FUN Convention 2020 – Orlando Florida

Just this past weekend was the F.U.N. (Florida United Numismatists) Convention for 2020.  It’s also so early in the new year I almost missed it.  But thankfully I had thought ahead and added it to my phone calendar last year so I wouldn’t forget.  This was my second year attending and it seemed to be bigger than last year.  If you are interested in reading about my visit last year you can check it out here.

Once again this year it was over at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.  This place is huge, and it seems like I’m walking miles just to get from the parking lot to the actual convention hall.

There are plenty of signs around to help you find where you need to go.

Eventually, you will come to the registration area.  The convention is free to attend but they do like you to check-in and get a name tag.

The other perk of checking-in is they will give you a coin for visiting.  These are different each year which makes them a fun collectible.  This year’s theme was Walking with Liberty.  The above picture shows the front and back of the coin.

Once you have your name tag you head upstairs to where the coin show is located.

As I entered inside I’m always taken back by just how big this event is.  The number of vendors and clubs with tables can be a bit overwhelming at first.  Thankfully you do get a guide book and the aisles are labeled with numbers to help you navigate around.

All the way in the back is the Educational Exhibits which I love checking out.  I probably spend most of my time back here.  The exhibits range from rare coins to special sets of currency, or even a specific theme.

I check out all of the exhibits but I’m always drawn to the elongated coin ones which are where I spend most of my time.

The time and effort people have put into these exhibits are unbelievable and I hope one day to enter one myself.

There were even some exhibits specifically about our club TEC (The Elongated Collectors).  The above had some sample newsletters, information about the club and even an 1893 Columbia pressed coin which is usually considered the first pressed design available at the Chicago World’s fair.

Another exhibit for TEC showcased some of the special pressed coins available to our members like a recruiter coin, a merit coin and the Dillard exhibit aware, plus there was even a copy of the Yesterday’s Elongated book

After I finished exploring all the exhibits I started wandering up and down all of the aisle.  It’s amazing what is available here.  No matter what type of coin or currency you are interested in, the odds are there is someone here that would be able to help add to your collection.

Over near the U.S. Mint area, was where I found the tables I was really looking forward to finding.  First was the TEC table and right beside it was Mr. Ray Dillard’s table.

Mr. Dillard was there with his trademark machine that he offers to press your pocket change for free.

This year’s design was keeping with the Conventions theme of Walking with Liberty.

Above is a picture of the pressed penny he was handing out to all visitors that stop by his table.

Then as a very special gift, he presented me with the same design but pressed on a US dollar coin.  This was a gift for TEC Members attending the convention.  It was really fantastic and I was completely caught off guard by his generosity.

Over at the TEC table, my daughters and I had a great time chatting with current TEC President Cindy Calhoun.  I had met Cindy years ago at an ANA convention in Philadelphia and it was nice to catch up a bit.  My daughters were so excited when she handed them each some pressed pennies for their own collections included the above “Join TEC” coin which I think is a great way to help spread the word about the club.

With our pockets full of some new pressed coins and plenty of handouts we were ready to head home.  Even though this has only been my second year attending I do look forward to it and have 2021 already programmed into my phone so I don’t forget about it next year.  Everyone we spoke with was very friendly and just so passionate about their hobby and personal collections they just love talking about it.

I don’t talk about it too often but if you are not already a member of TEC you really should check it out.  I’ve been a member for over 10 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed being a member.  The cost is very reasonable and you can opt for either a hard copy of the newsletter to be mailed to your home or you can get a digital copy emailed to you.  Each quarter you also get a nice little package with some unique pressed coins you just won’t find at your average theme park, and you will also get the coveted membership coins each year.  You can join by visiting the website www.tecnews.org and click on the Join/Renew coin.  Be sure to reference member #4237 so they know you heard it from me as I’m always trying to share the adventure of elongated coin collecting.

First 2020 Penny Set and Souvenir Medallion – Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World has started releasing the 2020 coins.  The machines with the individual designs in each park and a few resorts are still coming out and I’ll have a big post about all of those once they are available.

However, there were a few separate 2020 coins that were released and I thought I would go ahead and share them with you separately.

First was over at Disney Springs in the Pin Trader store.  This location does have quite a few penny machines but those designs have not changed.  The new design that I came across was in the Collectible Medallion machine.

This machine seems to have its designs swapped out on a fairly regular schedule.  I feel like I was just over here getting a new coin not too long ago.

The cost of these coins is still the same at $5 per coin or 3 for $10.  Above is a picture of all the current designs available.  The second design from the left is the one we had found just a few weeks ago.

This medallion is pretty similar to the 2019 version it replaced.  It has a similar Disney Springs pattern on the front with Mickey Mouse on top obviously now it has 2020.  The back design is still the standard Disney Springs logo on all the other medallions here.

Next, we actually headed into the Magic Kingdom.  We visited on January 4th and it was a crazy madhouse.  Thankfully we weren’t going in too far for these new penny designs and just headed into the Main Street Railroad Station.

Not too long ago this location used to have a 3-design pressed quarter machine, but that was replaced in 2019 with this machine that had 4 designs all dated with 2019.  I actually thought this would be one of the last machines swapped out, but sure enough, it was one of the first.

This is still a 4-design hand-crank machine, but it’s one of the recently converted models that cost $1 per design.  This machine does accept credit cards or digital payments like ApplePay however, if you use those forms of payment you must get all 4 pennies for $4.   If you only want one penny (or less than the full set of 4) you need to use cash.

Above is a picture of the marquee at the top of the machine.  I liked the Train logo in the middle from last year and am glad to see it return.  It’s just a nice little touch to signify where it is in the park.  They should have a machine at each train station and make a fun subset to collect for a penny pressing trip around the Train loop.

The designs here all have 2020 on them with images of Cinderella’s Castle, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.

Well, this was just a quick taste of the new 2020 pressed coins still on the way.  I think I have about half of them collected.  Hopefully, the rest will be released soon as these are highly popular to collect each year and I know people are anxious to know where they are all located.

Here’s to a fantastic 2020 with lots more pennies to press!

Festival of the Holiday’s 2019 – Epcot

Happy New Year!!
Unfortunately, I had planned to write the below post a couple weeks ago but I got sick and some family events happened during the holidays.  I apologize for the delay and this festival has completed for 2019 but the next festival will be upon us before too long.
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Epcot doesn’t waste any time transitioning from one Festival to the next.  It seems like just a few weeks ago I was enjoying the Food and Wine Festival, and then just this past week everything changed over to the Festival of the Holidays.

I will admit this is not one of my favorite festivals, but it still gives me an excuse to head over to the park and try some new food items, or experience the Candlelight Processional which is actually a great show.

This year my two daughters wanted to try and complete the Cookie Stroll.

Last year I had attempted it but only got through a couple cookies before I felt sick from all the sugar and holiday spice.  This year my plan was to break up the sweetness with some savory dishes and hopefully not go home with my tail between my legs utterly defeated and embarrassed.

My two girls were excited and ready for some cookies.  After we got inside the park we picked up our Festival Passport so we knew where to go and headed for the first cookie.

 

The booth over near the Canadian Pavilion was called the Yukon Holiday kitchen, and they had the Peppermint Pinwheel Cookie.  I am not a huge peppermint fan, but this cookie was actually really good.  It was soft, moist and didn’t have an overwhelming amount of peppermint flavor which was a plus for me.

If you are going to try the cookie stroll, make sure you get your passport stamped after you pay for the cookie.

 

The second cookie was at the Fest of the Three Kings booth and was a Chocolate Crinkle Cookie.  This was just okay for us, my girls didn’t really like it.  To be it was almost more like a cake than a cookie, it was a bit dry but had plenty of chocolate flavor.

 

We then had to take a bit of a stroll around the World Showcase until we got to the German Pavilion and the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen booth.  They had the Linzer Cookie which was filled with raspberry jam.  This was fantastic and was my clear favorite of all the cookies we tried that day.

