Disney World $.51 Souvenir Pennies: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

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Love to save money on Disney World souvenirs? With kids Disney t-shirts headed toward the $30 mark and key chains sliding to $10, you’re going to have a hard time finding most anything under $5, much less $1. In what may be the absolute cheapest Disney World souvenir EVER, let’s talk about the pressed penny, and why if you have children, this may be a great way to bring home souvenirs from the parks without breaking your piggy bank. You just might like it for yourself, with or without any kids tagging along…

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Disney Pressed Coin History

Collectible souvenir pressed coins, which are sometimes called elongated coins, started popping up at park and resort locations throughout Disney World in 1994. A pressed coin is created when the coin is squeezed between two rollers, one of which has an engraving on its surface. Approximately 2500 pounds of pressure is put on the coin while it’s flattened. Currently, there are penny, dime and quarter pressed coin machines at Walt Disney World. These machines are primarily run electrically, but most of the new machines are the hand crank type.

On these pressed coin machines, the designs will be Disney characters, theme parks, attractions and special events. Each machine contains up to three or four different designs.

The Souvenir Pressed Coin Machines will press/imprint a design on your penny for two quarters, so with your penny, we’re talking about 51 cents.  You can also have an imprint placed on a quarter using four more quarters, which takes you to $1.25, but of course the quarter is a larger souvenir.  This is truly one of the least expensive Disney vacation souvenirs I know of, unless you set out to collect all of them!

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Pressed penny machines at Disney World

Go For the Copper – not the Gold

1) Price

Seriously, you just can’t beat a starting price of 51 cents. I lose more money than that in my purse and my car every day.

2) Entertainment.

Lots of kids have a lot of fun looking for the pressed penny machines, sort of like searching for a Hidden Mickey, but this hunt will cost you $. Not $$$ but rather $, which is still a pretty good financial deal.

3) Distraction

You can shop while the children look for the machines, if you feel comfortable turning them loose in the store. Or maybe Dad will take the kids to find the penny machines while you shop. That sounds like an OK trade-off, given most men’s inherent dislike of shopping.

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Pretty Penny Tips

1. What year coins work best?

Before 1982, pennies were made with mostly copper, 99% or more. Pennies made after 1982 contain 95% copper and zinc. When your penny is pressed, you can get a smear of silvery looking metal, which is actually the zinc smearing. As this zinc ages, it will turn black. Some people like this blend of copper/silver color, but my sons hated it when they were younger. They tried to rub the silver color off the penny and got MAD when it didn’t come off.  Some people never notice or care.

If you are someone who will be a little OCD-picky, or you live with a potentially picky collector, try using pre-1982 pennies for best results. These pennies may not be as shiny as today’s pennies appear, but they should produce a pressed penny that is one color rather than a swirl of both.

Pressedpenny.com suggests you find new-looking “old” pennies by visiting a local coin dealer. Purchase uncirculated penny rolls dated 1981 and earlier. Tell the owner you want the best price rather than a particular year. Uncirculated rolls usually cost 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. Going to this much trouble may depend on how “pretty” you want your pennies to be.

2. How can I shine up the pennies?

Pennycollector.com offers several different suggestions for cleaning and shining up old coins.

1. Take  a standard pencil eraser and just start rubbing. The gunk will slowly be removed revealing a shiny new finish.

2. Grab a bottle of ketchup and rub a little onto the penny. For better results, use a toothbrush and scrub the surface lightly. Rinse the penny. Now pour some baking soda into a small dish and add some water, making a thick paste. Rub that all over the penny with your fingers for a shiny end result.

3. Mix vinegar and salt together. Stir it around to dissolve the salt, add the dirty pennies, mix this together, and let it sit for several minutes. Scrub lightly with a toothbrush if there are any gritty areas. Rinse these off with water. To bring back the shine, use the baking soda mixture mentioned in the ketchup technique above.

4. Buy a metal cleaner called Brasso. After applying the cleaner to the coin’s surface, rub lightly and let it sit for several minutes. Once the cleaner begins to dry, take a paper towel and start rubbing. This cleaning method may be more expensive than other more home-made cleaners.

5. Just place your pennies into a shallow dish and cover them with lemon juice and salt. Wait a few minutes and rinse; there is no rubbing required. Oops! If you leave the coins in the mixture too long, like overnight, the mixture will turn the penny black.

You can stop by Pennycollector.com to see their penny cleaning before and after photos.

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pressed penny instructions

3.  Which side of the coin should you use?

Try having the design pressed onto the “heads” side of your penny because the “tails” side sometimes leaves parts of the monument, which is not what you want to spend 51 cents on. People suggest you insert the penny so that the face side is to all the way to the right, the side that will be pressed with the design.

4. How about quarters?

Pressed penny collectors report the quarter you want to use should be placed to the far left in the machine, as this is the coin that seems to be the quarter that gets pressed in Quarter Presses.

Where do you keep all these pennies?

Of course Disney has the answer for keeping those pennies, Pressed Coin Collection holders, for about $7. For younger children who can’t read character autographs, this may be more fun for them to collect. And staying within the saving time = saving money theme, unlike getting character autographs, there are no long lines for these machines.

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You probably have a pocket full of coins already. Why not put them to good use and bring home some Disney souvenirs. If you ever told a friend, “I bet I paid less for my souvenirs than you did,” then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess.


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Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

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Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you by the pressed penny machines, rolls of coins in hand…


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  1. j says:

    I have started my coin collection more than 5 yrs ago but for awhile I forgotten about it. I recently got my little brother (6 yrs) into the idea.I wasn’t there but after I shows him he went to downtown Disney and got excited about seeing a pressed coin machine.he was also very excited to put it in collection book.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Your article says that before 1982, pennies were made with both copper and zinc. This left a zinc smear that your sons didn’t like. The next paragraph says that if your picky to choose the pre-1982 pennies for best results. Did you mean to use the post-1982 pennies for best results since the pre-1982 pennies create the zinc smear? I’m confused. Please help. Thanks!

    • Amanda says:

      I went to another source to clear up my own confusion – this should be the right info. Check the paragraph for edited and updated information. Thanks for noticing, and happy pressing! ~A.

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