Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange, NJ

Another weekend came and went and we decided to visit yet another zoo that was located up in northern part of the state.  Turtle Back Zoo is located in South Orange, NJ and was founded in 1963.  Initially it was setup to display animals indigenous to New Jersey, but currently has species from almost every continent on the planet and houses over 700 animals in total.

Turtle Back Zoo Logo

We are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums through our annual pass with the Philadelphia Zoo so our admission was free.  This is a nice tip if you like visiting zoos as you get to access a lot of zoos nationwide for one membership price.  This zoo really is great and has a wide variety of animals to see and activities to participant with.  One of the first activities we came across were pony rides which Hanna has never done before.  We weren’t sure how she would handle it especially since my wife and I weren’t allowed in with her and had to watch from the sidelines, but she absolutely loved it.  Oh and a pony has now jumped to the top of her birthday gift list.

TBZ Pony Ride

Another cool exhibit they had was a walk through bird sanctuary with all kinds of birds flying around you as you pass through.  You can even buy little sticks that have birdseed on them to feed the birds.

TBZ Bird Feeding

Did you noticed the Canada Eh! shirt above?  That was picked up on our recent trip back to Canada for our annual family reunion and a stop over in Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.  You can check out the post here to read about some penny machines I picked up along the way.

We did see all your usual animals and reptiles along the way.  They have a great little aquarium with a touch tank that you can pet some small stingrays and even a few sharks.  Below is a picture of Hanna attempting to touch one of the Rays.

TBZ Touch Tank

We also came across a couple porcupines which usually aren’t too active and these were no different.  However the one did flop down on the ground and stretched out his (or her) back legs which was really cute and you can see in the picture below.

TBZ Porcupine

After a quick break for some ice cream we checked out the Komodo Dragon exhibit which is located right beside the main Gift Shop.  We stopped in to check out the usual assortment of stuffed animals and t-shirts.

TBZ Gift Shop

In between the gift shop and the main admission ticket window there is a small hallway connecting the two.  In this area we found the one penny machine available at the zoo.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo 2015 Machine 01

I had visited this zoo a few years ago to collect the pennies which was a different machine at that time.  This new machine apparently is new for this year.  Here’s a close up of the design marquee signage.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo 2015 Machine 01a

I grabbed my usual stash of coins I keep on hand in case I come across a new machine and pressed all four designs.  They came out great, and the machine worked perfectly.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo Pennies

The four designs include: a large Tortoise, a Komodo Dragon, Two Red Pandas, and a Giraffe.  With the new pennies safely stored away in my pocket we started to head towards the last attraction on our list.

TBZ Carousel

Hanna’s obsession (other than the most recent pony obsession) are carousels.  This worked our perfectly as the carousel was on our way back out towards the exit.  Instead of the usual Horses to ride this one had all different types of exotic animals.  Hanna was torn between a few choices but ended up picking the Polar Bear.  After our ride we headed to our car and made the trip back hope.

This was another great day trip and I must say this zoo has definitely expanded since the last time I was here.  New animals, new rides and best of all a new penny machine.


Petro Truck Stop – Bordentown, NJ

My earliest memories of collecting pressed pennies goes way back to when I was a kid.  It started during a family trip to Walt Disney World and my grandfather initially gave me a few coins and showed me how to use one of the machines in the Magic Kingdom and I was hooked.  I remember bringing those first few pressed pennies to school for show and tell, and they were always stored safely in my little leather cowboy themed wallet I had during my childhood.

Cowboy Wallet

We moved a few times and it always seemed that when I was unpacking at our new house I would find that wallet and my pressed coins would still be in the change compartment.  Unfortunately over the years, tried as I might I can’t find the wallet anymore.  Now that I’m more of a serious collector I’m kind of sad that I can’t find these original coins as I would love to see what designs I had collected way back way.

