American Museum of Natural History – New York, NY

Traveling the world has always been a goal of mine, but so far I haven’t made it much beyond Canada and a handful of U.S. states.  My cousin however has become quite the world traveler visiting places like the Philippines, China, Machu Picchu, and many more with plenty of great story to accompany each trip.  In between big trips to these far away lands the traveling bug still hits him and he has the need to go somewhere close.  He’s from Canada and coming down to New Jersey tends to be one of his stand by locations.  With our proximity to New York, Pennsylvania and even Washington DC it makes for an ideal place to visit a lot of places in a short amount of time.


Being Canadian he has an extreme love of Hockey and has a bucket list to visit all the professional arenas.  On this most recent trip I was offered a few different venues to see a hockey game with him and decided to check out the New York Islander’s new home arena the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY.  The drop of the puck wasn’t until 7:30 that night so I had a whole day to wander around New York City and try to collect some new pennies.  Now where to start?

I wanted to make sure I got to visit as many places as I could so my trip began early in the morning with a train ride into Penn Station, then jumped on the Subway for a 10 minutes ride to the American Museum of Natural History.

AMNH Entrance

This museum is one of the largest in the world.  It was originally established in 1869 and the original building was opened in 1877.  The size of this place is truly amazing, and the number of exhibits really makes this a special place to visit.


As soon as you walk in through the main entrance you realize how big the museum is.  There are two large dinosaur skeletons in the midst of battle looming over you as you buy your admission ticket.  The museum has four floors and includes a planetarium, and IMAX theater.  However the animal diorama’s are really something they are known for.

AMNH 01   AMNH 03

In the Akeley Hall of African Mammals there is a centerpiece that includes 8 African Elephants in a characteristic alarmed formation.


Eventually I made my way over to the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs which as I’ve mentioned in the past I just can’t resist.  Seeing the size of these animals is still almost too hard to contemplate that they walked the earth millions of years ago.  The names are always too complicated for me to pronounce but there is one favorite that I have to locate at each museum.


Tyrannosaurus Rex who doesn’t want to see this fierce carnivore, just obviously not in person.  Thankfully Jurassic Park hasn’t become a reality just yet.

As I made my walk through all the exhibits I did come across each of the four penny machines located here.  I visited this museum about 7 years ago and three of the machines were the same but the fourth was new.  But that didn’t stop me from pressing a brand new set of each coin.

AMNH Museum Store

As with most museums they have a gift shop, but the main one located here has a staircase in the middle of it and actually covers multiple floors.  On the first floor just outside the gift shop was where I found the first machine.

AMNH Machine 01

I always come prepared with enough quarters and pennies (plus extra just in case of a short roll) but just in case each of the machines did have a change maker right beside them.

AMNH 01 Pennies

The first machine had four designs: Stegosaurus, Barosaurs, the American Museum of Natural History building, and a T-Rex Skull.  I took the stairs in the middle of the gift shop up to the second floor and found the next machine located outside the shop doors.

AMNH Machine 02

So far all the machines were working perfectly and I had no issues pressing the designs.

AMNH 02 Pennies

The next set of pennies has images the Alaska Brown Bear Diorama, The Rose Center for Earth and Space, a Haida War Canoe, and the Australopithecus Couple.  For the last two machines I had to go all the way up to the fourth floor.  The third machine was right outside the DinoStore.

AMNH Machine 03

Our of the four machines available in the museum this was the busiest one.  Since it was located right near the Dinosaur hall it wasn’t too surprising this has the largest crowd.

AMNH 03 Pennies

These four pennies were pressed with images of an Allosaurus, the huge Blue Whale, the herd of 8 African Elephants, and the main entrance to the Museum.  The last machine was located beyond the Dinosaur hall toward inside the gift shop by the temporary exhibit called Life at the Limits.

AMNH Machine 04

Just like the other machines this one was in perfect working condition, and was the only new machine since my last visit.

AMNH 04 Pennies

These last four coins had the Easter Island Head, a T-Rex skull, a Mammoth Fossil, and Theodore Roosevelt.  With all the coins acquired and safely stored in my jacket pocket I made my way back down to the 1st floor and headed outside into the unusually warm November day.  My next stop was directly across Central Park but suddenly I realized I had a huge obstacle in front of me.

NYC Marathon 2015 02

The New York Marathon was going on, and there were road blocks all over the place to keep people off of the Marathon route.  It was cool to be in the city and right alongside the runners but I had pennies to press and needed to figure out a way around the course.  It took a little longer than I thought it would but I eventually made it to the next stop on my list.


Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

As I sit to write this my family is upstairs packing the turkey in our car so we can head over to my parents house to start our Thanksgiving festivities.  Risking a major scolding I wanted to post a quick Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there.

