Friday, March 4, 2016

Pressed Pennies - Disneyland, Universal Studios, Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm & More!

On July 4th of last year, I did a Bicentennial Post and included a picture of a souvenir pressed penny. That inspired me to look for the other pressed pennies that I have acquired over the years. Well, I found all of them (there aren't that many....only eight!), and now they have somehow led to a larger post on the subject, than I had originally intended:

Pressed Pennies are a relatively inexpensive souvenir and the machines that create them can be found at many tourist attractions and landmarks around the world. According to a Los Angeles Times article that I'm including at the end of this post, pressed coins go back more than 100 years to Vienna, Austria. They were first introduced here in the U.S., at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.

The first two pressed pennies that I acquired were from a 1976 trip to Universal Studios. These were both made by machines that were operated by hand. You would hand an attendant your coins (the penny, plus the price of the pressing) and they would insert the penny into a tall machine with a large crank. They themselves, would turn the crank and out would come your souvenir coin.

The Jaws attraction from the Universal Studios Tour in California had just opened in April of 1976.

I'm including this "Jaws" photo that my dad took during a 1985 visit to Universal Studios. I did not go on that trip, so I have no idea where this photo op was located. I'm also a bit confused as to why it was there. Jaws 3-D had been released in 1983 and Jaws: The Revenge wasn't going to be come out until 1987. Was this just left over from the 1983 film's release?

This Frankenstein penny is from the same 1976 Universal Studios trip as my "Jaws" penny.

The postcard below, was purchased during an earlier visit. The girl on the left looks like she could have been friends with Marcia ("Oh, my nose!") or Jan ("Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!") Brady.

I took this pic of Frankenstein during a 1979 trip to Universal while seated on one of the "Glamour Trams" at the beginning of the studio tour. Frankenstein could often be seen walking among the parked trams trying to scare guests.

My next penny is from Knott's. I must say that I don't think the design on this one is the greatest. They tried to include two iconic images, the old prospector panning for gold and the Calico Railroad.

This vintage postcard shows a similar image of a prospector.

Here's another Knott's Penny. This one commemorates Knott's 1991 Halloween Haunt. Some of the older Halloween Haunt penny machines can actually still be found in the park today.

The vampire design was used on other Haunt merchandise that year, such as this T-shirt. (Photo courtesy of Knott's Illustrated on Facebook....thank you!!!)

I acquired this next penny at Ports O' Call Village in San Pedro back in the 1970's. My grandparents lived in Torrance back then and they would often take my brother and me over to Ports O' Call, to walk around and look in the shops.

I'm kind of surprised that they didn't put this iconic image of the fisherman on the penny. The description on the back of this vintage postcard reads, "This bronze statue is dedicated to the Fisherman...for his harpoon, hook and net have long harvested the endless sea to grace the tables of America. His sturdy ships and useful catches have always found shelter and market at The Port of Los Angeles."

Here's a photo from Ports O' Call that my brother took during one of our childhood visits.

My next souvenir penny is from Magic Mountain and depicts Shock Wave, a stand-up rollercoaster that was only in the park from 1986-1988. The piece of land that it sat on has changed quite a bit over the years. Other attractions that came and went in that same spot were the Sarajevo Bobsleds, Psyclone, and Apocalypse (originally Terminator Salvation - The Ride).

This Magic Mountain map from 1988 shows the former location of Shockwave.

I don't have any personal photos of Shockwave, but here is professional video footage of Shockwave.....just in case anyone is interested.

This is my newest pressed penny. It's from an early 1990's visit to Seattle, Washington. The Space Needle & Olympic Mountains are depicted in the design.

I purchased this postcard during the same visit. The Olympic Mountains can be seen off in the distance. The area immediately surrounding the Space Needle was originally the location of the 1962 World's Fair. Today the area is called Seattle Center, but several of the buildings and landmarks from the fair are still standing.

Believe it or not, I don't own one single pressed penny from a Disney park.....not even from the Tokyo Disney parks. In Anaheim, there are more than 40 different machines spread out within the parks, hotels, and Downtown Disney. This pamphlet lists the locations of all the machines including those with special limited "60th Anniversary" designs.

So they are using Henry and Sammy from Country Bear Jamboree to represent Critter Country? Weird! Why don't they just put the show back where it belongs!

Again, I haven't purchased any of these. But there are quite a few of the special "60th Anniversary" designs that I do like because of the vintage images that are used. If you look closely, you will see that the artwork for some of these has been taken directly from their respective Disneyland attraction posters (specifically, the PeopleMover, Submarine Voyage, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Columbia Sailing Ship).

This Fantasyland machine makes "pressed quarters".

Most of the pressed coin machines have a generic look such as the one below.

The machine inside the Adventureland Bazaar appears to be the only one that is themed to the "land" that it's located in. It has coin pressers on three different sides of it, with nine different designs altogether.

