The Innovation of the First Elongated Souvenir Coins at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago
Today’s modern Elongated cents (also known as pressed pennies, squashed cents, rolled cents and many other names), can trace their history to an innovation at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago.
The first recorded documentation of coins (both U.S. and World) being “rolled” with a press with a design on the roller to produce a new type of souvenir, was done at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (Photo 1 below). Over two dozen Elongated design types are known to have been “rolled” at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
As stated by Angelo Rosato in his book Encyclopedia of the Modern Elongated (p. 2):
· “It was at this spectacular event, in 1893, that United States coinage was elongated in the process of rolling. For the first time ever, publicly, for those visitors in the Electricity Building at the Columbian World’s Fair Exposition, the [sic] American coins were intentionally mutilated for the purpose of souvenir specimens commemorating the celebration; an event which in effect opened a whole new facet in numismatics history. And, as a matter of fact, these rolled-out keepsakes were the first ever to be given full recognition and recorded in a numismatic bulletin. In 1894, appearing in the American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 28, pages 65 and 67 (Jan., April 1894)…”
The Elongated coins shown in this exhibit are from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the earliest documented Elongated coins. The innovation of the unknown entrepreneur that had the idea to take an existing rolling machine, machine a simple design (COLUMBIAN 1893 EXPOSITION) on a roller, and charge a nominal amount to create a new type of collectable souvenir, is genius.
A whole new numismatic collecting field was created, and is growing even today. You can find Elongated Rolling Machines at most tourist attractions (museums, zoos, theme parks, etc.) not only in the U.S., but in other counties around the world.
The Photo 2 below is of Mr. Ray Dillard, a member of The Elongated Collectors, operating a simple rolling machine with one design to produce an Elongated cent. This rolling machine is similar to the type used at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, it was documented that the machine operator collected a small fee (mostly likely 5¢ – 10¢) and the coin the person wanted to be “rolled”. Since the machine operator could manually adjust the rollers, they could do most thicknesses of coins as long as the coin would fit the machine and the machine operator could turn the crank (Photo 3 below).
The most common coin used to be “rolled” was the cent; this is based on the number of surviving Elongated coins from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.