Halloween Horror Nights 2018 Token – Universal Studios Florida

Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  Something about the fall season, the cooler weather, leaves changing colors and jack-o-lanterns lighting up the neighborhood houses has just the right amount of spooky.  As I got older the horror movie genre became a guilty pleasure and then visiting local haunted house attractions and hay rides was a must each year.  Then about 15 years ago I visited Florida during October and saw commercials in my hotel room about Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.  It looked amazing and I knew I had to squeeze it into my vacation plans.  To this day that was one of the greatest Halloween events I have ever been to.

Since relocating to Florida this was something I wanted to revisit as soon as possible.  Our daughters are a little too young for this as it can be pretty scary even for adults.  But my wife was interested in going so we got some tickets and a babysitter so we could head over and check it out.  Above is a picture I took of the Universal arches about a week before we actually went to HHN (Halloween Horror Nights).

Above is a picture I took of the line we were in the middle of just to try and get into the event.  It usually starts sometime between 6-6:30pm.  This was taken around 6pm and it took almost an hour to actually get inside the park.

Once inside, since it hadn’t gotten dark yet I wanted to check out the souvenirs first and see what they had to offer.

The logo for this years HHN included the above creepy disfigured pumpkin and it could be found all throughout the park.  As you can also see one of the HHN houses this year was themed around the popular Netflix show Stranger Things and there was a ton of merchandise with that on it.

In the middle of the Universal Studios Store was a collection of vintage arcade games.  Including Pac-man, Asteroids, Donkey Kong and some other popular games.  Now these machines do not take quarters, but instead can only accept special tokens.  The above machine is where you can purchase those tokens.  They were $1 for 2 tokens or discounts if you bought in larger quantities.

Being a pressed penny collector I obviously wished these designs were in a pressed penny format, but I was still happy to see these special tokens.  This is something I always wished Disney would do for their events and parties.  I didn’t want to spend time playing the arcade games (although it was tempting) but I did pick up a few of these tokens for my collection.  They had the creepy pumpkin on one side, and the HHN 2018 logo on the other.

It was now starting to get a little dark out and we met up with some family friends to head over to our first haunted house.  Our strategy because of the huge crowd for this event was to visit the houses at the back of the park first and then move towards the front.  This seemed legitimate in theory but seems lots of other guests has the same idea.  First up we visited the Trick ‘r Treat house which is themed around the cult classic movie of the same name.  Unfortunately for the safety of the guests and scare actors there is no video or photography allowed inside the houses.  If you are interested there are plenty of “media preview” videos inside the houses on YouTube.

The detail inside these houses is really amazing, and with Universal behind the make up and costumes you really get sucked into the houses.  The pathway weaves around sharp corners and through narrow hallways with the scare actors jumping out at you every few feet.  They are not allowed to intentionally touch or grab you, and it all makes for an amazing adventure.

The second house we visited was called Seeds of Extinction.  This is an original house theme based in a post-apocalyptic wasteland overgrown with invasive vegetation.  Basically scary plant creatures jump out at you as you walk through the house.

In between the houses along the main walkways are areas called Scare Zones.  Some of these are IP (intellectual Properties) or original theme zones just like the houses.  One of the more popular scare zones was the Killer Knows from Outer Space zone.  The uber creepy clowns just slowly stalk around you as you try to get through to the next house.

The fog, and lighting in these areas really add to the ambiance and creepiness factor.

Another scare zone was called Vamp 1985.  In this area about every 20-30 minutes the ball drops to celebrate New Years eve.  The only problem is that when the ball drops the vampires storm into the crowd looking for victims.

Up next we visited another original house called Scary Tales.  This was my favorite house we visit this night.  By this time it was around 10pm and the lines for the houses were getting pretty crazy.  The line for this house was posted as being 35 minutes but I’m pretty sure we waited at least 50 minutes, but it was worth it.

The story behind this house is that the Wicked Witch of the West has cursed the land of the fairies, twisting beloved stories beyond recognition.  This just means that all your favorite fairy tales have been turned into horror themed nightmares.  One of the rooms was the witches house from Hansel and Gretel and there was an amazing smell of gingerbread as you walked through.  The scares in here were not too over the top, but the theming was really detailed and amazing.

The Stranger Things house was definitely the longest one all night and it didn’t get much better.  We checked the wait times for this house numerous times during the night and it was always around 60-90 minute wait which was just too long for us.

One of the last scare zones we headed through was called Twisted Traditions.  The description was that an ancient evil had reawakened and transformed Halloween into an abomination.  There were a lot of scary pumpkins, and things handling from trees along this path.  Plus lots of creatures jumping out to see why we were walking through.  One of the coolest features of this zone were all the lit pumpkins decorating the tree tops.

The HHN night we visited was on a Wednesday.  We chose that day as it was supposed to be a lower attendance day, but as you can see from the wait times above it was still pretty busy.  We ended up getting into four houses out of ten that are available, and all the scare zones.  If we can figure out how to visit again before these events are done for the season we will definitely be back.  The houses were amazing, the scare actors were fantastic and it was just a lot of fun.  The night would go on until 2am but we headed out around midnight since we had work the next day.  The souvenir tokens were a very nice surprise and will make a nice addition to my collection.  Hopefully this is something they will continue doing annually.  We are definitely going to visit again next year and this would be a fun little souvenir to get year after year.

Happy Halloween!!!

Pressed Penny Jewelry and unique Art

There was quite a few new penny machines released this past week on Walt Disney World property and I promise to review those within the upcoming weeks.  But I came across a few things online that were pressed penny related that I thought were really interesting and wanted to share.

I’m sure you have seen the rubber pennybandz that you can buy at a lot of places where penny press machines are located.  They are just plastic wrist bands you can wear that allow you to insert a pressed penny into it for display.  I’m not sure how popular these are as I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone wearing one.  However I was browsing through Etsy the other night and came across something that seemed more jewelry-like.

The Etsy store is called JustCharmsByPam and she has some charm bracelets that have a full set of pressed pennies on them.  The pressed pennies have a hole punched in the top and threaded onto the bracelet with some other fun charms included.  The above is a Nightmare before Christmas theme and she has a few other styles as well.

Another version I found in her store had the Pirates of the Caribbean penny set.  These bracelets do see pretty hefty but look to be a fun gift for any pressed penny enthusiast.

Just a day or two ago I was up late cataloguing some new pennies when I decided to browse my Reddit account and see if there was any new Disney news.  Of course there are always tons of rumors, and people posting about their vacations, but then something really beautiful caught my eye.

There was not a lot listed in the post other than the above picture but I was stunned by this.  I went into the comments to find more details and was able to get the artist’s website.  Her name is Bry Marie and her website is brymariearts.com.  She is an artists that paints these beautiful designs on pressed pennies, but also non-pressed penny (just a regular penny).

I found another one of Alice in Wonderland on a pressed penny and was almost speechless.  The colors are really fantastic and being able to paint on such a small canvas is really intriguing.

The above is the Alice coin just at a slightly different angle.  You can see a little more of the pressed penny detail below the paint.  She does sell these through her website, the price can seem a little high but when you take into account the detail and work that must go into these I think they are worth every penny (ha).  Unfortunately at this time her painted pressed pennies are out of stock, but I will definitely be keeping an eye on her site so I can pick some up when they are available again.

I hope you enjoyed the hard work these artists put into their products.  These are not paid advertisements.  I came across them online and wanted to share them with all of you.  Be sure to keep your eyes open when surfing online as you never know what you may come across that is pressed penny related.  If you do find any other unique uses for pressed pennies please be sure to commend below so I can check them out.

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – Recently Renovated

Over the past few years it has seemed like the majority of the Walt Disney World Resort property has been under construction.  The roads are being rerouted, new attractions being built, and some of the resorts have been under renovation.  This is not going to change any time soon, and from the sound of it most of this won’t be done for another 3-4 years.  But one of these places that has started to see the finish line is the Caribbean Beach Resort.

