An Introduction to Pressed Pennies

Souvenir medallions, elongated coins, pressed pennies… whatever you want to call them, pressed pennies are an inexpensive, unique souvenir.

They’re probably my favourite part of any Disney holiday. They’re a whole lot cheaper than most of the souvenirs in the park, and tracking down each machine is part of the fun.

I discovered pressed pennies on my very first trip to HK Disneyland. I stumbled upon a machine and I found the pressed coins so interesting. Since then, I’ve fallen completely in love with them, both in and outside of Disneyland.

What are pressed pennies?

They’re just that: pressed coins! Pop some money into a machine, choose a design, and then ta-da! A special pressed penny with that design.

From Tokyo Disneyland

From Tokyo Disneyland

Disneylands change their coin designs from time to time, so every trip yields a whole new set of coins!

In some countries, you have to provide your own penny. What about countries that don’t have an penny-type coin, or places where you’re not allowed to modify money? When that’s the case, the  machines have copper discs that are the right size.

Pressed pennies, compared to a US penny coin. Only the top and left ones are made from actual pennies.

Pressed pennies from the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. Only the top and left ones are made from actual pennies; the rest are from copper blanks.

 

Honestly, I prefer the blanks because they’re much shinier and I find that the designs tend to roll on more sharply. The downside is that they usually tarnish faster.

How much do they cost?

Typically, up to the equivalent of $2 in local currency, but it does vary across countries. Here in Singapore, they are S$2 each.

In the US, they typically cost US$0.51 because you have to provide your own penny to press. This is pretty much everywhere except in the Smithsonian museums, where they’re US$1.01 – but hey, Smithsonian museums are all amazing and completely free, so that’s a fair trade.

Pressed quarters also exist, but I’ve only ever seen them in the Disney parks in Florida. Even inside the parks, they’re quite rare. Each coin costs more, a total of US$1.25 including the coin.

Pressed quarter (with the Emperor Zurg!) - it's a lot bigger than a penny

Pressed quarter (with the Emperor Zurg!) – it’s a lot bigger than a penny

I tried collecting a few, but I found that they are a bit too expensive for my tastes. They’re also much bigger and heavier, and after a while that really does add up.

Do I need anything special to collect them?

Heck no!

All you need is money, a sense of adventure, and a way to carry your coins! It can be your wallet, or a coin album. Theme parks almost definitely have those if they have pressed pennies.

Universal Studios Singapore has albums, and a good selection of pressed penny machines too! I’m sure you can get them online, from places like Amazon and suchlike.

Pressed penny albums from Hong Kong and Tokyo

Pressed penny albums from Hong Kong and Tokyo

When I’m on holiday, I use a smaller version that I randomly found in Cardiff Castle for day-to-day carrying. I then move them to bigger albums when I’m back at the hotel.

I wanna catch them all, but how do I know where to find them?

Aha! This, my friend, is where the Internet is your friend.

There are many websites dealing with pressed pennies, but my personal favourite is Penny Collector. It’s a crowd-sourced site, so you can update information if you find anything is out of date or wrong.

A great resource for Disney pennies is Park Pennies. A cross between an exhaustive catalog and news site, Park Pennies is my go-to site for Disney penny information. It’s a really huge site, with histories, a massive catalogue with descriptions of coins, checklists, and so much more.

Information on the Asian Disneylands tend to be a bit sparse because the hobby is so concentrated in the west, but Park Pennies has a better section than most.

Both sites also have information on how to care for your pennies.

 

I’ll have no Internet when I’m there ):

First: check the map! Hong Kong Disneyland had the pressed penny machines indicated on their map, although I’m not sure if that’s changed.

Second: ask Guest Services – that’s the main information point, usually located near the front entrance. The folks at Magic Kingdom had printable maps of their machine locations throughout Walt Disney World. Yep, that means their hotels, Downtown Disney and all the parks!

The list may not be the most updated, but I found that 95% of the machines were still there.

But why do you like them? They’re just coins.

I’ve asked myself that question many times. The best answer I can give is: yes, they are, aren’t they?

My more cynical friends point out that Disneyland is the height of crass commercialism, a place where everything is faked so that you spend more money. Maybe that’s true. The coins are just another way for you to give away your money.

But what I really enjoy about them is the thrill of the chase. I like tracking down the machines. They’re often hidden in a corner, and quite discreet. It’s easy to walk past them. Finding each one is a little secret, a little accomplishment that is all yours. And your coins become almost a meda. They say,

Yes: there are still fun secrets to be found.

Yes: I found this. You can’t just buy this anywhere. I found this machine.

Yes: I worked for my souvenir.

And they’re pretty unique, you have to admit. Disney designs change fairly often so you’ll probably never find that penny again.

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