 

Over in the American Adventure pavilion was the American Holiday Table booth.  Here you could try a classic Gingerbread Man cookie.  I do not enjoy gingerbread myself so this was a miss for me, but my girls raved about this cookie.  They liked it so much they begged for a second one to enjoy on the way to our next booth.

 

In between the Morocco and France pavilion was a very popular food booth called L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen.  They had a Pastrami on Rye sandwich which I had tried last year and was really good, as well as a couple different potato Latkes.  But we were here for a cookie and got the Black and White cookie.  This has a nice lemon flavor to it, but nothing too exciting.  My youngest enjoyed eating all the frosting from the top and she said that was her favorite part.

We had done it.  After the Black and White cookie, it was time to head over to the Holiday Sweets and Treats booth for our complimentary Completer cookie.

 

It was a cute Santa Mickey-shaped Sugar Cookie and we even got a free bottle of white milk.  We each took a small bite just to say we tried all of them, but by this time we were sick of cookies and couldn’t really enjoy it so we packaged it up and took it home.

To try and celebrate our glorious victory over the cookie stroll we headed into the Port of Entry gift shop to see what Festival merchandise was available.  There were the standard t-shirts, sweaters, and candy cane flavored popcorn but nothing really called out to me this year.  Then as we wandered around the store I found something.

The collectible coins/medallions were back.  The Food and Wine versions had been removed and replaced with the new Festival of the Holidays designs.

The machine looks exactly the same, but had a new marquee and was filled with the new coins.

They are still the same cost at $5 each, or 3 for $10.

The designs are Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Chip & Dale.  The back of the coins has the Festival of the Holidays logo.

I was originally against these coins mostly due to their very high cost, but now that these seem to be coming out for each festival I’ve grown to enjoy.  With everything going on this time of year I actually forgot these may even be available so it was a happy coincidence to come across them.

Later that evening the rest of our family arrived at Epcot and we had dinner in the France Pavilion at Chefs de France.  Then we finished our evening enjoying the Candlelight Processional with guest host Gary Sinise.  He was fantastic, the music was wonderful and the singing just topped off our amazing day.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday.  Please stay safe and enjoy your special time with family and friends.

Orlando Icon Park – Penny Machines Converted to $1

Our fears have been confirmed.  It seems like Disney is not the only place converting their pressed penny machines to $1.  A very kind friend had sent me a message online that they saw some penny machines in Orlando had the new price rate.  I almost couldn’t believe it so I made sure to head on over as soon as I had a free afternoon to confirm it…and it turns out to be 100% true.

The attraction in question has gone through quite a few name changes over the past couple of years.  Currently, it’s called Icon Park over on International Drive.  I had written about this place previously as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye and you can read about Madame Tussauds here and the Sealife Aquarium here.

The large Ferris wheel can be seen from all over Orlando, but when you park right beneath it in the lot the actual size can be a bit overwhelming.  It’s very difficult to get it all in one picture.

You can head inside to where the main building is located right behind the giant wheel.  This is where you can get your tickets to ride the Icon (Ferris wheel), or visit the other attractions here.

One of the first places you will come across is Madame Tussauds the famous wax museum.  I didn’t go inside this time, but it is definitely a fun place to experience.  Just outside the exit to the gift shop is where the penny machine is located.  Just as a reminder you do NOT need to pay for admission to use this machine.

You can see the machine has some updated decals on the outside.

This machine accepts dollar bills and supplies a pre-loaded zinc penny.

Even though the machine was removed temporarily to perform the conversion, just like most of the Disney machines, the designs available have not changed.

Located directly across from the wax museum is the Sea Life Aquarium which is really a hidden gem.  I have gone back to this aquarium a few times over the last couple of years and I really enjoy it each and every time.

As much as I do encourage you to buy a ticket and experience this unique aquarium if you are stopping by just for a quick visit to use the penny machine you do not need to pay for admission.  Just to the left of the ticket counter is the entrance to the gift shop.

Just inside the gift shop near the soda cooler and ice cream freezer is where you can find the machine.

The dreaded $1.00 signage and instructions on how to use the machine.  No penny, No problem!

