How much money can you stuff in a 5-gallon bucket?

The bucket with the bills from a Miami-Dade bust.
The bucket with the bills from a Miami-Dade bust.

What carries more weight?

A five-gallon bucket of dollars, such as police found at a house?

Or a five-gallon bucket of pennies, such as Hialeah mayor Carlos Hernandez used to display his displeasure at an ethics fine?

It depends.

No, it’s not a trick question.

In a strict mass sense, the coins carry the greater tonnage. A penny is .0055 pounds, according to the U.S. Mint. A roll of 50 pennies, then, would be .275 of a pound. Thinking of a penny as a squat cylinder and putting the mint’s measurements into the formula for the volume of a cylinder, one penny would have a volume of .04485 cubic inches. A roll of 50 would be 2.2425 inches.

An orange Home Depot five-gallon bucket has a volume of 1,639.91 cubic inches. That means 731.28 or 731 rolls of pennies could fit into each bucket. Each roll being .275 of a pound would be 201.02 pounds of pennies, thus turning the bucket from leak protection to strongman competition prop.

Economically, however, that’s just $365.50.

Here’s where the bucket of dollar bills sneers at the coins, “Lightweight.”

A dollar bill is 2.6 inches by 6.14 inches and is .0043 of an inch deep. A stack of 100 would be .43 of an inch deep and, using width times height times length, 6.86 cubic inches in volume. Leaving room for wrapping around each block of cash, that means about 239 stacks of 100 could fit into the bucket. That’s $23,900 if one dollar bills, $2,390,000 if we’re talking $100 bills.

That’s economic weight. As for mass weight, each dollar is .0022 pounds. A stack of 100: .22 pounds. So, 239 stacks of 100 bills would be 52.58 pounds.

So, no matter your answer to the question above, you’re correct. ‘

Unless you said, “It’s a five-gallon bucket, so they weigh the same!”

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal