What is an elongated coin?
Elongateds are coins or blank planchets that travel through a machine called a jeweler's mill, which have mirror image designs cut into steel rollers, similar to wringers on an old-fashioned washing machine. These are run between the rollers under tremendous pressure - around 44,000 PSI - commonly referred to as "about 22 tons of pressure", which presses the coin into the die and due to the immense pressure simultaneously stretches the coin into an oval shape. This also generates a bit of heat, and the resulting coin is quite warm for a few seconds.
The first elongated coins, or pressed pennies, were at the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois in 1892-1893 (also known as the World's Fair). Someone even rolled a $3 gold piece in this machine – and it sold on eBay for several thousand dollars! Elongated coins come in all denominations (some people even run them on tokens and foreign coins), with the penny being the most common.
With its start as a souvenir at World's Fairs and Expositions, the elongated coin has evolved into a souvenir for most any event, activity, or topic. They are initially inexpensive to buy (usually 50¢ and a penny), and can be a great way to collect souvenirs of where one has traveled.
Is it legal?
The United States Codes under Title 18, Chapter 17, and Section 331, "prohibits the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage." However, this statute does not prohibit the mutiliation of coins if done without fraudulent intent or use. In other words, YES, it's LEGAL!
From the Department of the Treasury, 31 CFR Part 82, Prohibition on the Exportation, Melting, or Treatment of 5-Cent and One-Cent Coins:
82.2 (1) The exportation in any one shipment of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins having an aggregate face value of not more than $100 that are to be legitimately used as money or for numismatic purposes.
82.2 (2) (b) The prohibition contained in Sec. 82.1 against the treatment of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins shall not apply to the treatment of these coins for educational, amusement, novelty, jewelry, and similar purposes as long as the volumes treated and the nature of the treatment makes it clear that such treatment is not intended as a means by which to profit solely from the value of the metal content of the coins.
In other words, as long as elongated coins are used for legitimate numismatic purposes, the prohibition on treating coins (elongating them) does not apply. Collecting, trading and selling elongated coins are legitimate numismatic purposes. No more than 10,000 coins ($100 face value on pennies, 2,000 nickels is $100 face value) may be shipped at one time, assuming they are US coins. Additional protections come in under section 82.2 (2) (b) because novelty, educational, amusement, jewelry and similar purposes apply as well. There cannot be a sole purpose of profiting from the metal content, but since the elongation of the coin is the primary issue whereby the coin may gain additional numismatic value, this won't apply.
In other words, it's still legal!
How do I meet other collectors?
Go out and press pennies! You often run into other collectors at the same time. Talk, get to know people, exchange e-mail addresses!
You can also fill in your e-mail address in the box below and get signed up for the elongatedcoins mailing list. This is a group of people from all over the US and even other parts of the world that talk about elongated coins.
What is an elongated coin worth?
Prices of elongated issues vary depending on the number pressed, age, denomination, metal used, popularity of topic or event, even the condition of the coin.
Modern elongateds are rolled and sold at many events, fairs, shows and other activities. The more common ones sell for between 50 cents and $1.00 new, and usually for about $1-5 on the secondary market (such as this website and places like eBay. Older issues can be found in coin shops, yard sales, flea markets, and even from your friends. You'd be surprised how many people have rolled a few at some point, and will let you have them for your collection. Prices for older issues that are no longer available and limited edition commemoratives can be even higher than this. Basically, the more desirable the design, the more it is worth. Just remember, it's a hobby, and you should only spend as much as you feel comfortable with.
What is a mule?
A mule is a double-sided elongated coin. While round coin collecting has its own terminology, it is a distinct and separate hobby from collecting elongated coins. Many people refer to double-sided pressed pennies as mules, and others refer to them as double-sided elongateds. The two terms may be used interchangeably.
How are the dies made?
The dies are made by either engraving or photoengraving (etching). A mirror image is cut into a round steel cylinder, which functions as the die. There may be from one to four designs per die.