I visited this resort about 8 months ago to see how things were going and it was a mess.  Guests had no actual restaurant to eat at, instead there was a tent put up with a buffet inside, or some temporary food trucks near the pool.  However just this past week that all changed when the newly renovated Old Port Royale opened.

In case you aren’t familiar with how this resort is laid out, there are groups of resort room buildings named after different Caribbean locations like Aruba, Martinique, Jamaica and a few others.  This resort is huge and was in need of some TLC.  The main reception area used to be on the outskirts of the property in the Custom House, but that has closed.  Now that has been relocated to Old Port Royale along with some new places to eat.

The new check-in area is wide open with some minimal theming but this seems to be the direction Disney is going with its resorts.

Just inside the main set of front doors is the new penny machine available at the resort.  In years past this resort had quite a few penny machines, but those have all been removed and retired.  This is now the only machine available here.

I wonder if we will ever seen any of the old three design coin press machines anymore?

All of the penny designs have our favorite Disney characters as Pirates.  For some reason all of the pennies also say “Pirates of the Caribbean” which I think is a little strange.  It’s the same logo from the attraction in the Magic Kingdom but now over at this resort.  I get that the Caribbean Beach resort does have a pirate theme at the main pool and in some of the rooms, but this seems like a bit of a stretch.

The rest of Old Port Royale is set up for the new Centertown Market the quick service options.

Walking out the back of the Old Port Royale building you are right next to the main Pirate themed pool, and the new Banana Cabana bar / lounge.  I stopped by here later on at night and they have live music, but there are not many seats available so you may need to get there early or expect to wait for a table.

Beside the lounge is the new table service restaurant called  Sebastian’s Bistro.  This place has received quite a good reception so far in its first two weeks of being open.  I will also admit I have actually eaten here twice in that time period and have been thoroughly impressed.

I’m sure you all remember Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.  First off the inside is really clean and bright, but there are some light fixtures that have not been installed yet so at night there are areas that can be a little dark.  The service I had on both my visits was superb.  They knew that menu inside and out, making some great suggestions.

We tried the Pull-apart bread as an appetizer which came with three accompaniments, Guava butter / Mango Salsa / Jerk favored Oil.  The guava butter was unbelievable.

For  my main course I tried the Jerk chicken, which  are boneless chicken thighs marinated in a Jerk season and served over Cilantro rice and black beans.  This was really flavorful and we really liked it.  We also tried a few other main dishes and they were really fantastic as well.  This is a place I would highly recommend and if you get a chance be sure to head over and try it out.  Plus you can take a nice stroll around the resort afterwards and see what they have to offer, or press a set of the pennies in the lobby.

One last thing you can see when you visit this resort is the nearby resort that should be opened in a couple of years.  It’s going to be called The Riviera and from across the lake looks like it’s going to be huge.  Not sure how it will look inside but I’m anxious to find out.  Plus you know they must have a penny machine inside.

davidscointravels Office Tour

A few years ago when I first got this blog started I had someone reach out asking for me to post about my collection.  From time to time I have posted some info about how I store my collection, or how to scan pennies onto your computer but I’ve never done a full tour of my office.  Lately this seems to be a topic quite a few people are interested in but to be honest I never thought it would be all that interesting.  However now that we have moved to Florida the office has become a place for not just my collection, and where I write the articles, or edit the videos but now it’s also where I keep all my Disney collectibles.  Hopefully this sheds a little insight into where all the magic happens.

I do have a full-time job and the blog and penny collecting are just hobbies.  Thankfully I’m able to work remotely and when we were having our house built we took that into account when we designed the office.  This allowed for additional electrical outlets and network connections for not just the work equipment but all the personal hardware too.  The office is at the front of our house which gets a lot of the Florida sunshine beaming in.

  As you walk into the office my wife found me a print of Hipster Mickey enjoying a Dole Whip float which makes me smile each time I walk in.

