12.27.2009

Where Baseball Card Alley intersects with Penny Lane.

We know for a fact that most baseball card collectors also collect something else. Coins or stamps fall into the classic amassing realm. We suspect most of your 'other collections' are quirkier than coins or stamps, though. In our case, as you may know, it's lunchboxes of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Those, like baseball cards, are rectangular and colorful, so maybe there's some kind of connection.

But some, such as the coin people, don't seek squarishness. One of our best cyberbaseballcardcollectorfriends, the proprietor of the refreshingly quirky Mark's Ephemera, shares an interest with my kids: squished pennies. Squashed pennies. Smashed pennies. Sometimes they're called elongated coins.

I'm not sure exactly how this started, but on our travels our older daughter peers around for a squished penny machine...we've seen them in diverse locations and of course there's the motherlode, Disneyland. Here's a frequently updated list of where to find the machines.

It seems that the interest in elongated coins began during the 1892-1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. An elongated coin is made by a coin, token, medal or metal blank being forced between two steel rollers. This may be why kids enjoy the process...they take a perfectly good penny and with a few cranks of a hefty wheel, they pretty much

transmogrify it.

The kids quickly discovered it's best to use pennies minted prior to 1982 when the U.S. Mint used a percentage of 95% copper, 5% zinc; after that, pennies were minted using 99.2% zinc with a 0.8% copper coating.


The difference between the two becomes clear once the penny is squished--er, elongated. In the newer pennies, elongation reveals zinc below the copper. Also, zinc doesn't polish well and tarnishes to gray. Now, the legal eagles among you might be thinking about US Code Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331, which prohibits "the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage." This statute, however, does not prohibit mutilation of coins if said coins are not intended as counterfeit coinage. Because elongated coins are made mainly as souvenirs, mutilation for this purpose is legal. (While it is no longer illegal in the UK to mutilate the image of the Queen, it is still illegal in respect-crazed Canada.)

This is Lucy's penny book: Your burning question at this point well may be: are you off on some kind of addlepated tangent, Dinged Corners? How does all desecrating of coinage relate to baseball? Well, it kind of does: All three of the baseball penny examples above suffer from telltale zinc, but they're still kind of cool. Most modern coin elongating machines can be found in museum or landmark gift shops, souvenir stores, zoos, amusement parks and other such locations--including, rumor has it, some baseball stadiums. For instance, the Diamondbacks are said to have a machine, although we cannot verify. Minor league teams often have the machines. Here are pennies from the Chattanooga Lookouts:Tragically, there is no squisher at our local stadium, Albuquerque Isotopes Park. But evidence abounds that there must not only be plenty of penny pressing machines out there in baseball land, but also serious baseball-themed pressed penny collectors. Here is one bit of that irrefutable evidence:

And there are many baseball smashed penny resources online. Here's a flattening of Mike Schmidt from eBay:So Mark has kindly sent the girls some smashed pennies. He is a baseball card guy and a smashed penny guy. I'm not particularly into the pennies, but I enjoy helping the girls search out the machines, which are something to behold. Many make use of plastic and lucite, as in the picture of Lucy at work at the top of the post. But even those renditions have a solid, vintage craftsmanship appearance. And hey, they can smash a penny.

Our kids undoubtedly would do some crankin' if they came upon the machines at ballparks, but thus far we haven't seen them firsthand! On the bright side, we discovered a new word: exonumia--that is, non-money numismatic items. Well anyway, since we already contend with lunchboxes and baseball cards, what's the harm in adding a few pennies to the mix?

21 comments:

paulsrandomstuff said...

That's pretty neat. I've seen the machines around, but I've never paid that much attention to them.

Two Packs A Day said...

ah, the memories. I am not a collector and I can only recall having come across the machine once - at the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, AZ. I have my squished penny souvenir from that place somewhere around the house.

I'll have to check your links for locations and save the older pennies to try to squish some more at some point when I come across a machine.

--David said...

Oh, those are GREAT!! My kids are on-again/off-again squished penny collectors, too! :-) I may have to do some hunting... hmmm...

EdS said...

I must admit I accumulate a lot of odd things, elongated pennies among them. Although I don't have many and they just get tossed in a drawer. They do make going places a tad more interesting.

