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Elongated Pennies... Squished, Flattened, and Not Just For Kids Anymore!

Updated on August 20, 2015

Elongated Coins - Over 100 years and still going strong!

I've been collecting elongated coins (also commonly known as squished, stretched, flattened, mashed, and/or rolled) since I was old enough to turn the handle on the old manual machines at our city zoo.  Over the years, my interest has come and gone -- I'd go years without adding a single coin, then pick up a dozen while on vacation with the family.

 But did you know that there is a whole world of elongated coin collectors out there?  And that you can 'squish' more than just pennies?  Or the best type of penny to use?  Well then... read on!


A Little History Please!

(or: Just How Long Have People Been Doing This?)

It has been generally accepted that elongated tokens were first made during the 1892-1893 World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago, Illinois. There were four designs created for that event. There have been rumors of elongates being produced before this, but so far those are just rumors.

The creating of elongates was rather popular for the first 20+ years, with a large number created between 1893 and 1916. For reasons unknown, there was a slack period between 1916 and 1932. After 1932, popularity was regained and the number and variety of coins rolled has steadily increased. Today they are being produced at such a rapid rate that it is nearly impossible for a collector to keep up with them all. Not that mere facts would stop a truly fanatical collector from trying. :)

While some still try to collect every elongate created, most collectors tend to focus on coins in a more narrow field of interest. A railroad buff may collect coins related to trains, a baseball fan would collect coins from various ball fields, teams, and such. I met one collector who collected zoo-related coins. Others collect various denominations - while you usually will find elongated pennies, there are nickels, dimes, and even quarters or tokens. There are as many different reasons to collect as there are collectors!

Creating elongates - art and science come together.

(or: Pressure, Motion, and The Skills Of A Craftsman)

So just how are elongates created? The technique is pretty simple, but the variations of implementation (the different types of machines) is part of what makes collecting fun.

Simply put, an elongated coin is made by forcing a coin, token, medal or metal blank between two steel rollers. And not just any two rollers -- unless all you want is a long, flat coin. To get a collectible elongate, an engraving is done on one or both of the rollers. Then, as the coin passes through the rollers, it is squeezed and stretched (elongated) from it's original round shape to that of an oval. The engraved design is impressed into the metal as it is pressed.

Serious collectors like to use pennies minted prior to 1982. This is because after 1982 the U.S. Mint began to use a percentage of 99.2% zinc with a 0.8% copper - coating. The pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper, 5% zinc.

It is difficult to tell the difference between the two when simply looking at the penny. However, it becomes more obvious once the penny is elongated. The pressure of the elongation process will reveal the zinc below the copper - something that many collectors find detracting from the design of the die itself. Zinc also doesn't polish very well, and will tarnish to a dark gray.

Great Elongate Sites I've Come Across - (or: Where Can I Learn More?)

The Internet has really expanded the collection and documenting of elongates - opening lines of communication that before were simply not possible. The ease with which a collector can image their collection and put it online for other collectors to see and comment on has really expanded and connected the elongate community.

Here are a few of the elongate sites that I've happened upon:

Interested In Collecting Elongated Coins? - (or: How To Just Give In To Your Curiosity And Enjoy It!)

Collecting elongates can be a lot of fun. It's generally pretty cheap (usually 51 cents total to 'stretch a penny'), usually quite easy (most of the machines I find are electrically operated), and won't fill up that spare bedroom like some other collections might (my daughter's collection of stuffed teddy bears, for example!).

A few tips for the new collector are in order:

  • Keep Some Change On Hand! These elongating machines are coin operated, so you're going to need quarters to feed them and coins to stretch. For the casual collector, this may mean nothing more than digging in your pocket or purse to see what you have available. :) For more serious collectors, it can mean locating/purchasing specific coins to be stretched (all copper pennies, all silver dimes, etc) and always keeping them at hand. Decide your level of interest and act accordingly.
  • To Clean Or Not To Clean, That Is The Question! Some collectors swear that to clean a coin is the highest form of vandalism, ruining the sheen of life experiences from the face of the coin. Others prefer their coins to be bright and shiny, hoping for the best image possible. There is not right or wrong here, so enjoy as you see fit!
  • How To Store/Transport Your Change. I've grown attached to a very simple method of storing and carrying my change -- old prescription bottles. I've found that some sizes of those orange/yellow pharmacy prescription bottles are the perfect size to hold a quarter! I fill them with coin 'sets' -- 2 quarters, then a penny, then two more quarters and another penny. Repeat until the bottle is full! I use the 'safety cap', the one you have to push and twist to remove, to ensure that the tops don't pop off in my pocket or in my vehicle. Also good for storing the stretched coins on the way back home.
  • Are Those Special Collector Books Really Needed? I use the books if I'm going to try and accumulate a complete collection from a single location. For example, I have a complete set from the Memphis Zoo, and I keep it in a Memphis Zoo Collector's Book. The extra coin on the cover is a nice bonus. I also have books for other locations where I was able to acquire a complete set of coins.

