If you’ve been to Disneyland or Universal Studios, you’ve probably seen a penny smasher, a machine that presses your penny into an elongated coin embossed with a design. The machine is called by many other names—penny presser, coin smasher, penny squisher, coin press, and penny pincher—but the resulting coins are just as sweet.
I find that collecting pressed pennies is more fun than, say, purchasing a dozen keychains, and it takes up less space in your luggage. In Disney World, for example, there are 26 penny smasher machines and over 150 designs to choose from. It costs 51 American cents to get one penny smashed (two quarters as payment and one penny that will be pressed). I usually get two to five pressed pennies per theme park, so that’s just $2.55 compared to purchasing a $30-Disney plushie that will take up space in my backpack.
Let’s say you’re one of those extreme collectors and you decide to get all 150 designs from Disney World, that sums up to about $76.50. That could be your alternative to purchasing a $70-Mickey Mouse sweater, a $20-tumbler, plus other plastic light-up toys. Pressed pennies last longer, and if you end up with one of those rare designs that get discontinued—you can sell them to collectors.
It’s not just theme parks that have pressed penny machines. These days you’ll find them in malls and other tourist attractions. As for locations outside the US, some machines accept the country’s version of a penny, while some have built-in copper pieces that will be pressed into your chosen souvenir design. Some machines will automatically press the penny for you as soon as you pay, while others have a manual steering wheel that lets you do the pressing—now that’s more fun!
I fell into a rabbit hole of pressed penny history and pop culture when I watched videos of collectors and theme park vloggers. I geeked out with tidbits, like: if you use American pennies made after 1982, you will see a silver streak on your pressed penny because they’re made of zinc with a copper coating. Pennies made before 1982 are pure copper, so use the older ones if you don’t want any silver streaks. Watch these YouTube videos if you want more fun facts about pressed pennies.
Or keep scrolling to see my personal collection:
While pressed pennies started in American expos in 1892, the commercial kind first appeared in Disneyland in the mid-80s, and I was ecstatic to find mine from that era!
Looking back, I realized I should have collected more.
As for me, my post-apocalyptic mission, should I survive this pandemic, is to visit my top theme parks and collect every single design to be placed in an official Disney pressed penny album.
Now check out the rest of my collection:
Do you have any pressed pennies lying around your house? See if you have one of those rare designs that collectors are dying to get their hands on. Go to sites like pennycollector.com and presscoins.com to compare and trade, and parkpennies.com to see if what you have is considered rare.