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Vance Fowler Father of
The Coin Operated Penny Press Machine
© 2005 ParkPennies

Top trending pages:
Machine Locations All Disneyland Area Pressed Coins
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Mr. Fowler's Invention Makes
Penny Press Machine History


In the world of penny collecting there are a few historically significant people that are in my opinion, of special interest to Disneyland ® pressed penny collectors. Vance Fowler is surely one of them. When called the "Inventor of the Coin Operated Penny Press", he modestly replied that about 70 years before him, a company that manufactured silent movie projectors may have also developed an automated, closed box, elongated coin machine. I don’t know, could be, but, there is no doubt that today’s "Pressed Penny" collectors owe a lot to Mr. Fowler and his elongated coin vending machine company, The Cimeter Group, that pioneered today’s vended "pressed penny" industry.

Early Automated "Penny Press Machine"


Vance Fowler's frist coin operated penny press machine.

Above is a picture of Mr. Fowler’s first machine. Current day Cimeter Elongating Machines are much smaller yet still extremely dependable.

These inspirational words were written in "The Book", Angelo A. Rosato’s Encyclopedia of the Modern Elongated* about Mr. Vance Fowler:

"...Without any prior knowledge in mechanics, it was an instance where self-discipline and confidence, through improvision and inventiveness.... With determination, the challenging undertaking, along with the investment of many months, materialized into a masterful craftsman like triumph: He had ultimately perfected a fully automated coin rolling vender."

Mr. Fowler’s comments: "[this is] the only surviving picture known of my original automated coin press built in 1979. It was absolutely HUGE...about like a standing freezer. It weighed well over 400 pounds.
It was a single die device using a segment type system. The very first impression was "I Love Oregon" and placed in the Meier & Frank Company department store...a branch of The May Company Stores. I’ve since engraved nearly 500 dies and constructed about eight different machine formats...each one getting smaller and more compact and extremely proficient and trouble free with multiple dies.
(One single die machine has made over a half million impressions and is still cranking out coins.)
From my original automated machine through several redesigns, 1979 through about 1985, I had the market completely to myself and had a ball. As you are more than aware, there are thousands of machines today and I’ve counted dozens and dozens of different manufacturers."

By many accounts, The Cimeter Group made quality penny press machines and quality engravings, e.g. their noted "Penny Scenes Of Hawaii." When The Cimeter Group used their expertise to press two themed prototype pennies for Disneyland ® in 1986-88, they immediately became a coin of very special interest to collectors. Today, those coins are known by many as the legendary "Straw Hat Mickey" prototypes or the DN0002 and DN0003. At about the same time, Centek Inc., another manufacturer of penny press machines, had pressed a Disneyland ® themed prototype which also became a coin of special interest to Disneyland ® collectors, known today as the "Mickey Mouse Rays" prototype or the DN0001.

Although the scans offered here may not do the coins justice, when the DN0002 and the DN0001 coins are viewed in person, the superior quality of the DN0002 Cimeter coin is obvious. To many collectors, it is an excellent example of a high-quality vended coin of the 1980’s. The "3-dimensional" engraving and excellent detail set it above and apart from the DN0001 Centek coin. As you can see, the Mickey Mouse Rays Centek prototype is a very nice coin also, but, features a comparatively less interesting, flat, outlined engraving that was common in the late 1980’s vended coins.

So why didn’t the "Straw Hat Mickey" greet park guests in 1987? Personal research over the past years as well as conversations and correspondence with helpful "people in the know" all combined with my high blood sugar level, have formed some insights. My personal opinion, based on those insights, is that 100% ownership (or nearly 100% ownership) of the arcade machines and or their income was required by Disney ® at the time they chose a machine manufacturer. However, the custom of the day was to share revenue between the manufacturer and the location owner with no penny press machine sales offered. The Cimeter Group machines, although desirable in many ways, were available only on the customary terms. The Centek Inc. machines, on the other hand, were for sale. The choice was made, the Mickey Mouse Rays took stage and advanced collectors were set searching for three extremely hard to find prototype coins the DN0001, DN0002 and DN0003.

Whatever the reason, Disneyland ® ultimately made an outright purchase of two Centek Inc. penny press machines in 1987. One of them vended the coin acknowledged as the first on-stage Disney ® pressed penny, the DL0001. (A coin much like the Centek Inc. prototype DN0001 in appearance and design.) The second Centek Inc. machine purchased at that time vended the large image Bear Country elongated cent, the DL0002.

The pair of new Centek machines were said to be both profitable and popular. However, they were also said to be prone to failure given the high Disneyland guest usage levels. Subsequently, the Centek machines were replaced by Eurolink machines. Soon dozens of Eurolink Inc. machines were pressing coins at the park.

As of today, Eurolink Inc. has been providing most all penny press machines and dies (coins) seen at Disneyland ® for more than a decade. Fortunately, and to the delight of many collectors, most of today’s Eurolink coins feature the quality "3-dimensional" high detail style of engraving reminiscent of The Cimeter Group’s DN0002 prototype coin. (Thanks to the excellent work of Eurolink’s engraver, Mr. Jimmy Vargas.)

So, next time you are pressing pennies in one of those very cool automated coin pressers, why not take a moment to reflect on the history of the penny press machines and people that have made this great hobby possible? After all, when you press a penny, you are part of that history.