When we made our move from New Jersey to Florida along I-95 just over the border into South Carolina is the famous South of the Border.  They have gift shops, restaurants and all stores of other things to do.  We took the opportunity to stretch our legs and check out the gift shop.  I came across this wall mounted Tiki art and just had to have it.  This is also where I hang my ‘Ohana leis.

Over top of the storage closet I have some large prints of some historic Walt Disney World construction images.  I always thought it was interesting to see a Monorail train being listed onto the track, or Epcot’s spaceship earth empty inside.

Along the far wall are some vintage WDW attraction posters like Pirates, or the Monorail / Contemporary Resort.  There are more on the other side that we will get to shortly.  Then I have some floating shelves for my Magic Bands, POP Figures and other miscellaneous collectibles.  If you have a sharp eye you may notice the famous “Chosen One” red cards hanging from one of the shelves, this is actually a replica I got off Etsy that I just had to have.

Continuing on this side of the office is my iMac that does all the heavy workload of the blog and video editing for YouTube.  The dual screens in the corner is part of the hardware for my non-penny related job.  I am also a proud member of Disney’s D23  and have my membership certificate framed for display.  My cork board had my calendar, TEC member cards, and our magic bands that we use primarily at the parks.

One year for Christmas I was given a set of coasters that were themed after the Haunted Mansion.  Each one has a different Tombstone poem from the park attraction.  The one I use most of the time is “Dear departed brother Dave, he chased a bear into a cave.”  Also along the windowsill is where I have my Disney Transportation collection.  There is a scale model of the parking lot Trams, Monorail, different Bus designs, and even a small matchbox car of the Test Track vehicle.

On the opposite wall are more attraction posters for Epcot, Tomorrowland, the Haunted Mansion and the Tiki Room.  The larger cork board over here is where we keep a lot of our pins and lanyards from parks like Universal, Legoland and Disney Pin Trading.

There are two bookcases here that store my frequently used equipment and supplies.  There are more of these bookcases in the closet with more binders filled with pressed coins.

The case on the right side had my Hitchhiking Ghosts figure by Jim Shore.  There is also a model of the Disney Dream cruise ship which my wife and I went on a couple of years ago.  I got this model in the onboard gift shop and ended up meeting the Captain who signed it for me.  Below that is where I store the 2×2 plastic binder pages that hold all my pressed coins.  Next are some coin roll boxes for pennies and quarters, this helps ensure I always have plenty of change for my trips.  Then there are the small plastic bags I use for temporary storage of coins I collect, a flat cinch stapler with staples, and my travel case that is usually in my car.

Below that is my Yesterday’s Elongated guide which is a great resource for some older pressed pennies.  There is my main camera the Sony a6000, and my daughters Wilderness Explorers guidebook from the Animal Kingdom.  On the bottom shelf are the 4 and 5 inch three-ring binders for all my Walt Disney World coins, Disneyland coins, a separate binder just for retired WDW coins.  On the right side is my Disney Pin Trading binder, and a book that has all the Disney park maps since the park opened.

The bookcase on the left has my Harry Potter Elder Wand, and my basic magic band collection.  I actually found an acrylic watch display on eBay which works perfectly for these bands.  On the next shelf down I have the small labels I use for each coin, and packages of the 2×2 elongated coin cardboard holders.

The bottom has some of the binders that store my pressed coin collection.  This is my attempt to keep them as organized as possible.  This is an ever-growing collection that I’ve been working on for years.  I prefer to collect coins at places I have actually been to and pressed in person.  But I do have a lot of friends around the country that know of my obsession and love to send me their local coins as gifts and I cherish each one of them.

See what did I tell you not too exciting, but it’s where I do all the work to share this hobby with everyone.  It’s my sanctuary where I can enjoy the things I love, and help keep my collection organized and from getting too out of control.  Now it’s time to pull the curtain back across the room and get back to work.

