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How Souvenir Penny Machines Work


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Marj Harty



Souvenir penny machines, also known as elongated coin machines or penny press machines, are a popular attraction for both tourists and collectors. These unique machines allow visitors to create their own personalized souvenir by transforming a regular penny into a beautifully imprinted and elongated coin. Not only are they a fun and interactive way to commemorate a trip, but they also serve as a tangible memento of a special place or experience.


The concept of souvenir penny machines originated in the late 19th century and has evolved over time to become a beloved tradition in many tourist destinations around the world. From historic landmarks to theme parks, museums, and even zoos, these machines can be found in a wide range of places, offering visitors a chance to take home a piece of their journey.


In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of souvenir penny machines, exploring their history, design, operation, and more. We will uncover the magic behind the process of creating these unique keepsakes and discover some interesting facts along the way. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets of how souvenir penny machines work!


History of Souvenir Penny Machines

The origins of souvenir penny machines can be traced back to the late 1800s when the first designs for coin-operated machines appeared. These early machines were primarily used to dispense gum, candy, or small toys. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the idea of imprinting designs on elongated coins started to gain popularity.


One of the pioneers in this field was Charles Damm, an entrepreneur from Minnesota, who patented the first known embossing machine for elongated coins in 1902. Damm’s machine, called the “Damm Pennie Machine,” allowed customers to insert a penny, turn a handle, and watch as the coin was embossed with a unique design. These machines quickly became a hit at amusement parks, exposition fairs, and other popular attractions.


Over the years, souvenir penny machines continued to evolve and become more sophisticated. In the 1980s, a new generation of machines known as “penny press” machines were introduced. These machines featured mechanical advancements that made the process of creating elongated coins more efficient and precise.


Today, souvenir penny machines can be found in an array of locations worldwide, including tourist destinations, museums, aquariums, and even airports. They have become a staple in popular attractions, offering visitors a unique and affordable way to commemorate their visit.


The designs imprinted on the elongated coins vary greatly, ranging from images of famous landmarks and tourist attractions to logos and characters from movies and television shows. This diversity allows collectors to create a personalized collection, capturing memories from their travels or reflecting their interests.


So next time you come across a souvenir penny machine, take a moment to appreciate the history and craftsmanship behind it. These machines have stood the test of time and continue to bring joy and wonder to people of all ages.


Design and Components

While souvenir penny machines may come in various shapes and sizes, they share similar basic components and design elements. Understanding these components will give you a better appreciation for how these machines work.


The main structure of a souvenir penny machine typically consists of a cabinet or housing that houses the mechanical and operational components. This cabinet is often adorned with eye-catching graphics and signage to attract attention from passersby.


At the front of the machine, you will find a coin slot where users insert their desired denomination, usually a penny or a token specifically designed for use with the machine. Behind the coin slot is a coin mechanism that verifies and accepts the inserted coin.


Once the coin is accepted, the user is prompted to select from a variety of design options. This is usually done by turning a wheel or pressing a button to align the desired design with the imprinting mechanism.


Inside the machine, there are several key components that work together to create the final elongated coin. These components include:

  • Rolling Mechanism: This mechanism consists of a set of metal rollers that apply pressure and friction to the coin as it passes through. The rolling action elongates the coin and prepares it for the imprinting process.
  • Die Holder: The die holder holds the engraved die with the desired design. This die is typically made of hardened steel and has a specific pattern or image that will be imprinted onto the coin.
  • Guide Channels: These channels ensure that the coin stays aligned with the die during the elongation and imprinting process. They help to maintain accuracy and prevent the coin from slipping or shifting.
  • Imprinting Mechanism: The imprinting mechanism is responsible for pressing the die onto the coin’s surface, creating the design and imprinting the image. This mechanism is activated either manually by cranking a handle or automatically using a motor-driven mechanism.

Once the coin passes through the rolling mechanism and aligns with the engraving die, the imprinting mechanism applies pressure to create the desired design. The elongated coin is then dispensed from the machine and ready to be collected and cherished.


Understanding the design and components of souvenir penny machines adds to the intrigue and appreciation for these fascinating machines. The combination of mechanical precision and artistic craftsmanship creates a truly unique and memorable souvenir for visitors.