This is the time of year to really take the time to think about and be thankful for everything we have.  Most of the year we can mistakenly take for granted our family and friends but on this special day as you enjoy your turkey or whatever other special meal you have prepared, just take a look around at your loved ones and be thankful.

To all of you out there I would like to say thank you for coming back week after week and following my adventures (or mis-adventures) in pressed penny collecting.  It means a lot to know that so many of you share this hobby and are just as obsessed as I am and by some of the feedback maybe even more.

Thanksgiving 01

I found the above coin in my collection and wanted to share it.  It was design by StudioTwelve28.  They have a wonderful website you can visit at with lots of great penny designs available.

Thanks again and have a safe a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!!

Insectarium – Philadelphia, PA

What’s better to celebrate Halloween than some creepy crawly bugs?  As I’ve mentioned in the past I am not a fan of bugs.  I don’t want to touch them, don’t want them near me and especially try everything I can to keep them out of our house.  But then I read online that a new penny machine is available at a place called Insectarium just outside of Philadelphia.  Well I tuck my pant legs into my socks and summon all my courage to not just bug out (sorry I had to) and do what I need to do for the pennies.

Insectarium 04

The Insectarium is located about 20 minutes outside of Philly.  On my recent little trip to the U.S. Mint and the Penitentiary this was my last stop for the day and thankfully I didn’t have a lot of time to explore all the insects located inside.  As you can see from the above picture the outside of the building is decorated with some large cutouts and even a giant ant crawling up the wall.

Insectarium 01

Earlier this summer Hanna and I had visited a similar place called Insectropolis that was originally an exterminating service, and then must have used their clients bugs to start their museum.  This place is no different and you can see that they do also offer an exterminating service.

Insectarium 03

Upon entering the front door you are immediately placed in the gift shop that has all sorts of bug related merchandise.  I had been in the store for all of 3 seconds, did not see any live bugs running loose, but was still feeling like I was covered in bugs.  Wow I really needed to get a grip.

Insectarium 02

My biggest issues is with spiders.  The large picture you can see above was located on the wall just beside the penny machine.  I swear the spider was looking at me.

Insectarium Machine 01

Feeling panic setting in quicker than I had anticipated I slowly moved towards the penny machine which was designed to look like a tree stump.  This was really a cool design and fit perfectly in this bug tortureland….uhh wonderland.

Insectarium Pennies

The four designs passed very nicely and the designs were simple but still a nice set.  The images included a Scorpion, Praying Mantis, Ant and Butterfly.  All of the pennies also had Insectarium printed across them.

As I was using the machine a nice lady that was sitting at the front desk asked if I wanted to go into the museum.  I confessed that I didn’t have much time, and had just stopped in to use the penny machine.  She insisted on handing me a bunch of flyers about the museum and encouraged me to come back as they had some great interactive exhibits.  This invitation did sound fun (Not really).  I thanked her and made my way back outside.  If you do want to visit the museum there is a small admission fee, or if you are like me and just want to stop by for the pennies there is no charge.  The people working there did seem really nice so I may suck it up and bring Hanna back to see the bugs.

With my quick trip to Philly done I headed home to catalogue my newest coin sets.  It took me two trip in but was able to visit all the machines and my Philly collection is now up to date for now.  Thankfully this hobby doesn’t stand still too long and I’m sure there will be new machines available next year.  That will just give me another excuse to come back and enjoy an authentic cheesesteak with a side of pressed pennies.

Eastern State Penitentiary – Philadelphia, PA

With Halloween only a few days away I thought I would review a place over in Philadelphia that gets a lot of visitors throughout the year, but around Halloween is when this place really gets crazy.  There are day time tours you can take, or for the really adventurous once it gets dark outside you can experience a ghost tour that I have heard it terrifying.  Who wouldn’t want to walk through the hallowed halls of an abandoned prison known as Eastern State Penitentiary.

Eastern State Penn 02

I will admit I did not opt to go at night for the Terror Behind the Walls, but instead went in bright day light to hopefully ward off any spirits that may have wanted to see me screaming back out to my car.  As you can see from the pictures this place is plenty creepy during the day.

Eastern State Penn 07

Eastern State was opened in 1829 and remained in operation until 1971.  The prison consisted of cell wings radiating in a full circle from a center tower where the prison could be kept under constant surveillance.   This design became known as the hub-and-spoke plan.

Eastern State Penn Overview

Originally the system of incarceration dubbed the “Pennsylvania system” encouraged separate confinement as a form of rehabilitation.  The prison had design aspects with religious inspiration, for example the halls were designed to have a feel of a church, and each cell had a single overhead skylight representing the “Eye of God”.  This was to suggest to the prisoners that God was always watching them.

Cell Eye of God

The prison housed some famous criminals including bank robber Willie Sutton, and Al Capone who had a an unusually comfy looking cell (guess being a mob boss does pay off).