After those initial coins once I got a little older, went through high school, then college and eventually started my career there were quite a few years where I can completely forgotten about the hobby I loved so much as a kid.  Then during one trip back to Walt Disney World in Florida as an adult it all came flooding back to me.  As with any trip to Disney there is always a lot of walking and I found it annoying to constantly have a pocket full of change that seemed to grow larger each day.  So each night when we got back to our room we would unload all the loose change into a bowl that was located on the clothes bureau.  I’m not sure what we through was going to happen to it but figured we would decide how to handle it before we left.  Then as the last full day of our trip arrived we headed downstairs to the quick service restaurant for breakfast and I saw a penny machine.  That’s when it all came back, and immediately knew what I could do with all our extra change.  That entire day we spend running around the Magic Kingdom pressing as many coins as we could before we had to head home.  On one of the last machines we used there was sign that would change this casual hobby to an obsession.

PennyCollector Sticker

At first I didn’t realize what a gold mine this website would become.  But when I saw it I took a picture so I wouldn’t forget and filed it away until we got back home.  Days later once we started going through all our pictures I came across this one and reminded me about the website I wanted to check out.  It only took a few seconds for the page to load in my web browser, but I was on the site all night.  I had always assumed that pressed penny machines were only available in Disney and didn’t realize they were everywhere.   Suddenly I knew what every free weekend moving forward was going to include trips all over the state.  The problem was where do I start, and the collecting itch had already begun so I needed to make it close by and as soon as possible.  The closes machine ended up being at a Petro Truck Stop that was about 10 minutes from my apartment at the time.  The following day I made a special trip over and was not let down.  Over by the restroom area was my first non-Disney pressed penny machine.

Petro Truck Stop - 01

After fumbling out some change I had in my pocket I pressed the coins.  This was before my current pre-planning preparation, and the pennies were nothing special just ones I had lying around.  It’s always interesting the longer you stick with a hobby the more specific you get about your process and the materials you use.  The pennies pressed with no major issue (other than the dirty coins) and there was no looking back from here.

Petro Truck Stop Pennies

Above are the actually first set of coins I pressed at this Truck Stop and you can see they are far from perfect, but they were always a special set for me as they really are the ones that started my new collection.

It took a little over a year or so to collect every known pressed penny design listed for the entire State of New Jersey.  What’s great about the hobby is that these machines are constantly coming and going, or changing so you never get much rest.  As I mentioned earlier when I first started getting these coins I was never too concerned with the types of pennies I used or their over all condition.  In more recent years this has changed and I’ve been using this blog as an opportunity to revisit a lot of these locations to get new sets of all the coins.

Just today I was out for a drive with my daughter Hanna and she was asking for ice cream from the back seat.  I was around the Bordentown area and remembered that the Petro Truck Stop was still a machine I hadn’t gone back to visit since the very first trip.  Even thought it was still only a few minutes from our house I completely overlooked it.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity to get a new set of pennies and also satisfy Hanna’s craving for strawberry ice cream.

Petro Sign

The Truck Stop is located on Rising Sun Road between Route 206 and Route 130.  Depending on when you visit this place can either be extremely busy with truckers stopping in for a bathroom break or some food at the Iron Skillet.

Petro Iron Skillet

After parking the car we headed inside and picked up our ice cream at the little stand outside the Iron Skillet.  With melting ice cream in hand we then headed back towards the restroom area where the machine was originally located, but it’s wasn’t there.  This place isn’t very big so it only took us a few minutes to walk around every inch of the place but still couldn’t find the machine.  I asked a couple of people that worked there about it and they didn’t know anything about it.  So it seems this machine must have been removed quite awhile ago.

I apologize for taking you through this entire story only to let you know the machine is no longer available.  The little side trip just got me thinking about where it had all began for me and I felt the need to tell the tale.  The good news is that the designs are similar to many you can get along the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway so they aren’t really unique in any way.  For me however they will always hold a special place in my collection as where it all began.

