Denominational variations* gained attention in 2021. When the park reopened after the pandemic closure, the transition away from "press your own coin" machines was well under way. The classic "press your own coin" machines were being phased out. The new machines furnished the penny to be pressed and no nickel or dime machines were to be found onstage. Some quarter press machines also disappeared leaving only a few legacy "press you own quarter" machines. As of mid-2022, no new Cast Member or Special Even pressed coins have been reported since 2019. The last new pressed nickel, dime or quarter was placed onstage February 21, 2020 just before the park's COVID-19 closure. Most significantly, coin press support by on-site Disneyland Cast Members had been terminated. With these changes, interest in the now nostalgic, scarce and getting scarcer copper penny, nickel, dime, quarter and token variations grew. It now appears the future will be vending style penny press machines supported by outside techs. The Disneyland Resort apparently has transitioned to a new coin press business model. In short some collectors have grater interest in these coins now thinking as Will Rogers once said, "they ain't making any more of the stuff". :-) Online discussions about the transition away from classic coin presses has become a popular topic. Interest in completing collections of increasingly costly pre-conversion pressed coins and denominational variations has grown. These events and my fading youth :-) have motivated me to offer this page. I hope to share what I have heard over the years. It is also an invitation for readers to contribute to this article and help document today's knowledge for future generations.
In 2021, significant changes took place. When the park reopened after the pandemic closure, Disneyland Resort coin presses were in the care of a third party company. The Disneyland Cast Members who had done so much to grow and innovate the souvenir presses had been replaced. The classic "press your own coin" machines were also being replaced. The new vending-style machines vend the penny to be pressed. No nickel or dime machines were to be found onstage and only a few legacy "press you own quarter" machines remained. For reference, the last new pressed nickel, dime or quarter design was a nickel set placed onstage February 21, 2020 just before the park's COVID-19 closure. Also, as of mid-2022, no new Cast Member or Special Even pressed coins have been reported since 2019. It now appears the vending-style penny press machines supported by third-party services will be the future. The Disneyland Resort apparently has transitioned to a new coin press business model. Given these changes, collecting scarce denominational variations will become even more challenging and rewarding. It appears as Will Rogers might say, "they ain't making any more of the stuff".
From 1987 through 2020, according to many Cast Members and guests, Disneyland "Penny" presses were not only profitable, they were part of the "show". Disneyland Specialized Businesses Merchandise and of course, the Electro Mechanical Technicians ("Arcade Shop" / EMT) Cast Members often spoke of their beloved coin press machines with pride. They were the people that introduced Disney pressed coin machines, seasonal coins, special event coins, award coin sets, stampbacks and Disney denominational variations to the world. These machines enhanced both the "show" for the guests and the profits for the resort. Much of the innovation took place backstage while penny presses were being placed onstage. On-site Cast Member Electro Mechanical Technicians or EMTs, provided pressed coin machine support and often "plused" or improved the Disneyland Resort owned coin press machines. It showed.
Piecing together bits of history from multiple sources... Pressed coins other than cents were not new to the people that supplied coin dies or machines to Disney. However, at the time Disneyland had only penny press machines onstage. By one Cast Member's account, pressing nickels at first may have been a way to set / compress coin die shims before placing a machine onstage. However, it was easy to see, non-native coin types* were a whimsical novelty and... could add to the "show". Experimentation with coin variations (primarily nickels) for onstage machines probably had become common by the mid 1990s. (This linked image of prized 1995 "No C" coins establishes date of 1995 or earlier. Many earlier penny dies have been used to press nickels, but at unknown dates.) Before long, non-native "Test" nickels, dimes and quarters were being pressed by shop technicians on older penny dies (generating some of the now scarce denominational variations). This backstage experimentation would quickly lead to new onstage denominational variations and set the future direction of Disneyland pressed coins. Soon the first Disney non-penny pressed coins would greet Disneyland Park guests. Related: A Tribute to Disneyland's Pressed Coin Heroes of the Past.