These designs have also remained unchanged.  I did press a new set and they did come out pretty nicely even though they are on pre-loaded zinc pennies.  I will be curious to continue to monitor how they look as the years go by.  Using zinc pennies has always been something long-time collectors have tried to avoid.  I’m crossing my fingers they don’t deteriorate too quickly but I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail and New Collectible Medallion

Welcome to December!  Thankfully it’s not too cold here in Florida, but during this time of year, it’s hard to get in the Holiday spirit.  Thankfully Disney puts on some events to help get you feeling festive.  In previous years we have checked out the Mickey’s Very Mery Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, and last year we saw the holiday projection show down Sunset Boulevard on the Tower of Terror.  But the one thing we have started to make a tradition is the Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs.

This is something completely free to do, and you can also try to visit Santa if you don’t mind waiting on average around 200 minutes (a virtual queue is available).  For us, though we usually just pick a nice place to have dinner around 6pm, then just as it gets dark we head over to start the trail.

The main entrance for the trail is over in the Marketplace area of Disney Springs near the Earl of Sandwich or Once Upon a Toy store.  There is a podium set up where you can put your name down for a time to visit with Santa, or you can just head right in and check out the trees.

The trail consists of 23 themed Christmas Trees.  Usually, they are based around specific Disney movies.  Above is the Sleeping Beauty tree with lots of fun ornaments like the fairy godmother hats, some balls of yarn and of course the princess herself Aurora.

This next one was our personal favorite this year.  It was themed around the Princess and the Frog animated movie.  It had some Mardi Gras masks on it and was topped with some Jazz instruments.

The Little Mermaid tree had King Triton’s Trident up at the top and was decorated with lots of seashells, starfish and what we guessed were large pearls.

One of my favorite animated movies is Aladdin and I always look forward to this tree.  It’s located on top of a carpet that looks very much like the magic carpet from the movie.  Jafar’s cobra staff is peeking out about halfway up the tree, and of course, there is the magic lamp right at the top.

With Frozen 2 just released this past week, we knew this was definitely going to be out this year.  There are plenty of carrots on the tree for Olaf’s nose and I’m sure in case Sven the Reindeer is looking for a snack.  The tree has a snow-frosted look to some of the needs which were a nice detail.

I was a bit conflicted with this tree.  I love the Haunted Mansion attraction and have gone on it more times than I can count.  But this tree seemed a bit out of place.  I know it’s very popular among Disney fans but the large Bride torso in the middle of the tree was a bit off-putting.

Cinderella’s tree was very elegant.  the decorations not too overdone, but I enjoyed seeing the pumpkins, fancy ornaments and of course a clock to keep track of when midnight arrives.

I saved this one for last as I thought it was pretty unique.  Having a lightsaber as the topper to the tree was a nice touch.  There were little Jawa ornaments and a Porg or two in there.

Did I mention Disney makes it snow in this area?  Well, sort of anyway.  Periodically you can hear the machines start-up and the snow start to blow into the air and fall all around.  The kids definitely love it but make sure they don’t try to catch any of the flakes on their tongues as it’s actually a type of soap bubble so it won’t taste very good.

After we finished up the Christmas tree trail we headed back towards the parking garages but made a small stop in the Pin Traders store.  Our daughters are always on the lookout for new pins to trade.  While they were trading with cast members I headed over to the Medallion machine that was moved here (previously it was at the Art of Disney store).

It appears from a distance to be unchanged, but something caught my eye and I went in for a closer look.

The price was still the same $5 for one coin or 3 for $10.  Sure enough one of the coins had been replaced.  There used to be a Mickey’s 90th Birthday celebration coin.  But now that 2019 was coming to a close I guess it was time to move out those dated coins.

 

Above is a close up of the medallion on the left and on the right is the artwork from the machine button.  The one and only Mickey Mouse.  With some new medallions in my pocket and the kids with some new pins, it was about time to head home.

