimportant amount of money, said Northwest Federal CEO Gerrianne Burks.

“George’s experience illustrates how saving small quantities can really add up,” Burks said. “We are pleased he has chosen to make this deposit with Northwest Federal, where it can now grow even more.”

Shoemaker said he sorted through many of the coins before turning them in, and kept many unique and valuable ones, such as silver dollars and ‘wheat’ pennies.

“I am now starting a whole new collection,” he said.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com