Lucy the Elephant – Margate, NJ

I have lived in New Jersey for almost 20 years and only now have I been able to go and meet Lucy the Elephant.  But not just meet her, I was also able to climb inside her and check out a museum dedicated to her.  Confused yet?  That’s okay I’ll explain before you call the ASPCA on me.  This is one of those famous landmarks in New Jersey that you hear about but is kind of out of the way and not always top on the priority list.  It’s about 2 miles outside of Atlantic City which I visit a few times year but I’m usually in a rush to get to the casino or in a rush to get the heck out of there.  This time however I set our GPS directly to Lucy’s coordinates so we could check her out.

Lucy Elephant

As I mentioned above Lucy is located in Margate New Jersey which is only a few minutes outside Atlantic City.  She is a six-story tall elephant that was originally constructed in 1881 in an effort to sell real estate in the area, and also attract tourists.  There are guided tours you can take that will review Lucy’s amazing history, and will also take you inside her structure.

Inside Lucy Elephant

On the ground floor there is a gift shop which can be accessed without paying the admission to enter Lucy or take the guided tour.  Inside the gift shop as you might have guessed there is a penny machine.  These were designs that I have had on my to-do list for years and was only finally able to acquire.

Lucy the Elephant Machine

The machine was working great, unfortunately the gift shop is a little small and if there are more than a handful of people inside it can make moving around a little difficult.  Eventually I was able to make may way over to the machine and press the coins.

Lucy Margate Elephant

There were four designs available: Lucy the Elephant, Ocean City NJ, NJ Beaches and Battleship New Jersey.  I’m not really sure why the Battleship design was available here since it’s actually located in Camden, NJ about an hour away from Ocean City, but in any case it is a nice design.

The visit overall didn’t take too long, in all honesty it took much longer to get there than it did to enjoy the attraction.  But it was still cool to finally see Lucy up close and in person.  So if you find yourself in Atlantic City having a run of bad luck in the Casino take a quick trip over to see Lucy, press some new pennies and maybe your luck will change.

Labor Day Weekend – Cape May, NJ

Labor Day weekend has finally arrived.  The schools buses started to show up on the streets this past week adding to the local traffic, and making us daydream of the nice easy summer commutes to work we enjoyed just a short time ago.  Our daughter Hanna isn’t in school yet, but it felt like the last summer weekend anyways so we decided to take another trip.  This time all the way down to the southern most point of Jersey known as Cape May.

welcome cape may

Cape May is really a beautiful place, with a lot of things to do.  My wife an I stayed here a few years ago for a long weekend and it was really relaxing.  Being so far south there isn’t a lot of traffic from the New York crowds, so this is really a Jersey beach with some people cover over from Delaware on the Ferry (but we’ll go over this a little later).

Our first stop was the Cape May County Park & Zoo which is actually located about 15 minutes outside of Cape May.  Admission is free, but they do accept donations which I would highly recommend.

Cape May Zoo Entrance

Even though the zoo is free this is a really nice place.  There are lots of different animals from all over the world.  The employee’s that work here are all very knowledgable and very friendly.  As soon as we entered the zoo I found our first penny machine.

Cape May Zoo Machine 01

The cabinet for the machine was in great condition and I’m sure helps with all the difference weather through the seasons as the zoo is open year round.  You may notice as I did that the sign at the bottom listed this a Machine 2, so I knew I had to keep my eyes open for at least one other machine.

Cape May Zoo Pennies 01

Just like every zoo I have visited and collected pressed coins for these designs were of animals they had on display.  These included: A Leaping Tiger, Large Tortoise, A Pig, and an American Eagle.  With coins in hand we continued to check out the zoo, petting some farm animals, watching some of the more exotic ones getting fed, and they also had nice play structure for the kids to climb and play on.  Eventually we made it over to the Reptile House which I will say is not one of my favorites but at the same time can’t resist getting up close and personal with them.  Right outside the Reptile House was the second (or technically first) machine.

Cape May Zoo Machine 02

I always come prepared, but there was a change machine located here as well in case you’re in need.  My experience is that these change machines are usually out-of-order more often that the penny machines.  My advise is always bring enough change for the machines you had planned to used, and then also bring a few extra sets of coins just in case of emergency.  You never know when the machine may have a bad roll, or you come across another machine you didn’t know was there.

