The Pursuit of Pressed Pennies

Every year growing up my family would spend the weekend before Independence Day camping at Knoebels Amusement Resort. My cousins and I would spend our days elatedly running around the park going on as many rides as possible, and our night making s’mores around the campfire. My parents would give me change (two quarters and one penny, to be exact) so I could get a ‘smooshed’ penny at the hand-crank machine outside the gift shop. When I got home from the trip I would empty my pennies into a special container I had for them and there they slowly started accumulating. One from the Fairgrounds Square mall, one from the Philadelphia Zoo, one I found on the boardwalk at the beach, one from my class field trip to the Whitaker Center, and even one that was a smooshed quarter from Hershey Park.

As a kid I had a bad habit of losing things that I wanted to keep safe. I assumed this would eventually be the fate of my pennies, but the deformed coins persevered and through all odds survived to when I was clearing out my room to go to college. It was at that moment that I realized “Huh, I collect these.”

Coins are one of the most common things that people collect. The collection of coins in called Numismatics and the collection of elongated coins is a branch numismatics, so I’m by no means original in this venture. Pressed penny machines generally have four or more different design options. To me, it’s not essential to get every design that a machine offers, but rather to just pick the design that I like the most. After putting your change in the machine you press the design into the penny yourself my turning a large crank. The physicality and personalization that penny machines offer help to make the experience special and memorable. The pennies become something you made instead of something you got. 

Once I realized that I was collecting pressed pennies I became more vigilant in my pursuit of them. A nice surprise came when I was studying abroad in Europe and happened across penny machines in Rome, Florence, London, and Scotland. Of course, they used coins such as the 2 Euro cent and Pence coins, and not U.S. pennies. Coming across machines unexpectedly always filled me with delight and a desperate search of my bag for coins.

After over a decade of collecting pressed pennies the thought finally crossed my mind to google it after I graduated college. This led me to, which offers a handy app that provides the location of all penny machines in the U.S. and abroad. Now that I’m out of school I’m traveling a lot more than I ever have before, and I make sure to take note of where the pennies are and plan my routes accordingly.

I even enlisted the help of my classmates from college, who spread themselves out across the country and occasionally mail me pennies, much to my delight. I keep my pennies in a jar for now and as of today I am up to 88! I’ll have to do something special for my 100th.

But less about me, what do you collect? I’d love to hear about something you hang onto through every move and make space for on your shelf. Leave a comment, or better yet, send me a penny!



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