There were plenty of great Christmas trees but wow does the trail get busy.  I’ve heard if you go earlier in the day it’s not as bad, but seeing the trees lit up at night is just how we prefer to see them.  It’s hard to get pictures of your family in front of their favorite tree but just be patient as the crowds will eventually give you a split second or two to snap your picture.  Our mantra of the Holiday season…just be patient and keep on collecting!

Landry’s Restaurant Machines Converting to $1 per Penny Design (Walt Disney World)

Did someone say price increase?  Yup, it’s that time again to review some penny machines around Walt Disney World property that have been converted to the new cost of $1.  These machines that I’m about to review were actually not on my radar as they are in locations not directly owned by Disney.

Some of you may be familiar with the Landry’s name as they run some popular chain restaurants like Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, Bubba Gump and many more.  But it seems they have also decided to increase the cost of their penny machines.  They do have a few different restaurants on Disney property so first up we will head over to Disney Springs.

We are in full Fall season swing in Florida, although the temperatures are still in the 90s so not much has changed.  It’s not raining as often which I guess is a plus.

Located in the Marketplace section of Disney Springs is the T-Rex Cafe.  It’s a very unique themed restaurant with a giant dinosaur fossil on display out front.  Inside there are animatronic dinosaurs near the tables and even a meteor shower takes place every 15-20 minutes.

They do have a pretty large gift shop with plenty of dino related merchandise.  This is also where the penny press machines are located.  The first machine is just inside the main entrance.

The designs on the pennies have not changed on any of these machines, but along with the price increase you no longer use your own chosen penny to press.  The machine supplies a penny for you.  It does appear that they are using uncirculated new pennies so they come out nice an shiny.  But a lot of collectors are not happy about this and prefer to use their own pennies which is just no longer available.  Even though the designs haven’t changed I’m going to include pictures of all the pennies so you can see what the supplied pennies look like.

The second machine is located not too far from the first machine.  There is a hallway that leads back outside to an enclosed kids play area while you wait for your table to become available.  This is where the second machine can be found.

As you can see from the above, the pennies that the machine supplied are not too bad.  I’ll be interested to see how they hold up over time and whether they tarnish more easily due to the newer metallic combination used in modern minted pennies.

After T-Rex, we headed to the opposite side of the Marketplace area of Disney Springs to the Rainforest Cafe.  I’ve posted many times about Rainforest Cafes that I have visited in different cities.  They are all pretty similar and have animatronic elephants, gorillas and other jungle creatures situations around the restaurant.  The food is not my favorite, but I really enjoy the atmosphere and eat here probably more often than I should.

Just like T-Rex, they have a pretty large gift shop with lots of Rainforest Cafe logo merchandise.  Near the check-in area is where the penny machines are located.

The penny designs haven’t changed in this location either, just the increase to the cost and supplied pennies.

You can see the last design on the right rolled a bit short.  I actually tried to press this design about 4 times (yes $1 per attempt) and they all came out the same.  I did mention it to the staff and they gave me back $3 of my dollars and were going to report the machine so a tech can come and try to realign it.

Right next to that first machine is the second penny machine.

This set of pennies pressed without any issues and looked pretty good.  You may have noticed that there was a third machine here.  But that machine is a pressed quarter machine, the designs are the same and the cost has not changed it’s still $1.25 per quarter.  I’m crossing my fingers they don’t increase those machines.

Those were the two restaurants in Disney Springs so next we headed over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the next couple places.

In case you didn’t know there are actually two Rainforest Cafe restaurants on Disney property.

Similar to the one in Disney Springs they have three machines in total.  Two of them are penny machines, and the third is a quarter machine which hasn’t changed.

Other than the increase in cost not much has changed with the cabinet.

This was another nice set of pennies, and they pressed without any major issue.

The second machine squeezed in the middle.  Since these machines are located right near the main entrance it can be a bit busy here as people try to check-in for their reservations.

After pressing these pennies I started taking a closer look at the inner workings of the machine and noticed the hopper of where the pile of pennies is kept while they wait to be pressed.

That large pipe to the right of the hopper is just where they load the pennies into the machine.  It does hold quite a few pennies and I’d be curious how often they need to refill this.