The art is usually produced on paper, (a drawing) then reduced. If it is reduced with a camera, the film from the camera is used to photo-etch the design onto a hardened steel roll (This step uses some form of acid). The etching is then deepened by hand engraving techniques.
Other dies are engraved by hand. Here, the artist actually cuts steel and produces a masterpiece in miniature. The artist uses a pantograph machine with a stylus and a cutting tip. The operator traces the artwork with the stylus and it is mechanically reduced and automatically cut into the steel die. Sometimes this is done on a raised model of the artwork – this type seems to produce the most relief. In any case, all hand-engraved dies are touched up by hand, and no two are exactly alike. Many engravers hide their initials somewhere in their art, for it is truly that.
The newest method of engraving is laser engraving. The die is etched by a high-powered laser burning away the metal. It is a highly specialized process and not easy to get right. The artwork is often tremendous on these coins, since very precise and detailed instructions can be fed into the computer which controls the etching laser.
Where can I find a listing of penny machines?
The best place to find machines is at www.pennycollector.com. Most of the links are up to date, but some aren't. You can always call ahead. Definitely the largest source on the net.
Shouldn't I use a bright shiny new penny?
Surprisingly, NO! A new penny is 95% zinc, with a THIN copper coating. When they are pressed, the zinc shows through on some of the spots. As it ages, this turns black, and ruins the the look. Pennies that are mostly copper work best in penny squashing machines. Pennies that are dated before 1982 are mostly copper (99% or more). And getting new-looking “old” pennies is surprisingly easy. Just visit your local coin dealer, and buy uncirculated rolls dated 1981 and earlier. Just tell him you want the best price, not any particular year. The year each dealer has the most of on hand varies. Uncirculated rolls will run about $1-2 per roll. That's only 2-4¢ each coin, next to nothing when you think about how well your rolls will come out.
What themes do people collect?
There are quite a number of ways to collect elongated coins. The most popular coin of all time is The Lord's Prayer. Some collect by theme, such as Disneyland Park pennies, carousels, trains, zoos, state outlines, sports, dinosaurs, and just about any other subject you can think of. Think about what you like and look for them! There's no wrong way to collect elongated coins.
How do I clean my pennies?
There are a few methods. Remember that if you clean ANY coin, it is actually removing a little metal, and chemically reacting as well, so you don't want to clean it for very long.
One of the simplest used a standard pencil eraser. Just start rubbing. The gunk will slowly be removed revealing a shiny new finish. For better results and less pain, attach a short pencil to a standard variable-speed drill. The final result will be a well-earned, gleaming penny just waiting to be pressed. It also leaves nice highlights once the penny is pressed.
The ketchup technique is a popular with collectors. Simply rub a little ketchup onto the penny. For best results, use an old toothbrush to scrub the surface lightly to work the ketchup into all the tight areas. Rinse the penny and you will notice that it is now dull and pink. Now pour some baking soda into a small dish and add some water to make a thick paste. Rub that all over the penny with your fingers to bring back the shine.
A mixture of vinegar and a little salt to clean pennies is a time-tested method. It works on the same principle as using ketchup (vinegar and ketchup are both acidic), but there is less rubbing involved. Mix up some vinegar and a small amount of salt. Stir it around to dissolve the salt and then dump in your dirty pennies. Mix it up a bit and let it sit for several minutes. You will be able to see the cleaning process in action. Don't let them sit too long! Scrub lightly with a toothbrush to get the especially gritty areas clean. Shine them up with the baking soda paste above.
A mixture of lemon juice and a little salt works well also, followed of course by the baking soda treatment. Use ACTUAL juiced lemons, not lemonade from the freezer section or ReaLemon in that plastic lemon. Try each of these methods to see which one you like best.