Coin Selection Process

The coin selection process is a crucial step in using a souvenir penny machine. It involves choosing the appropriate coin denomination and ensuring its compatibility with the machine’s specifications.


Most souvenir penny machines are designed to work with pennies, as they are readily available and have a standard size that fits the machine’s mechanisms. However, some machines may accept other coin denominations, such as dimes or quarters, depending on their design and configuration.


When approaching a souvenir penny machine, it’s important to check if there are any instructions or signage indicating the accepted coin denomination. If pennies are specified, it’s best to have a few on hand to use with the machine.


Once you have confirmed the correct coin denomination, you can proceed to insert the coin into the designated coin slot. It’s important to ensure that the coin is inserted with the correct side facing up to ensure a smooth transition through the machine’s mechanisms.


Some machines may require an additional step before coin insertion, such as pressing a button or turning a handle to activate the machine. This step is typically indicated by clear instructions provided on the machine itself.


After inserting the coin, you may need to verify its acceptance. Most machines have a coin mechanism that will validate the coin by measuring its size, weight, and metal composition. If the coin is accepted, the machine will prompt you to move on to the next step, typically the selection of a design or imprint.


If the coin is rejected by the machine, it may be due to damage or an incompatible coin denomination. In this case, it’s advisable to try another coin or seek assistance from a nearby attendant.


Always remember to be mindful of counterfeit coins or foreign currency. These are not suitable for use in souvenir penny machines and may damage the machine’s mechanisms.


The coin selection process is a simple yet important aspect of using a souvenir penny machine. By following the specified guidelines and utilizing the appropriate coin denomination, you can ensure a successful and enjoyable experience while creating your own unique souvenir.


Engraving and Imprinting

One of the most fascinating aspects of souvenir penny machines is the engraving and imprinting process. This is where the chosen design is transferred onto the coin, transforming it into a unique and personalized keepsake.


The process begins after the user has inserted the coin and selected their desired design. Once these steps are completed, the machine’s mechanisms come into action to create the final product.


The first key component involved in this process is the die, which holds the engraved design. The die is typically made of hardened steel and features intricate patterns or images that will be imprinted onto the coin’s surface.


As the coin passes through the rolling mechanism, pressure and friction are applied to elongate the coin to the desired shape. This elongation prepares the surface of the coin for the imprinting process.


Once the coin is appropriately elongated, it aligns with the engraved die in the die holder. The coin then moves into position for the imprinting mechanism to make contact with the die.


The imprinting mechanism is responsible for pressing the die firmly onto the coin’s surface, creating an indented impression of the design. This mechanism applies sufficient pressure to ensure that the design is clearly and accurately imprinted onto the coin.


Depending on the machine, the imprinting mechanism may be operated manually by the user, who turns a handle to activate the imprinted and release the finished coin. In other machines, the imprinting process may be automated, utilizing a motor-driven mechanism that performs the imprinting and coin dispensing automatically.


After the imprinting process is complete, the finished elongated coin is dispensed from the machine. The user can then collect their newly personalized souvenir coin, showcasing the unique design and memories of their visit.


It’s important to note that the quality and clarity of the design imprint may vary from machine to machine. Factors such as the age and maintenance of the machine, as well as the condition of the die and rolling mechanism, can influence the final result. However, this slight variation in quality often adds to the charm and authenticity of each individual souvenir penny.


From the mechanical precision to the artistic craftsmanship, the engraving and imprinting process showcases the ingenuity and creativity behind souvenir penny machines. It’s a mesmerizing process that transforms a simple coin into a cherished memento of a special moment or place.


Souvenir Penny Machine Locations

Souvenir penny machines can be found in a wide range of locations around the world, each offering a unique experience and selection of designs. Here are some popular places where you can discover these delightful machines:

  • Tourist Destinations: Many iconic tourist destinations feature souvenir penny machines as a memorable way for visitors to commemorate their visit. Whether it’s the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Statue of Liberty in New York, or the Great Wall of China, these machines can be found in popular landmarks and attractions worldwide.
  • Theme Parks: From Disneyland to Universal Studios, theme parks are known for their souvenir penny machines. These machines often feature designs inspired by beloved characters, rides, and shows, making them a must-visit attraction for collectors and enthusiasts.
  • Museums and Galleries: Cultural institutions often showcase souvenir penny machines as a fun and educational keepsake for visitors. You can find these machines in renowned museums, art galleries, and historical sites, offering designs that reflect the unique collections and exhibits.
  • Zoos and Aquariums: Animal lovers can create their own animal-themed souvenirs at souvenir penny machines found in zoos and aquariums. These machines often showcase designs featuring a variety of animals, allowing visitors to take home a personalized memento of their wildlife encounter.
  • Airports and Transportation Hubs: Even before you reach your destination, you may encounter souvenir penny machines at airports and transportation hubs. These machines offer travelers a chance to start their collection before their journey begins or create a last-minute souvenir before departing.

