A Little Collecting... Squished Pennies
Everyone has likely seen them. They pop up in places like Zoos and Aquariums. Maybe your kids have begged you for 51 cents to be able to squish a penny to take home. Maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about...? Either way, I'm about to give you a short introduction to seeking out penny machines like the ones above and collecting squished pennies.
They are actually called a lot of things... squished pennies, elongated pennies, elongated coins (or EC's), souvenir pennies, and many more. As with any form of collecting, there are multiple ways to collect squished pennies; some collectors are a little (or a lot!) more intense than others.
A very helpful resource for me has been the PennyCollector.com website. They go into great detail about how to clean your pennies, the history of squished pennies, and much more.
The BEST feature on this website is that they provide a list of locations. I bet there are penny machines close to your home that you don't even know are there! The locator is organized by state and then by city. They even have user-submitted photos of the pennies you will find in specific locations. I always check out this locator before traveling to a new place. If I have plans to visit a specific area I will check to see if there are any machines there so I can keep my eyes peeled! Some locations have more machines than others... I recently brought home a hand full of squished pennies from Disney World (photo above!) Finding all the machines became like a scavenger hunt for us!
Along with pennies, you will likely find a few (or more!) options for penny collector books. You can get generic books in many locations like the ones above.
Or you can find books that are specific to the area you are visiting. These book usually range in price from $5 to $8 each. Depending on how many pennies you are planning to squish, it's sometimes fun to buy a book to keep them all in! I got these on trips to New York City and San Francisco (and yes, they are full!)
I tend to squish all the pennies in one machine to put in my book. Some people prefer to just collect their favorites from each machine, and some people will even go as far as only squishing pennies that were minted in a specific year (their birthday, wedding day, etc.)
One important fact that some people definitely take into account is that the US changed the way they make pennies in 1982. Pennies minted prior to 1982 were made of 95% copper and 5% zinc. Starting in '82 they switched the ratio to 99% zinc and 1% copper, so the penny is made of a zinc core and plated in copper on the outside. This is visible in pennies that you squish which were minted after 1982.
See the silver color shadowing the imprinted image? That is the zinc core showing through after your penny has been squished. Some collectors (like me!) only use pennies which were minted before 1982 to avoid this.
See how the impression on this penny is uniform in color? I used a penny minted before 1982. This is definitely a personal preference since older pennies tend to not be as shiny, though there are way to clean them.
One Christmas my husband, knowing I wanted to start collecting them, gave me a penny book and a bag full of pre-1982 pennies! That may sound odd, but it was incredibly thoughtful and, at the time, I had no idea which pennies were ideal for the machines! It was definitely the beginning of a fun new hobby!
This would be a great collection to start with your kids! They could each have their own collector's book and get to pick a penny from each machine you encounter! Plus, at 51 cents each, it's a very affordable souvenir!