Pennies and priceless treasures


By Carol Marsh

GREENVILLE — Although a penny won’t buy much at the supermarket these days, it has the potential to become a priceless treasure, thanks to the addition of a new “Penny Press” machine at the Garst Museum.

Thanks to this special gift from the Annie Oakley Center Foundation, Darke County’s most famous people and landmarks can become treasured souvenirs for years to come when visiting the Garst Museum, located at 205 N. Broadway Street, in Greenville.

Four distinct images will be available on the crank style penny press, including a portrait of Annie Oakley with the nickname of “Little Sure Shot” given to her by Chief Sitting Bull, the image of the Annie Oakley statue in Greenville’s Annie Oakley Memorial Park, the 1795 Treaty of Greene Ville, and The Great Darke County Fair logo. For $2 (plus the cost of the pennies), patrons, visitors and guests can take home great memories of Darke County, or give as a special surprise gift to someone who has moved away. They also make fun party favors and unique stocking stuffers for the holidays (it’s never too early to start shopping).

Taking 2,500 pounds of force per roller to properly “squash” a penny, once it has been pressed, it is considered “exonumia” — items that resemble money, but are not legal tender, such as tokens, badges, tags, wooden nickels, and elongated coins. Most experts agree than pennies pre-1982 make the best souvenirs as they are solid copper, unlike the newer coins which are copper-plated zinc, which can sometimes alter the look (although they appear shinier). Older coins, which can appear darker from being in circulation, can be cleaned by soaking them in a bowl of cola for a day or two, then washed (yes, it’s true).

Penny pressed souvenirs, also known as “elongated coins,” have been popular for well over a century, with the very first one appearing in 1818 Vienna, when Austria was still part of the Holy Roman Empire. In first “penny press” elongated coin machine appeared at the 1892-1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus coming to America. Souvenir elongated coins again became popular in 1987, when Disney introduced coin-operated penny presses throughout their theme parks, creating a fun, inexpensive souvenir option for children and families.

Stop by Garst Museum and have the fun of turning the crank to send those pennies through the penny pincher. Visitors can even experience the excitement of crushing their pennies without having to pay admission to the museum. Also, visitors can purchase a Pennybandz — a wearable wristband created for the souvenir pennies — that are sold in the Museum Store. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Come out, add to your collection, or start a new one!

Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for The Daily Advocate. Have an event or suggestion to share? She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-4314.

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