The Pressed Penny

Have you ever come to our store for a Pressed Penny? Our Penny Machine has been around for over 25 years now and had produced 34,000 pressed pennies… that is a lot of lucky Saratoga Pennies floating around the world!

Where did the pressed penny begin?

According to multiple sources the first documented pressed penny was made at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois from 1892-1893 to celebrate Columbus’s discovery of America. There were four different designs available.

Columbian Exposition Penny

An actual penny that we know today was not used for the Columbian Exposition coin in the photo here but an Indian Head Cent which have been out of circulation for over 100 years now. Because the machine was manually operated at the Columbian Exposition a person could choose the type of coin they wanted squashed!

Before this pennies and other coins were pressed on train tracks for fun… this is still done but is very dangerous!

Do they have other names?

Yes, they can be called Pressed Pennies, Squashed Coins, Elongated Coins, Rolled Cents, Pinched Pennies, Souvenir Pennies… and more names. The official name is Elongated Coin.

Are they always pennies?

Not always. Today you will see either pressed pennies or token machines but when elongated coin presses first appeared people could choose what type of coin they would like pressed. Plus the copper and zinc in the penny allows the engraving to show up clearly. The best penny to press is a penny from 1982 or earlier when the pennies were made with 95% copper. The higher the copper content the better they work! So pennies make the most sense!

 Most people collect the pennies specifically since the modern elongated coin machines press pennies. If you want to make sure your penny is clean before or even after pressing it here are some tips

Is it legal?

It is in the United States! According to U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331 it is illegal to use altered coins as money but it is not actually illegal to deface the coin if not intended for fraudulent purposes. 

It is illegal in Canada because it is illegal to vandalize anything with the queen’s face on it. That has not stopped penny machines from showing up there or in other countries where it is illegal! Instead there are penny machines that the customer inserts the local currency and a hopper with US pennies dispenses a penny into the machine to be pressed! 

How does it work?

Two rollers are set so close together that even a penny cannot fit through them without being crushed. The penny is squeezed through the two rollers causing it to become elongated. One of the rollers has the image engraved into it. This image then shows up on the penny. The crank is reverse-engraved creating the three dimensional high relief engravings so they actually “pop out” from the surface of the penny. Each penny is squeezed through over 3,000 pounds of pressure!

Crank versus automatic

There are two types of penny machine systems: hand cranks and electric. Here at Impressions we have the electric version. There are pluses and minuses to either version. The electric ones are louder and less interactive but they are easy for children to operate and faster to use. Where a crank machine is sometimes harder for a child to apply enough pressure to crank out the coin by hand. There is no definitive answer on which makes a better coin. The crank ones are usually flatter but are more likely to be off centered. The little “lip” on left side of a penny is the “catch point” more prominent on the electric machines, that keeps the penny in place before the rollers start.

saratoga penny

Where can you find penny machines?

There are a few sites that actually list all of the Penny Presses you can visit around the world. is one of them.

Here is our listing on the site

Do people collect them?

Yes they do! The American Numismatic Association claimed that “…coins intentionally mutilated for the purpose of souvenir specimens…. opened a whole new facet in numismatic history.” And thus began an entirely new branch of coin collecting.

There are books about collecting elongated coins, the largest and most informative is “The Encyclopedia of The Modern Elongated” it is 1,700 pages! This book even has a supplement to it! The book is sold for between $200 and $500 and the suppliment is usually another $75-$100!

It is estimated that there are over one thousand very serious collectors. The Elongated Collectors is an organization with over 650 members and was founded in 1966. Serious collectors are called Exonumists, people who collect coins not meant for circulation, they may also collect arcade tokens and limited edition souvenir mints. 

There are tens of thousands of collectors who press pennies as a hobby or a tradition at each place they visit. Disney Land has 40 machines alone! It is a collector’s dream! In Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort the three penny press options are Mickey riding a horse, Donald Duck splashing in water, and Cinderella with her horse.

disney coins

What can you do with the pennies?

LOTS! Here are just a few ideas we have seen and Pinterest has even more!

Jewelry: They can easily be made into bracelets, necklaces, pins, and even earrings. We have pendants available in our store with the lucky Saratoga penny!

Shadow Boxes: Make a fun shadow box background and add your pennies as you collect them! 

Belts: Yep, you can make a belt! 

Wind Chimes, Mirrors, Fishing Lures, or Frames: For the really crafty 


shadow box

Do I have to come to Impressions of Saratoga to get one?

We would LOVE to have you come to the store and pick out your pressed penny! Sometimes you just can’t wait though! You can order the pressed penny online you just have to pick which style you would like! You can even get a Penny Passbook to store all of your pennies in! Each book holds 36 pennies and even have compartments for quarters so you are always ready to press a penny! 


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