Friday, August 22, 2008

Collecting Souvenirs

Pressed pennies, elongated coins, stretch pennies, squished pennies... Whatever you call them, is there a more perfect souvenir? I used to scoff at them. Why would you give up two quarters for a useless penny in return? Seemed kind of pointless to me, and a waste of money.

After I had children and we started taking trips and the stuffed animal souvenir collection was getting out of control, a lightbulb went off. A pressed penny has an imprint that is completely unique to that specific area. You can't find it anywhere else. It takes up little room in the suitcase, or, more importantly, at home. It is not made in China. And best of all, it costs only 51 cents. Brilliant!

We love finding penny machines. When I am really on top of things, I carry a baggie in my purse with quarters and pennies perfect for squishing. I have even been known to consult the Penny Collector website to help me find exactly where penny machines will be on our trip.

For our recent trip, I was less organized, so we used the serendipity method. Let me tell you, the excitement of stumbling upon a penny machine was akin to striking gold. Sometimes we'd see the penny machine just sitting there, and we'd gasp in surprise (like at the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. I never suspected there would be a penny machine at the summit of a mountain!). Other times we'd hear the unmistakable clanking sound of a machine in action, and we'd follow our ears to find the machine. I didn't always have exact change in my purse, but the cashiers at the gift shops were happy to break a dollar or two.

These pennies are from my daughter's collection. Hers is more complete than mine because it wasn't until a few trips ago that I decided to start collecting for myself. Here are some of my favorites: