10 Facts About Pressed Pennies You Probably Don’t Know
There's more than meets the eye to these flattened coins.
If you have ever visited an amusement park, a large zoo or another family-oriented vacation spot, you have probably seen penny-press machines. You put your penny into the machine along with the fee—typically 50 cents—and watch while the machine flattens the coin and adds a design for an instant souvenir.
There are so many good reasons to collect pressed pennies and other coins, also called elongated coins. They’re super affordable, highly portable, easy to store, readily available and they tell a story about your travels.
There’s even an entire website dedicated to these quirky coins—PennyCollector.com. You can check out the location of pressed penny machines in every state and many countries around the world!
Looking for a fun way to display your pressed pennies? Put them on a map to mark your travels, then frame and hang the map, suggests blogger Atta Girl Says.
Whether you are an avid accumulator of elongated pennies or have simply wondered about how these kitschy collectibles came to be, read on to learn some little-known facts about pressed coins.
1. They Have Been Around For Two Centuries
The first elongated coins were reportedly made by a Viennese jeweler in Austria in 1818. The first penny press was a hand-cranked jewelry mill.
2. They’re “Made In The USA”
Pressed pennies made their American debut at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. There were four designs, all of which commemorated the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America. Other firsts that appeared at the expo included the ferris wheel, picture postcards and Juicy Fruit gum.
3. The Pennies Are Squeezed By Rollers
Coins are squeezed between two rollers. One of the rollers has an engraved surface. While one roller flattens and elongates the coin, the other presses the custom design into it.
4. Pennies Work Best
Although any coin can be pressed, pennies are preferred. The darker color of the copper and zinc from which the coins are minted allow designs to show up more clearly. In fact, older pennies are best. The best pennies to use are from prior to 1982, when the pennies were made of 95 percent copper.
5. Bring Your Pennies To Disneyland
Disneyland Resort has over 150 different commemorative images that can be pressed onto a penny, nickel, dime or quarter.
“Pressed coin machines can be found throughout Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, the Downtown Disney District and at all 3 Disneyland Resort hotels,” according to Disney.
There’s even a map that shows you how to find the different pressed-penny machines.
6. There’s An Official Name For Pressed-Penny Collectors
People who collect pressed pennies are called exonumists. Exonumia is a collection of items related to money that are not intended for circulation, such as tokens, wooden nickels or encased coins. There are clubs and groups for exonumists as well as coin dealers who buy and sell certain elongated coins. Most collectors specialize in one field and only collect relevant coins.
The Elongated Collectors group, for example, has over 650 members in several countries. It was founded in 1966—proof that the elongated pennies craze can withstand the test of time.
“Many of our members gather throughout the year at ‘mini-meets’ in various parts of the country to visit with one another, compare collections, trade duplicates and go on ‘squishin’ missions,'” according to the group’s website.
7. It’s Illegal In Canada
According to United States Code Title 18 Chapter 17 Section 331, pressing pennies is legal in the U.S., as long as you are not fraudulently trying to spend the coins. However, in some countries, such as Canada, it is illegal to deface coins. Instead, you can purchase metal blanks to use in the press machines.
8. They May Be Valuable
If you have been collecting pressed pennies for years or inherited someone else’s elongated coin collection, you might want to look into their worth. Currently, four books have been published cataloging elongated coins. “Encyclopedia of the Modern Elongateds” by Angelo A. Rosato is the most recent and most comprehensive volume available.
9. You Can Clean Pressed Pennies
While it is best to clean pennies before pressing them, you can use one of several methods to brighten elongated pennies. The best method depends on the age of the coin, as pennies have been made from different materials over the years. The simplest methods include rubbing with a pencil eraser, wiping with ketchup or scrubbing with a salt and vinegar mixture.
10. Those Letters Have A Meaning
Many elongated coins display a set of letters near the narrow end of the coin. These are the initials of someone involved in the coin’s appearance, such as the designer, original engraver or the maker of the roller.
Check out Don’t Waste Your Money for other great tips and ideas about saving money.