* Mr. Rosato’s excellent reference, Encyclopedia of the Modern Elongated offers additional history about Mr. Vance Fowler, The Cimeter Group and other famous names in elongated coin history. The encyclopedia also has extensive history about elongated coins and how they are made.

ParkPennies readers are encouraged to refer to this 1700+ page corner stone book for in depth coverage of the hobby and profession. One can truly call this a coffee table book. It’s nearly the size of a coffee table! But, I can’t think of a thing I’d want omitted from it.

Available directly from the publisher:
ISBN 0-9626996-2-4 angrospub@aol.com and selected libraries.


From the ParkPennies.com DN Disneyland ® Never-Neverland Reference Guide

The DN0001 Mickey Rays - Mickey Sunburst.  The First Disney pressed coin design DN0001 Mickey Rays / Mickey Sunburst The First Disney elongated coin design. Horizontal pressed penny image. DISNEYLAND ® , Classic outlined image of Mickey’s face "hollow outlined ears" with rays, © DISNEY dot border grip on right side. Earliest known Disney elongated coin type ever made. (Centek prototype.) This coin very similar in design to DL0001, DL0005, DL0007, and DL0019. Circa late 1985 to early 1986. No backstamped examples known. (No Disney elongated coins pressed before 2004 are known to have backstamps.) This Disney coin was pressed from a prototype die designed for use in a machine type that preceded the first installed Disneyland penny presses, the Centek single play machines. Examples are known in only a few collections as of 2007. Die status is reported as open. Extremely scarce as of 2015. Larger prototype elongated coin image in frame or window # 1   2   3 or Giant Image.
Related: Mickey Rays pressed pennies page, scarce or rare Disneyland pressed pennies and our elongated coin comparison page.

The legendary DN0002 Nifty Nineties Mickey - Straw Hat MickeyDN0002 Nifty Nineties Mickey / Straw Hat Mickey Pressed Coin. Vertical pressed coin image. MICKEY MOUSE , Mickey Mouse in a 1890’s style suit, standing, full length, full face, head cocked to one side, tipping his straw hat with his left hand, dot border, DISNEYLAND ® , © 1986 THE WALT DISNEY CO. Per the machine owner, this die was made in November of 1986.No backstamped examples known. (No Disney elongated coins pressed before 2004 are known to have backstamps.) This Disney coin is often called the "Straw Hat Mickey" or "Nifty Nineties Mickey". Mickey Mouse is in 1890’s summer clothing, as in the 1941 Disney short, The Nifty Nineties. Interviews by Robert Hoff of ParkPennies.com with key people close to this prototype, suggest that Vance Fowler of The Cimeter Group hoped that an agreement covering this coin in a Cimeter machine would be received and accepted by Disneyland. David P., a relative and business partner eventually presented the DN0003. The DN0002 / DN0003 artwork is well executed in high relief. (For examples featuring the dates 1928 to the left of Mickey and 1988 to right, please refer to DN0003.) Examples pressed circa 1986-7 on both copper and zinc cents are known to exist and most likely number less than 10 in total. Die status has been reported as open by two trusted sources. Extremely scarce as of this 2015 update. Reported as held by only a few advanced collectors as of 2015. Larger prototype elongated coin image in frame or window # 1   2   3
Related: Our scarce or rare Disneyland pressed pennies and elongated coins page.

DN0003 Dated Nifty Nineties Mickey - Straw hat Mickey prototype pressed coin.DN0003 Dated Nifty Nineties Mickey / Straw hat Mickey Pressed Coin. Vertical pressed penny image. MICKEY MOUSE , 1928 Mickey Mouse in a 1890’s style suit, standing, full length, full face, head cocked to one side, tipping his straw hat with his left hand, 1988, DISNEYLAND ®, dot border, © 1988 THE WALT DISNEY CO. For examples without the dates 1928 to the left of Mickey and 1988 to the right, please refer to the DN0002. This die was engraved between 1987 and 1989. No backstamped examples known. (No Disney elongated coins pressed before 2004 are known to have backstamps.) Image courtesy of the N. Wooten collection. This Disney coin is often called the "Dated Straw Hat Mickey" or "Dated Nifty Nineties Mickey". Mickey Mouse is in 1890’s summer clothing, as in the 1941 Disney short, The Nifty Nineties. Interviews by Robert Hoff of ParkPennies.com with key people close to this prototype suggest that Vance Fowler of The Cimeter Group proposed this coin / machine to Disneyland Management via a California based relative working with him. However, negotiations broke down and the machine was never placed onstage. The artwork is well executed and done in high relief. (For examples without the dates 1928 to the left of Mickey and 1988 to right, please refer to DN0002.) In 2000, die status was reported to Robert Hoff of ParkPennies by a trusted knowledgeable source as lost / destroyed. Again in 2005 and 2012, this die was confirmed as lost / destroyed by the original owner / engraver. Known examples of this coin are scarce. In 2006, a picture of the left and right marquees from the original machine, each featuring a DN0003 was made public. A few additional examples are known. Extremely scarce. Possibly six examples known as of this update in 2015. Larger prototype elongated coin image in frame or window # 1   2   3

Would you like to read about other Scarce Disneyland pressed penny coins?