Cape May Zoo Pennies 02

These coins pressed without any issue.  The four designs are: A Ring-tailed Lemur, A Boa Constrictor, and American Bison, and a Giraffe.  On the subject of the Giraffe there is part of this zoo where you walk along a wooden platform through the woods that seems to go on forever, but  trust me it’s work the walk.

cm zoo africa

Above is an actual picture of the walkway.  You eventually come out to one of the most amazing exhibits I’ve ever seen to view Giraffes, Zebra and some other African animals.  You are on a raised platform that is maybe 6-7 feet in the air and it gives you a really nice vantage point to view the animals up close.

After the African exhibit we made our way back through the zoo towards the exit.  We jumped in our car and headed into Cape May.  It’s filled with beautifully restored Victorian houses, and there is a lot of history here.  On a previous trip my wife and I took a horse and buggy ride around town and the driver was a wealth of historical information that was really amazing.  As we drove around we eventually came to our next stop the Cape May Lighthouse.

Cape May Lighthouse 02

The Lighthouse was built in 1859 and is 157 feet 6 inches tall.  It has 217 steps which for a small fee will take you up to the very top.  We didn’t make the trip up to the top, but have before.  It’s quite a work out and not for anyone that is afraid of heights.  As with every lighthouse the view from the top is gorgeous and will take your breath away.

Cape May Lighthouse Machine 01

This visit though was just to use the brand new 4 design penny machine that had just been put on display.  There used to be a one-die version that was here for years, but that has since been replaced with this beauty.  No admission is required to use the penny machine.  It’s located at the bottom of the stairs across from the information desk.

Cape May Lighthouse Pennies

The 4 designs are all Cape May inspired: Cape May Lighthouse 1859, Cape May Point State Park, World War II Lookout tower Sunset Beach, and a Horseshoe Crab.  Have you ever seen a Horseshoe Crab?  They are weird but really amazing little creatures.  Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ has some on display that you can touch, and the handlers will also flip them over so you can see what they look like under their armor.

Back in the car for another short trip over to the Cape May – Lewes Ferry Terminal.  This is pretty self-explanatory there are ferry’s that will take you from Cape May New Jersey across to Lewes Delaware and vise versa.  On our trip last year to Washington DC we took the Ferry back to Jersey from Delaware.  It was about an hour or so trip, and you just drive you car right onboard and then walk up to the passenger areas where you can stand out on desk with the sea breeze in your face, or you can enjoy a snack at the concession stand and sit inside.

Cape May Ferry Building 02

There is no cost to park here, however when you are entering if you are only visiting to use the penny machines make sure you use the lanes for dropping off passengers.  Otherwise you may get stuck in the lanes to board the Ferry.  As soon as you walk inside there is a gift shop to the right and the last penny machine of the day was located just outside.

Cape May Ferry Machine 01

I pressed the four designs which were of: The Cape May Lighthouse, Cape May-Lewes Ferry, A Victorian House, and Dolphins at the Jersey Shore.

Cape May Ferry 1

As my family took a much needed bathroom break I roamed around the terminal looking for a second machine.  On my previous visit there were two machines located here but I couldn’t find it.  After coming back home I did some research online and it appears that from time to time the machines will board one of the ferries.  Now I can’t say for sure this is where it is, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it’s true.  As a flash back I posted a picture of the second machine below.

Cape May Ferry Terminal 2

Just as a reminder the above picture was taken about 3 years ago.  At that time the machine worked great and pressed the 4 designs without any issue.

Cape May Ferry 2

The 4 designs I pressed at that time were: Cape May – Lewes Ferry, Cape Henlopen Lighthouse, Delaware The 1st State, and My Lucky Penny Lewes Delaware.