The top of the machine features an elephant that lifts it's arms up in the air and then presses down while a loud stomping (or would that be stamping?) sound is heard.

These are the three "60th Anniversary" designs representing Adventureland.

Seasonal designs are even available at times throughout the year. This holiday "pressed nickel" machine was located at the exit to Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

Here's a close-up of the inner workings of one of the machines. The coin travels down that clear diagonal slot and then falls between two rollers, which then rotate and imprint a design onto the coin while "elongating" it at the same time.

By the way, all of the special "60th" pennies are still available in the park today, even though the 60th anniversary was technically last year.

And in case you just can't get enough of pressed is that Los Angeles Times article that I mentioned. This is from June 2015.


Chuck said...

Despite the relatively small size of your pressed penny collection, as usual you have done a fantastic job of turning it into an extensive post that goes far beyond the original inspiration.

This has got me thinking of my sons' pressed penny collection. The oldest started collecting at WDW when he was just shy of three years old, and each of them has probably close to 50 of them from all over the country now. In some places, the challenge is selecting just one design for the visit (Disneyland), while at others, the challenge is actually finding a pressed penny machine (Wisconsin Dells). And then there's the constant challenge - remembering to have at least a dollar in quarters and two pennies on hand!

Thanks for another great post to start another great First Friday!

K. Martinez said...

What a nice detailed post on the pressed penny souvenirs and pressing machines. I never read about or gave much thought to this classic souvenir but after reading your article, I appreciate it a bit more. While I've always been aware of Disneyland's various pressed penny machines, I never knew Knott's, Universal and the other parks had them as well. I do have a (Disneyland only) pressed penny collection and a couple of pressed nickels as well. Do they still have the pressed nickel machines?

Thanks, TokyoMagic!

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks, Chuck! If your kids are still collecting, have them check out that website mentioned in the article ( It lists the locations of machines all across the country. Of course, I can imagine that once you are at some of those locations, it still might take a bit of searching to hunt down the machines. That website appears to have a phone app to download that should also help in locating the machines.

Thank you, Ken! I never thought much about the pressed pennies either. And I really haven't paid too much attention to the machines at any of the local theme parks until just last year when I picked up that pamphlet at Disneyland. It is a neat little item to collect and pretty inexpensive as far as souvenirs go. I was tempted to get some of the DL 60th pennies, but I figure I'm not going to start a collection at this point....or maybe I should say, add on to my existing collection. I didn't show examples, but some of the pressed penny machines that I saw at Knott's just have the name of a "ride" pressed into the penny and nothing else. Not too exciting! But of course, if someone is wanting to collect all of them, I would see the need to pick those up as well. Oh, and Disneyland still does have some pressed nickel machines....well, there is at least one that I saw. That machine at the exit of the Opera House with the Christmas/New Year's designs was a pressed nickel machine. (And the machine with the "DL 60th/Fantasyland" designs was a pressed quarter machine!)

Snow White Archive said...

Excellent post Tokyo. I've collected my share of pressed pennies (and a few quarters) over the years. In fact, I store them in a small treasure chest along with other small keepsakes I've found in my travels. It includes quite few Disney park pennies. A nice way to recall some good memories.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thank you, SWA! It's odd. I find myself wondering now, why I never did buy/collect more of these, especially the Disney ones. I guess they just weren't on my radar! I'm a little tempted to start picking some of these up.....but I think I will resist! Now I'm curious. Has Disney ever put any of the Snow White characters on a pressed coin?

Snow White Archive said...

Oh yes. Quite a few Snow White characters have appeared on pennies (and a few quarters too). Quite a number at Disneyland, a bunch more at WDW, and a few from Tokyo DL.

outsidetheberm said...

Nice post! Your Ports O'Call items are destined for rarity. They're about to bulldoze the place!

TokyoMagic! said...

Thank you, OTB! Wow, I had heard that they were going to do a renovation of Ports O'Call, but I had no idea that it was going to be that drastic. Are they just going to tear it down and start over? Or are they planning some other kind of development for that site?

outsidetheberm said...

TokyoMagic! - It sounds like an entirely new complex is planned for the site, with a new theme. Restaurants, shopping, that sort of thing. It could be pretty nice.

Major Pepperidge said...

Oh my gosh, I’ve missed TWO posts on this blog. Arg. Anyway, I’ve always liked pressed pennies… I have a few from the 1933 and 1939 World’s Fairs, so the concept has been around for a while. I think your Frankenstein penny is the BEST! Meanwhile I had to chuckle at the watermark on your Frankie photo… that’ll keep those bastards from stealing your image! ;-) Thanks for the fun post.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks, Major! The Frankenstein penny is my favorite. I wish I still had my two Frankenstein "Mold-O-Rama" wax figures that I also got at Universal Studios back in the seventies. There was one of him standing and one of just his head. And I hate doing that with the watermark, but yeah.....that oughta learn 'em!