Al Capone Cell

There was also an unusual story about a dog named Pep.  In 1924 Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot allegedly sentenced Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog” to a life sentence at Eastern State.  The dog supposedly murdered the governor’s wife’s beloved cat.  Prison record reflect that Pep was assigned an inmate number (C2559) which is also seen in his mug shot.

After walking through some of the cell blocks, courtyard and having the hair on my neck stand on end the entire time I made my way back towards the entrance of the prison.  Down one of the hallways close to the exit you will find the Museum store.

Eastern State Penn 05

As with any Museum gift shop there is all sorts of prison related souvenirs available including posters, t-shirts, hand cuffs and anything else you can image.  Among all these items was another reason I made the trip to the prison.

Eastern State Penn Machine 01

The four design penny machine seemed a little out-of-place among the prison walls.  I pressed each design without any issue, as I sometimes find these types of machines require a little extra arm strength to turn.

Eastern State Penn Pennies

Each design had very nice detail and referenced the prisons famous history.  The images on each coin were: The main entrance to the prison with the year 1829-1971, Al Capone, The hub-and-spoke prison layout, and Pep the dog.

With the freshly pressed pennies in my pocket I quickly made my way out of the prison and back to my car.  It was early afternoon but I wasn’t sticking around until sundown when all the prison ghosts made their appearance.  Plus I had one other place to visit that was also going to leave me with a creepy feeling.

U.S. Mint – Philadelphia, PA

On my recent day trip with my daughter Hanna to Philadelphia one of the few places we weren’t able to visit was the U.S. Mint.  Technically we did try to go inside but found that the mint did not have any visiting hours on Sundays.  There were a couple other places we wanted to check out that day but just weren’t able to fit it all in.  Luckily however only a couple of weeks later I had a day off from work and was in the area for another appoint.  But I figured this was my chance to get to these last places on my list because as you may expect there were penny machines to be found.

I parked my car near the Independence Visitors Center which I had reviewed in a previous post you can see here.  This was a relatively inexpensive parking lot for center city, and after a short walk past the National Constitution Center I arrived at the U.S. Mint facility located in Philadelphia.

US Mint 01

For those of you that may come here for a visit in the future please note that security is pretty tight here.  There is a scanning procedure much like you would find at the airport where you must empty your pockets of all metal objects and walk through a metal detector.  Also, this was a big one that I was informed of numerous times was that Photography and Videography is strictly prohibited.  I spoke to some people who had visited the mint in the past and said they had no issues taking pictures, so I don’t know if this is a new policy or not.  But the security guards did not look like they were in a forgiving mood when they were explaining this rules.  So being the good little visitor I am I didn’t take any pictures so this post will be pretty short.

The U.S. Mints largest facility is this one located in Philadelphia and this location was originally opened in 1968.  This is actually the fourth mint that has been located in Philadelphia.  The first was built in 1792 when Philly was still the U.S. Capital  and began operation in 1793 and was known as “Ye Olde Mint”.


After submitting to a body cavity search (just kidding, only the metal detector I promise) the first stop was actually the gift shop.  For any coin collector this is really a great place and has a wide range of proof coins available, books, collecting supplies and other unique coin related souvenirs.  Just outside the gift shop was where the pressed penny machine was located.

As I mentioned above I wasn’t able to take a picture of the machine myself.  I must say I really wanted to test my luck as I figured this machine didn’t have anything to do with the actual coin minting process which I assumed is what they are actually trying to protect.  But regardless my conscience got the best of me, and wasn’t up to spending the afternoon with Homeland Security just for taking a picture for the website.  Instead I have above the picture from and I hope they don’t mind me using it so you can see what the machine looks like.  I must admit that the machine itself was really very nice.

US Mint Pennies

Each penny pressed very nicely with only a slight extra curve to each coin, but that was easily corrected once I got home.  The four images available were: a Majestic Eagle with wings spread, Ye Ole Mint 1792-1833, Ben Franklin with the LOVE sign, and the Philadelphia Skyline.

Just around the corner from the Penny machine was the escalator that started the self-guided tour through the mint.  There was no admission for the tour and took about 30-45 minutes depending on whether you read every piece of material posted along the way.  This was a really nice tour and had a ton of information that to be honest mostly went over my head.  I’m just a simple man who likes to look at nice shiny new coins, but understanding a little bit more about the entire process makes collecting them that much more special.

I will admit that after watching all the work that goes into making coins (including the penny) I kind of feel bad about squashing them.  But I just kept telling myself that they did have a penny pressing machine located in their gift shop so they must be okay with it.

Stop one was done but after a quick walk back to my car I was off.  Who knows, if I did risk taking the picture of the machine inside the mint I may have gotten a free ride to my next destination.