Here is just a close up of the signage on the front of the machine reflecting the new $1.00 cost.  It does let you know “No Penny, No Problem: We Supply!”

Only one more restaurant to check out and it’s back in the Asia section of the park.  The restaurant is called Yak & Yeti with some Asian fusion food.  This is one of my favorite restaurants to eat at in the park, but it’s very busy and hard to get reservations for.  Walk-ins can happen but you have to try and go early.

The machine is located just inside the main doors by the check-in desk.  This is also the main area where people situate themselves while waiting for their table.  It can get very packed in here, and I had to wait a few minutes just to maneuver my way over to the machine.

Another cute set of pennies themed around the restaurant which I always like.  Well, that completes all the Landry’s restaurants on Walt Disney World property and is all of their pressed penny machines (other than the pressed quarter machines) that have been converted to $1.  On a side note both Disney Springs restaurants and the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom do NOT require theme park admission.  Disney Springs currently has free parking so you could visit T-Rex and that Rainforest free of charge other than the $1 per penny.  Parking at Animal Kingdom as of 2019 is $26 but that will change without notice so it could be an expensive price to pay if you just want to go and get those Rainforest Cafe pennies.  Yak & Yeti is inside the park so you would need a ticket to access that machine.

There are still some 4-design penny machines around that haven’t been converted yet but we will keep our eyes open and report back as those are swamped out.  Happy Collecting!!

Pirates of the Caribbean Collectible Medallions – Magic Kingdom WDW

Throughout 2019 we have noticed that the 4-design pressed penny machines around Walt Disney World property have been slowly converted to have a higher cost per penny…now at a whopping $1.  This is up from the standard $0.50 which seems to be the norm for most of the penny presses around the United States.  You can read about some of the recent changes here.   While thoughts on this increase among collectors various with some not happy about the increase, others upset that they can no longer use their own pennies, to others agreeing this was inevitable with the assumed rising cost to maintain the machines.  However, you fell about this change about increased cost I have started to notice something else start popping up around property that is even more expensive…collectible medallions.

Initially, when a set of these came out I had convinced myself I wouldn’t get them and wanted to stay focused on the pressed pennies.  Then they released a special medallion for the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot (something I’ve always wanted with pressed pennies), and I finally broke.  Thankfully at the time, there were only a couple machines but it seems like more and more of these are making appearances.  Just a few weeks ago I received a message on Facebook about a new set of medallions but this time in the Magic Kingdom for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

The first chance I got I headed over to the park and visited one of my favorite rides.  I was able to get a last-minute fastness so I enjoyed the ride first and then headed towards the gift shop in search of the machine.

The store is actually called the Plaza del Sol Caribe Bazaar but most people just say the gift shop at the end of the Pirates ride.

It didn’t take long to find the machine since it’s located pretty much in the dead center of the store.  This is good and bad, easy to find but in a very busy spot.  There are people both exiting the attraction that pass right by it, and also people shopping all around.  I stood here about a good 5 minutes just to try and get a clear picture of the machine and the above is about the best I could do.

The cabinet for the medallions is pretty cool looking.  The distressed wood makes it look like it came straight off a pirate ship or was made of old treasure chests.

I find these machines a bit interesting as to how they are setup.  In the middle of the machine are large glass pieces where you can see inside where the coins are stored.  But these never move so they are not actually the ones you get after you pay for them.  I guess this is where the “extras” are stored until needed, but wouldn’t it look strange when the inside is empty due to the coins all being loaded for dispensing?  To be honest I’ve never seen one of these medallion machines without any coins in this middle display section but you would think eventually they would want to sell off those coins as well.  If I ever find someone doing some maintenance on these machines I’ll have to try and ask how it works.

Here are the buttons that you would press to pick the medallions you want after paying for them.  The cost is $5 each, or 3 of them for $10.  So if you want all 4 that will run you $15.  The machine does accept cash or credit card, but be aware if paying with a credit card it will only allow the $10 option (for three coins).