Rock Tumblers work well to clean and shine pennies. The way to cheat is to use sandblasting sand as the grit. The pennies don't have to run too long (only a few hours usually - check OFTEN to see the progress!) to get clean. They have a sort of "frosted" look to them, however. Once pressed, it's hard to see much of a difference between this and a penny cleaned with most methods.
You can shine them up a bit after this using shredded corncob media. The only place I know to get this is a gun shop. Call around. Usually about a dollar a pound.
If you JUST use the shredded corncobs, it takes several days, but cleans and shines the pennies quite well.
Some people clean their pennies with a tiny dab of toothpaste and a toothbrush. (Use an old one!) Toothpaste contains titanium dioxide - a polish.
Brasso. Brasso and other brass cleaners have been used with a lot of success by some people. Some people swear by this method. Others swear AT the method, as it does require a LOT of hard work. The harder you polish, the shinier the coin will get!
Some people use a Dremel tool and the white cotton polishing wheel, sometimes before, sometimes after pressing. It takes some work (and Brasso or another polishing compound often helps) and manual dexterity to do this. Watch your fingers! It just depends on how YOU want YOUR collection to look!
Is it illegal to press Canadian pennies?
It's against Canadian laws to press a penny in Canada, since it is defacing the image of a queen. There are no laws against it in the U.S.
Why are some pennies tarnished even when they are rolled on uncirculated pennies?
Most pennies that are run through machines come from circulation. In other words, people press whatever they have in their pocket. If a dirty or sticky penny is used, this can leave residue on the die. This residue sticks to the surface of the design. We make every effort to clean this residue off if it does stick to the face of some of our ECs. Sometimes it takes a little extra polishing of the coin, sometimes the residue is embedded in a thin layer of the coin and can't be easily removed. We have found that if you own coins like this, a Dremel tool and the polishing wheel can work wonders on this type of stubborn re-appearing tarnish. Always be careful not to polish TOO much, as you don't want to ruin the design.
Why do I see silver when I press a penny?
A new penny (1982 and later) is 95% zinc, with a THIN copper coating. When they are pressed, the zinc shows through on some of the low spots. As it ages, this can turn black, and ruins the the look. Your best bet is to use pennies that are mostly copper. Pennies that are dated before 1982 are mostly copper (99% or more). And getting new-looking “old” pennies is surprisingly easy. Just visit your local coin dealer, and buy uncirculated rolls dated 1981 and earlier. Just tell them you want the best price, not any particular year. The year each dealer has the most of on hand varies. Uncirculated rolls will run about $1-2 per roll. That's only 2-4¢ each coin, next to nothing when you think about how well your rolls will come out.
What is an enameled or painted coin?
Enameled or painted coins are just that - elongated coins that have been painted.
You can see a great example on the Enameled Coins page.
Can you press things other than pennies?
Yes, and with good results! Many people press silver quarters (1964 and earlier) in quarter machines. Use a good silver polish BEFORE pressing and you'll get the best results. You can get silver quarters from a coin shop. Make sure that you examine the finished product VERY carefully before pressing several of the same design. Silver IS harder than a copper clad quarter, and doesn't flow well into some of the deeper-cut dies. There is also a spot just behind Washington's ear that doesn't press well. Figure out which side of the coin goes against the die, and which side goes to the back. (Usually the heads side on silver quarters and pennies goes on the back.)
Some people also use brass and copper slugs. Why would you use something other than a coin to press? There are several reasons. The first is pretty obvious. Rolling a brass slug, you get a GOLD elongated! They are BRILLIANT and beautiful. Second, you might want your quarters to match your pennies. A copper "quarter" planchet can help your collection look similar.
The THIRD reason to use a copper slug is very simple. Sometimes there's just NOT enough metal to make a full roll. If you think about it, a penny is a flat disc with depressions in it. A copper "penny" slug contains more metal than a solid penny, and doesn't have a zinc core. While they cost significantly more than a penny, they can give great results if you want full rolls.
The fourth reason is that some people just don't want to mutilate American coins!
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