Speaking of interesting places, the photo of Lucy at the top...is that Kiva located at Chaco Canyon?

Dinged Corners said...

paulsrandomstuff, be careful, the next time you see one, if you turn the wheel you may get hooked.
2packs, it's neat that the machine at London Bridge stays in your memory.
David, kids just love the pennies, don't they? they get a kind of crazed look when they see the machines.
Ed, that is a kiva at Pecos National Monument.

dayf said...

My son likes the squished pennies too. We don't have an album for them yet, so there are randomly squished coinage floating around the house. Turner Field has a nifty 4-designs-in-one penny squisher, I'll have to sqush one for you this year.

PunkRockPaint said...

We collect them too!!! We will have to double squish from now on!

Steve78 said...

My wife and I collect these, we've got a modest 19. We picked up a baseball one in St. Louis at the new Busch Stadium in 2008. It's got the Cardinal on the bat and the arch.

Orioles Magic said...

I have collected these pennies for most of my 27 years and have quite a few. I know that the Orioles have a few machines around and I would be happy to send a few your way.

JD's Daddy said...

NICE Calvin and Hobbes reference. Well played!

cynicalbuddha said...

I think you might have to start a whole new blog there. And the advice about the pre 1982 pennies is priceless. My girlfriend loves those things and they make great souviners too. I love that they actually have collectors books too.

Dinged Corners said...

PRP, we are honored to enter into a Double Squish arrangement with you.

BASEBALL DAD said...

I'm finally getting around to adding my 2 cents worth. (sorry!).I just recently discovered that there are albums for those pennies.Our kids enjoyed them also.I didn't realize there were so many baseball related ones though.

paulsrandomstuff said...

I saw one of the machines at New Yankee Stadium today. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I didn't have any pennies with me. :)

Mark's Ephemera said...

Nice post. Very thorough. I'm glad I can help support the girls' habits. I feel like a pusher now.

capewood said...

I wish I hadn't seen that Mike Schmidt squashed penny. Now I'm going to have to find one.

Offy said...

I've got a huge pressed coin collection. I think I've got about 5 albums full of pressed pennies and quarters. Most of them are Disney since there there are so many machines there, but I've got a bunch of others as well. What other souvenirs can you purchase for a measly $0.51?

It looks like the next time that I head to Fenway I'll have to press a few extra sets for trades.

AdamE said...

My son gets one every time we go somewhere that has one. (my other son collects postcards from placed he has been) He has 3 of those little books full of smashed pennys now.

tastelikedirt said...

They used to have a couple at Pac Bell Park where the SF Giants play. But, the sponsor for that area changed so they took them out. The design changed depending who they played. I have a few around here somewhere.

Clay said...

We found our first of these machines at Central Park Zoo, NYC, in late 1950s at which time they had two design styles, one of which showed that famous Gorilla they had on display for decades, along with one of the Empire State Building ...

Believe they then cost only 10 to 25 cents per squish and the operator provided you with shiny new pennies ...

Today, here in eastern Canada, any machines found charge $ 1.00 and you have to have a penny of your own, so this no longer seems like that great a deal, unfortunately ...

Had never seen any with a baseball player / ballpark / theme before finding these pages so there must also be some for NBA - NFL - NHL themes, too ...

Great fun for all !!!

COLONEL77

Clay said...

More than 50+ years ago there were two machines at the Central Park Zoo when we were visiting NYC ...

These were attended by a small Italian man who would give you a new / shiny penny when you paid your 10 cents at which you then could take the wheel and roll out one of two designs, either the famous Gorilla who was on view there for decades or the Empire State Building ... Still have these ...

Have always wondered how much the old fellow made daily as people were always standing around watching / waiting for their chance ...

Over time these have, unfortunately, gone from 10 cents per roll to some machines we have seen recently charging $ 1.00 and you always have to have your own penny now but like they say try to carry a few older pennies from before the 1980s to have a better overall appearance of all copper in the finished design ...

Nice to see there are albums for these now ...

These are truly a great and fun item to look for and collect.

COLONEL77

SEMPER FIDELIS