As per usual I just couldn’t resist the entire set.  The coins are made of different materials, although I would actually assume the core of them is the same but with a different coating/finish on the outside.  The designs are Pirate Mickey, Pirate Minnie, Pluto and the Skeleton steering the ship from the ride.

The back of all the medallions has the same design for the Pirates of the Caribbean with the skull and crossbones.  These coins aren’t dated like some of the other ones released this year so I would think this set may be sticking around for a while but you just never know with Disney.

Now back to my original conversation on the increased cost to the pressed pennies.  Am I happy about an increase in cost, of course not!  I wish they could stay at $0.50 forever especially with my obsessive need to collect all of them that would help keep my expense budget down.  But I do really enjoy this hobby and even at $1 per penny, it’s still a pretty good steak for a collectible and souvenir from Disney.  It would be nice to be able to use my own penny but the machines now do seem to be supplying uncirculated pennies that come out nice and shiny and hopefully will hold up over the years if properly stored, only time will tell.  Then we come to these new medallions and at $5 a coin they are now starting to push their luck.  The coins are hefty and solid, not cheaply made and I enjoy the unique designs on them.  I don’t know if I would pay much more than the current cost for these medallions so hopefully, they stay this cost for now and limit the total number of medallions available to help keep these all affordable for collectibles and casual fans alike.  If the costs rise too much more and my budget allows for only medallions or pressed pennies, the pennies will win out every time.  Although even that has a limit of how much we would be willing to pay for our beloved pressed pennies.

Halloween Horror Nights 2019 Token – Universal Studios Florida

Are two years in a row considered a trend?  Well if not I sure hope this continues.  Back in 2018 I visited Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios for the first time as a Florida resident and had an amazing time.  One of the fun finds during the event was a souvenir token I found and you can read about it here.

 

Well here we are one year later and Universal has done it again.  The theme this year is a retro 80’s style.  You can see from the pictures above the one on the left is during the daytime and on the right is after the sun goes down.  They project a Tetris like pattern on the entrance arches.

With our annual passes, we were allowed into the park a little early to wait in designated areas called “Stay and Scream”.  It helps you avoid the massive crowd that will gather in front of the park before the event starts.  It is nice to get a bit of a jump start on the houses/mazes but as you can see from the above they aren’t quite as scary when the sun is still up.  That picture was taken out front of the house themed around the cult classic “House of 1000 Corpses”.

Crowds can get pretty crazy and the wait times for the different houses can fluctuate throughout the night.  They do offer a smartphone app that you can use to monitor the wait times and is a priceless tool when trying to experience as many houses as possible.  They also have screens with the current wait times out in front of each house.  Above was for an original concept house called “Nightingales Blood Pit”.

Some of the scenes inside the houses can get pretty gruesome, but it’s not recommended for younger visitors.  I took the above picture which is about the only picture I had that wasn’t too gory.  This is the exterior of the Nightingales house.  Unfortunately, no photography or videography is allowed inside the houses.

Back in the New York area of the park is an Arcade that is available here year-round.  However this year during Halloween Horror Nights they have converted it into the Palace Arcade which you may recognize if you are a Stranger Things fan (a show on Netflix).

This arcade was also given the 80s makeover and I almost felt like a kid again back in my youth spending countless quarters on video games.

They even swapped out some of the modern video games with retro ones like Rampage, Asteroid and Mrs. Pac-Man.

The only way to play any of these games is to get some of their special tokens.  The machines will not accept quarters for some reason.  But for us coin collectors this is a fun alternative.

There are quite a few of these token machines throughout the arcade and the exchange isn’t quite what it was back in the 80s.  You can 2 tokens for $1 or a bit of a discount if you get a larger quantity.

One side of the token has Halloween Horror Nights 2019, and the reverse has a Palace Arcade logo.  I did get a few of these tokens, this way I could keep a few for my collection and still play some retro games before heading back out for more scares.

Halloween Horror Nights is really an amazing event and I just can’t get enough of it.  The scares are all in fun, but as I mentioned above really not for small children.  I will be going back as many times as I can because the houses and scare zones are just so much fun and the scare actors do a great job.