It’s worth noting that souvenir penny machines can also be found in unexpected and unique locations. Some niche shops, antique stores, and even roadside attractions may have their own specially designed machines with exclusive designs.


When searching for souvenir penny machines, keep an eye out for signage or ask the staff at the location you are visiting. They can guide you to the nearest machine and provide information on the available designs.


Remember, each machine and location is distinct, offering its own selection of designs and themes. Exploring different souvenir penny machine locations allows you to broaden your collection and create a truly diverse and personalized assortment of elongated coins.


Collecting and Displaying Souvenir Pennies

Collecting souvenir pennies is not only a great way to preserve memories from your travels, but it can also be a fun and rewarding hobby. Here are some tips on collecting and displaying your souvenir pennies:


1. Start a Collection: Begin by acquiring souvenir pennies from the places you visit. Keep an eye out for souvenir penny machines in tourist destinations, theme parks, museums, and other attractions. Each machine will have its own unique designs, allowing you to create a diverse collection.


2. Plan Ahead: Before using the souvenir penny machine, think about the specific design you want. Some machines offer multiple design options, so it’s helpful to have an idea in mind beforehand. This way, you can choose designs that resonate with you or represent the places you’ve visited.


3. Store and Organize: Store your souvenir pennies in a protective container, such as a coin holder or album. This will help to prevent scratching and damage. Consider organizing your collection by location, theme, or date to make it easier to navigate and enjoy.


4. Create a Display: Showcase your favorite souvenir pennies by creating a display. Options include shadow boxes, display boards, or even framing individual coins. Arrange them in a visually appealing manner, grouping them by theme or arranging them in a chronological order of your travels.


5. Share Your Collection: Display your souvenir penny collection in your home or office to share your travel memories with others. It can be a great conversation starter and a way to reminisce about your adventures. You can also consider sharing photos of your collection on social media platforms or participating in online communities of souvenir penny collectors.


6. Expand Your Collection: As your collection grows, consider expanding your search for new souvenir pennies. Look for machines in unique locations such as local festivals, flea markets, or special events. Don’t be afraid to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations to find hidden gems.


7. Trade and Swap: Connect with other souvenir penny collectors and enthusiasts to trade or swap duplicates or coins you no longer need. Online forums, social media groups, and collectible fairs are great places to meet like-minded individuals who share your passion for souvenir pennies.


Remember, collecting and displaying souvenir pennies is all about preserving memories and celebrating the places you’ve visited. It’s a delightful way to bring back the joy of your travels and share those experiences with others through the unique artistry of these special keepsakes.


Maintenance and Operation

Maintenance and proper operation are crucial for the smooth functioning of souvenir penny machines. Here are some essential tips for both machine owners and users:


Machine Owners:

  • Regular Inspection: Conduct periodic inspections of the machine to ensure that all components are in working order. Check for any signs of wear or damage, such as worn-out rollers or malfunctioning imprinting mechanisms.
  • Coin Mechanism Maintenance: Clean and lubricate the coin mechanism regularly to ensure smooth acceptance and rejection of coins. This will help prevent jams and maintain the accuracy of the machine.
  • Die Maintenance: Keep the engraving die clean and free from debris or rust. Regularly inspect the quality of the design imprint and replace worn or damaged dies to maintain the integrity of the imprinted coins.
  • Display and Signage: Clearly display instructions on how to operate the machine, including the accepted coin denomination and any additional steps required. Ensure that the machine is well-lit and prominently positioned to attract users.