We grabbed from snacks and drinks for our 2 hours drive back home.  It had been a nice day to spend outside with the family.  We avoided the beach as they are always crazy over Labor Day weekend.  It’s sad to know the summer has come to and end.  As a penny collector this is always the time of year when the most collecting can get done.  During the winter months I try to visit some indoor attractions to get pennies, but most of the time I’m scouring eBay for coins to fill in the gaps of my collection.

The weather is still warm, and the sun is shining bright so maybe we will still be able to fit some other coin pressing trips in before the dreaded snow arrives.

Clara Barton Service Area – NJ Turnpike

As the summer comes to and end we have been taking a lot of little trips all over the state to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts.  I’ve mentioned this in the past, that if you need to go really far north or really far south the Turnpike is the quickest way to go, but all the pot holes and massive amounts of traffic can really test once patience.

This past weekend we were visiting some family and ended up on the New Jersey Turnpike.  I took the opportunity to check out another Service Area that was along the way to see how the penny machine was working, and whether the designs had changed (wishful thinking).  The Clara Barton service area is located on the Southbound side of the turnpike located between Exits 1 and 2 in Oldmans Township around mile marker 5.4 (in case you really wanted specifics).

NJ - Clara Barton Sign 2

I ran inside and found the machine located near the restroom area which also makes them a prime place for people to lean on.  There was a gentleman making sure that in case gravity gave out he would ensure the penny machine stayed safely grounded.  I approached and nicely asked to use the machine and he moved aside slightly as I took my pictures and pressed a new set of coins.

NJ - Clara Barton 01

According to my records these designs are the same ones that have been here for the past few years.  I wouldn’t anticipate these changing anytime soon as they are similar to almost every other rest stop in the northeast (except in Maryland but that’ll be for another time).

NJ - Clara Barton 01 Pennies

The machine rolled the pennies very smoothly which is also unique for these machines.  Usually they are pretty tough to crank and you need a lot of elbow grease.  The designs include: I Love You, My Lucky Penny with a Shamrock, The Lords Prayer, and a Unicorn with a leash?!? Maybe a princess necklace.  Who knows, I remember seeing this design a few years ago and being puzzled by it then as well.

With the fresh pressed pennies in my pocket I grabbed a Cinnabon and a frappuccino from Starbucks coffee before getting back in my car and finishing our trip. It’s nice to be able to crank out a few pennies to relieve some aggression when you’ve been sitting in Turnpike traffic for a few hours.

Monster’s Inc Pennies – Hollywood Studios WDW

It’s been a little while since a new machine became available at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida, but just this past week or so that finally changed.  This new machine is located in the Prop Shop where it seems almost every other penny machine in this park is now located.  For those of you that don’t know there were some major changes announced for Hollywood Studios over the next few years which include a Toy Story Land and for you anyone interested in a galaxy far far away…Star Wars Land.  Below I have listed one of the concept drawings that has been floating around online and I must say if we get anything close to this it would really be amazing.

 HS - Star Wars Land

The reason I bring these up is that there are a lot of changes going on at Hollywood Studios these days.  Numerous attractions have already closed with potentially more to come as the additional space is needed for these new Lands that are being installed.  With so much going on it seems like the penny machines are being gathers into a hand full of locations which makes finding them easier.  The Prop Shop is located back where Streets of America meets Pixar place, this is also the area where the Studio Catering Co. and Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure are also located.  The Prop Shop is now home to I think about 7 pressed coin machines in total which could make for quite a haul in a short amount of time.  This latest machine to be put on stage is a 4-design hand crank model themed around the popular Pixar movie Monster’s Inc.

HS - Prop Shop Monsters 2015

The designs include: Mike Wazowski, Sully Sullivan, Boo, and Randall.  Each character is shown coming through one of the famous doors in Monstropolis.  I was quite impressed with the detail of each of these new coins, but also a little surprised they were utilizing this movie when they have a few other newer titles that were recently released.  In any case they make a nice addition to the collection.  With all the changes that will be going on at Hollywood Studios you may want to get all the pressed coins you can because who knows what will happen to these machines when buildings start coming down and new planets start showing up.