Hall of Champions – Magic Kingdom Main Street USA *NEW*

The weekends in our house is usually what we call our park days.  Usually by Wednesday or Thursday I try to come up with a plan of what parks we will visit that coming weekend, but there are always asterisks with those selections.  The options can change depending on weather, special events, or more often than not due to a new penny machine.  That was the situation that happened this past weekend.  I had everything setup to check out Universal Studios so we could see some of the Halloween Horror Nights areas in the safety of day light.  But then I heard about a new penny machine and I dropped that plan like a bad habit and instead we headed into the Magic Kingdom.

After a quick trip on the run down Monorail (hopefully new ones are on the way according to rumors), we were found ourselves surrounded by pumpkins and other really cute Halloween decorations.

I was told this new penny machine was in a store down Main Street USA.  My fingers were crossed that this wasn’t mistaken for the machine recently released in the Disney Clothiers store.  Thankfully this was not the case.

Instead this new machine was just a few doors down at the Hall of Champions store.  This place used to house sports themed clothing and merchandise with the usual Disney spin, but now it just seems to be another extension of the Main Street Emporium with pretty standard shirts and clothing.

In this store kind of jammed into a corner between two racks of merchandise were two 3-design penny machines.  Those have been removed and replaced with a new 8-design touch screen machine (the new Standard).

This new machine is literally in the exact same location as the other 2 machines but now has a little more room to stretch out.  This is over against the wall closest to Casey’s Corner the famous hot dog quick service restaurant.

The machine cabinet is a plain wood grain, that looks nice but I do miss some of the fancy cabinet designs or theming that the old 3-design machines would sometimes have.

I pressed a few sets for some fellow collectors, but found that a few of the designs rolled a bit short.  The images in this set are of your favorite Disney character playing various sports.  Baseball Mickey, Tennis Minnie, Golfer Goofy, Golfer Daisy, Mickey & Donald playing Basketball, Baseball Tigger, Soccer Mickey and Football Donald.

This side of Main Street USA currently has a total of 5 pressed coin machines which is great, but these stores from the Emporium to the Hall of Champions gets extremely busy.  It makes trying to use these machines a little difficult from time to time.  After we finished using this new machine and headed outside I glanced across the street and realized that there are a lot of stores over there with no penny machines.  There is the Confectionary, Uptown Jewelers, the Main Street Bakery, Crystal Arts, and the Chapeau store.  These would all make for great locations and hopefully some fun themed designs for store.  I’m crossing my fingers this may be part of their plan.

It’s always fun to have an excuse to visit one of the Disney parks.  This is something I never want to take for granted and feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to visit as often as I do.

2018 TEC Presidential Merit Award

Shortly after we got back from our recent vacation to southern Florida I received a nice big envelope in the mail.  I had not idea what it could be but upon opening it I was ecstatic.

Inside was a TEC Presidential Merit Award and a special pressed coin created just for this award.

This was completely unnecessary but very much appreciated.  Each year TEC (The Elongated Collectors) had their annual meeting at the ANA (American Numismatic Association) convention.  Our club is always trying to raise money and they have a fantastic auction at the annual meeting of items that are donated by the members.  I donated something this year and am sure it found a good home.

This blog and my YouTube channel is really a passion for this hobby that I have and I love sharing with everyone.  Anything I can do to help spread the word about TEC and pressed pennies I will do.  Thank you to Cindy Calhoun the current TEC President for this award and wonderful pressed coin.  I met Cindy quite few years ago at a TEC annual meeting in Philadelphia and she is a wonderful person and another big advocate of our hobby.

If you haven’t already please visit http://www.tecnews.org and become a member.  The fee is very reasonable (for 2018 it’s $11 a year for a digital subscription or $15 for a printed hard copy subscription).  There is a great newsletter issued each quarter, and lots of pressed coins are donated and distributed out to all the members with each issue.  This club has been a great resource to meet fellow collectors, trade tips and tricks or just read some great articles about pressed coins.

Keep on pressing!