  • Follow Instructions: Read and follow the instructions provided on the machine carefully. This may include specific steps, such as pressing buttons or turning handles in the correct sequence.
  • Use Proper Coin Denomination: Insert the correct coin denomination specified by the machine. This will prevent damage to the machine and ensure a successful imprinting and dispensing process.
  • Be Gentle: Handle the machine with care and avoid using excessive force. Turning the handle or pressing the button gently will help maintain the machine’s mechanisms and prevent unnecessary wear and tear.
  • Report Issues: If you encounter any issues with the machine, such as a coin not being accepted or a malfunctioning imprinting mechanism, notify the appropriate personnel or staff. They can assist with resolving the issue or refunding the coin if necessary.

By adhering to proper maintenance practices and following instructions during operation, both machine owners and users can ensure the longevity and optimal performance of souvenir penny machines. These efforts contribute to a positive experience for collectors and visitors alike, allowing everyone to enjoy the unique and memorable souvenirs these machines create.


Fun Facts about Souvenir Penny Machines

Discover some interesting and entertaining facts about souvenir penny machines:

  • Although the most common name for these machines is “souvenir penny machines,” they are also known by other names, including “elongated coin machines,” “penny press machines,” and “pressed penny machines.”
  • The first known patent for an elongated coin machine was granted to Charles Damm in 1902. His invention, called the “Damm Pennie Machine,” paved the way for the popularity of souvenir penny machines.
  • There are dedicated collectors of souvenir pennies known as “exonumists.” These enthusiasts seek out unique designs, rare coins, and special editions to add to their collections.
  • Some souvenir penny machines offer limited-edition or seasonal designs, making them highly sought after by collectors who enjoy the thrill of finding rare and exclusive coins.
  • There are online communities, forums, and social media groups where souvenir penny enthusiasts can connect, share their collections, and even trade coins with fellow collectors from around the world.
  • The art of collecting elongated coins is not limited to just souvenir penny machines. Some collectors also seek out elongated coins from other sources, such as hand-cranked machines found in amusement arcades or customized coins made for special events.
  • Souvenir penny machines have found their way into popular culture, appearing in movies, TV shows, and even video games. These machines are often depicted as nostalgic reminders of fun and adventure.
  • Some souvenir penny machines offer the option to imprint designs on different coin denominations, providing collectors with a wider variety of elongated coins to add to their collections.
  • The imprinted designs on souvenir pennies can range from popular landmarks and tourist attractions to images of characters, animals, or even personalized messages.
  • Collecting souvenir pennies can be an ever-evolving hobby, as new machines with unique designs continue to be introduced. This keeps collectors engaged and excited about finding the latest additions to their collections.

These fun facts highlight the allure and appeal of souvenir penny machines. Whether you’re a casual collector or a dedicated enthusiast, these machines offer a delightful and nostalgic way to hold on to memories and create a one-of-a-kind collection of elongated coins.



Souvenir penny machines have captured the hearts of travelers and collectors around the world. These machines offer a unique and interactive way to commemorate special moments, places, and experiences. From their early beginnings in the late 1800s to the modern designs found in various locations today, souvenir penny machines have evolved to become an iconic part of many tourist destinations and attractions.


The history and mechanics behind these machines are fascinating, with engraving and imprinting processes that transform ordinary coins into personalized souvenirs. With a wide range of designs available, collectors can create a diverse collection that captures the essence of their travels.


From tourist destinations and theme parks to museums, zoos, and even airports, souvenir penny machines can be found in a myriad of locations. Each machine offers a unique experience, allowing visitors to bring home a tangible piece of their journey.


Collecting and displaying souvenir pennies is a cherished hobby that allows memories to be preserved and shared. By organizing and showcasing these elongated coins in creative displays, collectors can reflect on their adventures and share their stories with others.


Maintenance and proper operation of souvenir penny machines are essential to ensure a satisfying experience for both machine owners and users. Regular inspection, cleaning, and adherence to operating instructions will help preserve the longevity and functionality of these machines.


As collectors explore the world of souvenir pennies, they uncover fun facts and meet fellow enthusiasts who share their passion. And with the wide array of designs and limited-edition coins available, souvenir penny collecting becomes an ever-evolving and exciting journey.


In conclusion, souvenir penny machines offer a delightful blend of nostalgia, creativity, and personalization. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a first-time user, these machines provide a cherished souvenir that celebrates your adventures and serves as a lasting reminder of the places you’ve visited. So, next time you come across a souvenir penny machine, be sure to embark on your own unique journey and create a treasured keepsake to treasure for years to come.