A Pressing Engagement

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the July 24, 2018 Issue #983 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


(with special thanks to Rose F., who originally wrote about
Pressed Coins for AllEars® many years ago.)

Pressed Coins at Walt Disney World

If you're like me, you try to travel as light as possible, especially in this day of extra airline fees for checked luggage. However, I also like to bring home souvenirs from my trips, which eat up lots of space in my suitcase... not to mention the hole they eat into my budget.

But I think I have a solution -- an activity that I used to engage in, but had almost forgotten about. I'm talking about pressed pennies and quarters, sometimes referred to as "elongated coins" by coin collectors (or "exonumia" if you're a fancy numismatic).

Why elongated? Well, if you've ever seen one you'll know why. You're taking a regular coin (a penny or quarter) and running it through a special machine that literally presses it while imprinting it with a new design. In the process the coin stretches into a longer, thinner, oval shape. These penny- and quarter-press machines are scattered all around Walt Disney World, and many other tourist attractions around the world for that matter, and produce the perfect inexpensive, easy-to-carry souvenir.

The earliest elongated coins in this country date back to 1893 and were issued to commemorate the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. They were made by metal rollers and a die engraved with a design in a process not unlike that used in the Walt Disney World machines today. While some machines may be automated, the machines around Walt Disney World are operated by a hand-crank -- you insert your coins into the machine, then turn the handle and watch the gears rotate as your penny or quarter is transformed into an oval bearing Mickey Mouse or some other Disney-themed character or icon.

I know some of you may be concerned that this conversion of coins may be considered a crime, but let me reassure you -- because elongated coins are primarily made as souvenirs, this "mutilation" is totally legal. Press on!

Pressed Penny from Space Camp

Here are some other thoughts on how pressed coins might be the souvenirs of your dreams:

1. They're fun to make. Searching for the pressing machines around Walt Disney World is a little challenge you can set for yourself as you're wandering around the World, riding rides or seeing shows. You can allow yourself to just happen upon the machines, or you can actively search for them -- a number of websites give their locations and even the official Walt Disney World site has maps with the pressed penny machines indicated. Once you find the machines, actually making the coins is pretty interesting, too. As you crank the handle, you can watch the wheels turning, pressing the design into the coin as it stretches and flattens out. Little kids (and big ones, too!) seem to be fascinated with the process. There's something really cool about watching an ordinary penny turn into a miniature piece of art.

2. They're fun to collect! And I'm not just talking about fun for kids -- they're fun for adults, too. Getting started is so easy -- all you need is 51 cents (or $1.25 if you're opting to collect quarters.) You insert your two quarters and the penny that's going to be pressed (or five quarters) and off you go. You'll find pressed penny/quarter machines all around the Disney theme parks and resorts -- even at Disney Springs. There are so many different designs -- each location usually has a few machines, and each machine usually offers a couple different designs. And every time you think your collection is finished, you'll discover that Disney has added new designs. The possibilities are seemingly endless, so that your collection, like Walt Disney World itself, will never be "complete." Once you begin, you can customize your collection, rather than try to collect every single coin design out there. You can focus on one particular character or one park, or maybe the resorts. Your collection can be very personal as you select designs that have a special meaning to you.

3. They make great gifts. You can surprise your friends with a coin or coins sporting their favorite character or perhaps some other favorite aspect of Disney World. Many people can't believe these charming little souvenirs started as regular coins. And these are great little gifts for kids to give to their friends -- something that they can make themselves and even afford to buy themselves. As I said at the start of this piece, another plus is how easy they are to transport. They take up virtually no space in your suitcase and you can be fairly certain you won't have any returns.

4. They are inexpensive. Collecting pressed coins as souvenirs (probably) won't bust your budget. Unlike other collectibles, these are a bargain. As I said earlier, a pressed penny costs only 51 cents to make, a pressed quarter is only $1.25. Compare that to the cost of collecting Disney pins, which can be $10 or more each, or t-shirts, which can cost three times that. Of course, once you start collecting, the costs can add up if you're not careful. You may become somewhat addicted or obsessed with the idea of finding all the coins on property! And of course there are accessories, such as pressed coin books to hold your treasures. Even so, I think it will still cost a lot less than you'd spend on other collectibles -- plus you've had the fun of finding the machines, choosing the designs, and making them yourself.

Pressed Penny Book

PRESSED COIN TIPS: Here are a few tips that I've gathered over the years:

*Use older pennies (pre-1982) if you can. They look better when pressed. This is because the older pennies don't include zinc. Zinc can cause silver-colored streaking in the copper.

*Bring coins with you rather than searching for them when you're at Walt Disney World. Finding a change machine anywhere on property can be difficult and takes the fun out of collecting.

*Clean your coins before leaving home using either silver cleaner, vinegar or some other commercial cleaning product. This will give a great-looking finished product.

*Carry your coins in rolls, or use plastic mini-M & M's canisters -- just be sure to tape them closed or they might pop open when they bounce around in your luggage.

*If you have a lot of change, put the coins in checked airline baggage rather than your carry-on bag. Airport security might stop you if your bags or rolls of coins show up on their scans, and besides, they're heavy! Whatever you do, don't carry the coins in your pockets -- that will definitely set off the airport scanners.

*Purchase the specially designed souvenir books to store and protect your pressed coins. You'll find them in stores at the parks and resorts. They hold many coins and make a nice way to display them. They can make a nice gift when filled with coins you personally made for friends.

*Check the machines each time you visit because they're always adding new ones.

*If you want to know where the machines are before you go on your trip, there are websites that provide the information -- even the official Walt Disney World site lists the locations (do a search on "pressed pennies" or "elongated coins"). But I find that the spontaneity of discovering a machine while shopping or visiting a park is half the fun.

Happy hunting! And please feel free to send us any tips you may have that we can include on our Pressed Pennies and Quarters page.

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RELATED LINKS
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Pressed Pennies and Quarters at Walt Disney World

What Merchandise Do You Collect?

A Disney Collection Filled with One-of-a-Kind Items and Memories

Disney Postage Stamps


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.