    Generic books, available from various online retailers, are also nice for storing themed collections -- horses, cars, airplanes, trains, etc. The books make it very convenient to keep all your coins in one place, and make it very easy to show them to friends or other collectors. And if you don't care for the books, there are collector 'pages' for elongates just as there are for 'normal' coins.

  • Finding Interesting Elongates On The Cheap! Not sure you would really enjoy collecting elongates, but want to give it a shot anyway? Try looking thru all the selections on eBay (search for 'elongat*') and maybe pick up a coin or two just to see! It's easy! Don't like shopping online? Then just look for the machines at various tourist attractions around your town (or the nearest large town, if your lifestyle is more rural) -- 51 cents is normally all that's required.

My Elongates on eBay - (or: Can You Spare A Few Sawbucks For A Collectible Coin?)

My Memphis Zoo elongates have been shipped all over the country, and even a few into Canada! All are rolled on pre-82 all-copper pennies and are discretely shipped USPS First Class. Want the whole Zoo set? All you have to do is ask! :)

What To Do With Your Elongates

(or, Ideas For The Thrifty!)

Beyond cluttering up a drawer, filling up old pill bottles, or accumulating in collector books, just what -can- you do with elongates?

Jewelry! A lot of the folks I've talked to over the years have indicated they convert their coins into unique jewelry. Some take their coins to a jeweler, others are more Do-It-Yourself, but several common comments are:

- Necklaces... always popular with the ladies, adding a unique elongate with her favorite animal, astrological sign, or historical person or place can make a simple necklace much more personal. And make her much more likely to remember you as the guy who took the time to create something special, not just grab something 'off-the-rack'.

- Brooches. While possibly considered old-fashioned, the common brooch can become quite the personal statement when dressed up with a unique elongate.

- Rings. While I'm not sure about this one personally, I can certainly see my granddaughters flashing a big ole elongate to all their friends as -the- fashion accessory this year. :) Then again, I think it may have something to do with The Grandpa Effect (everything from a grandparent is special!).

Use your imagination!! Think outside the collector book!! These coins are unique collectibles, suitable for display in much more creative ways! Cleaned or in their 'natural state', elongates can be a very enjoyable, very personal, collectible item!

Other Elongates on eBay

I'm not the only person with elongates on eBay - check out these other listing samples...

While I'm not the avid collector I used to be, I do still enjoy pressing a few pennies during our travels. And yes, I do travel with a couple of old pill bottles filled with quarters and pre-82 pennies.... just in case!

Sign My Guestbook! - (or: Think Of It As Leaving Your Mark!)

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    • TN Grand Dad profile image
      Author

      TN Grand Dad 3 years ago

      @Lobow4god: Interesting question. The basic process is to drop a coin between to hardened steel roller, spaced slightly less far apart than the depth of your coin, then roll the rollers to squeeze the coin between.

      The 'lip' at one end of an elongate, and the bumps or decorations that encircle the coin from one end to the other are there for traction. So that the rollers can get a grip on the coin and keep it moving forward, thru the press, rather than popping out backwards as pressure is applied to the leading edge.

      Contact any of the major penny flattening machines and ask what it would cost to buy a machine, with no image die, to just flatten your coins. Or how much they would charge to set up one of their machines for the job and they run xxx of your coins thru that machine - a contract job, as it were.

      Start looking at sites that catalog elongates - they are likely to have lists of the various manufacturers... the rest is simple web work and email, most likely.

      Good luck - and please do return to let us know what you've found out!

    • profile image

      Lobow4god 3 years ago

      I want to squish some of my own coins. Where can I find a place to do it? I don't want them stamped with anything-just squished. Any ideas where or how I can find a place to bring my coins to do that?

    • TN Grand Dad profile image
      Author

      TN Grand Dad 5 years ago

      @Tas3000: It always starts with just a few... then a few more... then a book to keep them in... then you start noticing some (the coppers) look better than others (the copper/zincs) and start sorting thru your pennies when looking to make that next coin.... :) Congratulations on starting a great new hobby!!

    • Tas3000 profile image

      Tas3000 5 years ago

      I have 2 elongates from Chester zoo, and i think they're cool. good lens by the way.

    • Scraps2treasures profile image

      Scraps2treasures 5 years ago

      I too have been collecting elongates since I was a child. Now I have my kids collecting them too! Our last trip to Disney World, I drove my husband nuts seeking out all the penny machines :)

    • profile image

      zeeterman 9 years ago

      I'm a fairly new collector (since 2004) but I'm totally into it! A cheap and enjoyable hobby!

      I prefer visiting the places and rolling them myself, but will occasionally buy ECs that pertain to my interests. Great site!

    • CollectorsCottage profile image

      CollectorsCottage 9 years ago

      What a fascinating lens - great information! My daughter has a bunch, and every once in a while she adds to her collection. I'm happy to welcome you to the Collector Clubs group!

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 10 years ago

      I have a few of these myself - good to know I'm not alone in thinking they are cool!