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Coin-Op Penny Press Machine
Coin-Op Penny Press Machine
Pressed pennies date back to the 1800s. But, the real boost in pressed coin popularity took place with the invention of the coin operated pressed penny machine by Vance Fowler in the 1970s. With the introduction of his "Automatic Coin Rolling Vender", penny presses could be placed in souvenir shops, amusement parks, zoos, tourist points of interest... All without the need for an attendant to accept payment or press the coins. Given convenient high visibility locations, curious "innocent bystanders" :-) as well as avid pressed coin collectors could just place their coins in these new arcade style machines and make fun, collectable souvenirs. And they did! Because of the innovation and popularity of the new automated penny press machines, millions of people have watched their coins being squeezed into priceless keepsakes before their very own eyes... as this wonderful hobby has been embraced by both the young and old around the world! Related: The Early History of Disneyland Pressed Coins
Which Coins Are Really Best To Use in Penny Press Machines?
Which pennies are best to smash in coin press machines? Glad you asked! :-) There are as many choices as there are pressed coin collectors. However, pre 1982 solid copper cents are preferred by most elongated coin collectors. Because post 1982 zinc cents were made of copper plated zinc. They can be tricky to clean and may show some silver streaking when the thin copper plating is broken. On the other hand, zinc pennies might be preferred if you want to use a coin dated the same year as you pressed it. Plus zinc cents have an advantage when the coin press machine isn't adjusted quite right and solid copper coins are "rolling short". This is because the much softer zinc cents might produce a more complete image or "roll" in the same machine. (As shown in the picture on this page.)
But wait... Not even all solid copper pre 1982 cents are alike! Copper cents dated 1980 and 1981 are often "softer" than say 1960s copper cents. So, for a "longer" more complete pressed coin, you might want to try a 1980 or 1981 solid copper cent before you try a softer zinc cent. Don't forget that some machines might press coins longer or shorter depending on the temperature of the machine rollers / coin dies. Lastly, if you are using uncirculated "BU" cents with very clean, dry surfaces, rubbing the coin between your fingers to put just the oil from your fingerprints on it might cause the coin to roll a bit longer. (I know, I didn't used to believe this one either! :-)
Any tips for pressing nickels, dimes, or quarters? Pre 1965 dimes and quarters are made of 90% silver and can make for extra nice pressed coin souvenirs, jewelry, and framed sets. "War Nickels" also have some silver in them and it shows when they are polished. Newer nickels, post 2003, are very "flat" not having the relief or 3D look of the early nickels from 1938-2003. However, all nickels with the exception of the "silver" 1942-1945 "War Nickels" seem to press about the same (of course the ghost image left on pressed pre-2003 and earlier nickels is stronger and differs from the image left with post-2003 nickels). Do keep in mind, that these nickel, dime, and quarter coin variations containing silver tend to press "shorter" than their more common nickel, copper, or zinc equivalents and may not fully press in -some- machines. As long time collectors know, some penny press machines, for one reason or another, will produce curved pressed coins. Here is a page with our suggestion of How To Flatten Curved Pressed Pennies.
What if if a coin "skips" in the penny press machine? Sometimes coins will start late or bounce between the coin dies or rollers because the coin gripper or catch slot is warn or not well implemented. If the coin die's grip slot can't grab the coin, it can't pull it in between the rollers. So, when skipping occurs, it may be worth a try to use a 1963 or 1964 dated cent. The 1963-4 dated cents often have a high, sharp raised edge and may still work. If all else fails, sometimes a machine will have a phone number to request a repair or a nearby cashier may have a spare pressed penny. Related: How to Clean Pressed Pennies and The future of the US Cent. (Yes, maybe too much information. But, this is ParkPennies. It's what we do. :-)
Where can we purchase "Bright Uncirculated" or "BU" (clean, unused) copper cents? Coin shops and eBay are great places to look. If you are an avid pressed penny collector, you might even want to look for a "Mint Sewn Bag" of 5,000 cents or a "roll" of 50 pre 1982 common date BU cents... maybe a roll of 1963-4's and some 1980-81's? Of course, don't forget about that penny jar at home or the local bank. I know some readers may have one more question...
Is it legal to press pennies in the United States? Yes! Mr. Fowler's letter from the US Treasury established that pressing coins is legal. But, I still want to look around a bit to make sure no one is watching when I press a penny. ;-)
Here is an example of sliver Disneyland pressed coins
on a silver Disneyland "Mickey" bracelet. Great memories!
Pressed pennies have become a very popular collectable around the world. For many people it's because these tiny keepsakes are fun, inexpensive , durable, easy to store and display.
Of course, in some locations coin smashing machines press foreign coins or planchets (tokens / slugs) because of local laws, customs or cost. But, "penny press" machines can be found in places around the world you might not have even thought of like Hong Kong, Shanghai, France, Japan... And those are just the Disney pressed coin machine locations! :-) Check the expansive list of world locations offered by the good folks at the PennyCollector.Com.
How to store and display pressed pennies? Personally, I like to see a pressed penny in a scrapbook next to a picture. They can bring back great memories. Even young children will often remember the first time they pressed a penny. Sometimes, even many years later, the penny will remind them of that day and place. But, once you've "caught the pressed penny bug", it is surprising how quickly and how many pressed pennies one can accumulate. So scrapbooks may be just the start. Framed pressed penny sets, pressed penny collecting books, and Pressed Penny Jewelry all have gained interest in recent years.
They make for a great way to display, share, and enjoy your pressed coins...
Are there pressed penny online forums, apps, and web sites :-) ? Absolutely! Links to some Pressed Penny Collecting Groups are here at ParkPennies. You can also Google the ParkPennies web site in the search box above to find lots more fun stuff like pressed penny articles, guides, news... We hope you'll enjoy this amazing, fun, inexpensive, family hobby and share it with others. Happy collecting, Boomer.