On January 6, 1995, the first Disney non-penny pressed coin, the CM0002 Annual Passholder Party pressed nickel, had its public debut. (Those were the days! :-) Soon after, nickel-sized coin dies were being ordered for onstage machines. The first Disney onstage nickel press machine was placed in November of 1995, the DL0058-60. This new "nickel press" provided what many guests perceived as a superior souvenir and sparked pressed nickel collecting. Not to mention, each time a nickel was pressed it earned the park 75 cents, 25 cents more than a pressed penny. But, the Disneyland Resort did not stop there. In May of 1996, the first Disneyland Resort quarter press machine, the DL0083-85, was placed onstage; on March 18, 2005 the first Disney pressed dime machine, the DL0274-276 was placed in ToonTown; on May 20, 2011 the first Disneyland Resort pressed token machine, the DL0499-501aT was placed onstage. In short, Disney pressed coins were no longer just pressed pennies and a new Disney pressed coin collecting specialty was born.
Around the turn of the century, prized non-native coin types were featured as awards, special events souvenirs and in exclusive presentation framed sets. For Cast Members some examples include the 2005 Disneyland Resort 50th anniversary pressed nickel and steel cent sets. (There were also some 60th Diamond Celebration Cast Member framed sets, but we do not have pictures yet. Please contact us if you have images to share.) These sets produced a variety of scarce denominational variations for Cast Members and family. For resort guests there were also some neat denominational variations. The limited time conversion of several DCA penny presses to dime presses was amazing. Many guests pressed the DCA 10 cent pieces to assemble the amazing 43 coin 2011 Disney California Adventure 10th Anniversary Dime Collection. Longtime avid collectors will also remember the onstage penny press machines which were converted from penny to very popular nickel presses. The conversions often took place just before the coin designs / coin dies were retired. Examples of penny to nickel press conversions include the DL0244-246 pressed cents later offered as the DL0453-455 pressed nickels as part of the early Lands Set. The Downtown Disney DR0192-194 princess set conversion was initially offered as fifty one cent pressed pennies were quickly changed to the very cool eighty-cent DR0192-194N pressed nickels. Again, great denominational variations and only at Disneyland.
By the early 2000s, Cast Member and Special Event Coins added several highly prized multi-coin sets. Often using a single coin die, pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters were made for presentation sets. They were the stars of some Cast Member retirement parties. (Okay, well maybe the retiring Cast Members were the stars to some attendees. :-) As an example, Jack Steiner's retirement pressed coin set featured a Jack Steiner coin die and a miniature penny press accompanied by a limited number of steel cent, nickel and dime. These highly valued Jack Steiner coins were all pressed on the #CMS0018 coin die. Bob Johnson's retirement coin set also included some very cool coin denominations that even included themed stampbacks. One retired Arcade Shop veteran of the early penny press years, commented that Cast Members couldn't wait to see what would be the next coin, coin variety or innovation. In short, by the early 2000s, different coin types were being "tested" often on native penny-sized coin dies and were being embraced by both guests and Cast Members. Often samples of these proposed, experimental, test or awarded scarce denominational variations were given to fellow Cast Members. Needless to say, these are more highly prized denominational variations sought after by collectors today. Related: Where to find scarce coins
-In a probably cashless future society, "penny presses" will be a thing of the past.
Therefore, let's say these are still the good ol' days. ;-) Seize the day!
Happy collecting, Boomer.
*Denominational variations is used here to reference a variety of common onstage pressed coin types, e.g. cent, nickel, dime, quarter, token...
**Non-native coin types (Also called off-denomination coins.) is used here to reference a scarce prototype or test coin type, e.g. a nickel, dime, quarter etc. that has been pressed on a coin die originally designed to press US cents / pennies, the "native coin". Early classic examples of non-native coins are the Penny Art Nickels which were pressed on coin dies designed for pressing pennies. (Later coin dies were specifically made to press nickel-size coins. Although nickels pressed on penny coin dies are best known and are the most sought after by collectors. Examples of most all "non-native" pairings of coins and coin dies are known, e.g. cents, nickels, dimes, quarters or even tokens pressed on native cent, nickel, dime, or token coin dies. Non-native coin types were often made as "Test Coins". However, other unusual coin / die matches were made for framed sets, special awards / retirement gifts and shop made Cast Member Holiday gifts.
Related: Establishing Elongated Coin Provenance.