I’m crossing my fingers that next year will continue this trend of fun souvenir tokens.

The Dino Institute NEW Pressed Pennies – Animal Kingdom

One area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom that seems to get overlooked a lot is Dinoland USA.  Most of this area is set up like a carnival with cheap carnival games, face painting, and a Dumbo style knockoff ride with flying Dino’s.

A few years ago there were rumors that this area was going to be changed to an Indiana Jones theme but nothing seems to have come of that.

But recently we did finally get something new in the form of a pressed penny machine.

Situated in the back corner of Dinoland is the Dinosaur attraction.  This is probably the only real reason to come to this area of the park.  However, if you don’t have a Fastpass for this ride you may be waiting in line for quite a while.

This ride is based on the computer-animated Disney movie Dinosaur released in 2000. You are loaded onto a jeep-like vehicle and taken back in time to try and locate a dinosaur.  But you don’t have much time due to a meteor about to hit earth to kickstart the dino extinction.  Thankfully you do manage to make it back and as you exit the ride you are placed inside The Dino Institute gift shop.

Inside is pretty typical with all the standard gift shop items.

The shop is not very wide but pretty long.  Situated about halfway through the store along one of the walls is where I found the penny machine.

As you can see from the nearby wall this place can use a little TLC.  It looks like a new coat of paint would do wonders.

The machine is an 8-design touch screen model.  The cost (for now) is still $1 per penny or $5 for all 8 pennies.  The machine is also pre-loaded with zinc pennies and you cannot use your own coins.

Above is a close up of the internal gears and penny dies.  They also have samples of the entire set on display.

The set at this machine is really cute with some fun designs from the Pixar movie The Good Dinosaur.  I understand the underlying theme here is dinosaurs, but it does seem a little strange to mix movies in this location.  One movie for the ride and a different one in the gift shop.  But I’ll try not to overthink this one as I really do like the designs on these pennies.  I guess since they are sticking with the Dino theme this land is going to stick around for a while.  Hopefully, we can get some updated attractions sometime in the near future or at the very least a new coat of paint in the gift shop!

Newly Renovated Park Stores at Orlando International Airport

Just a few days ago I had to make a trip over to the Orlando International Airport so I could pick up some family.  Their flight was due in around 7pm and never really knowing how traffic will be on I-4 I left a bit early to make sure I had plenty of time to get there.  But as luck would have it traffic wasn’t too bad so I had quite a bit of time to wander around the airport.  Thankfully I remembered that some of the Theme Park stores in the airport had recently gone through some refurbishments.  Years ago they all used to have penny machines but most have disappeared, and the only one that was available was in the Disney Earport store but that is now closed for renovations. Go figure!

First I stopped by the Seaworld store.  I always liked that Seaworld blue color and it was all over the store.  The stuff here is the same as you will find in the theme park but I’m sure probably has an airport premium on the price.

I did notice that there was an abundance of Sesame Street merch in the store which would be thanks to the new Sesame Street land that opened earlier this year in Seaworld.  As I wandered through the store I kept an eye open for a penny machine but there wasn’t one to be found.

Next up I headed to the recently opened Magic of Disney store.  This was one of two Disney stores in the airport which are at opposite ends of the main terminal building from each other.  I always felt a bit claustrophobic in this store as it was just small, and not very open but that has completely changed now.  It looks like most of the walls were removed and it’s very nice and open.

I really liked this illuminated Mickey head behind the check out area with the castle silhouette.

Lots of pictures from the theme parks inside and the store was split into areas for all the different Disney properties like Star Wars, Pixar, and classic Disney items.

There was a bit of Halloween merch already in here but that’s not too surprised.  They are already hosting Halloween parties in the Magic Kingdom and it’s only September.  Unfortunately, this store didn’t have a penny machine either which I thought at the very least the Earport machine would have been relocated here temporarily.  But that was not the case.

The last store that was open for me to check out was the Universal Orlando store.

Of course, there was a big section of the store dedicated to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  All the different school houses, more wands that you can imagine and plenty of other fun souvenirs to take home.

The rest of the store was a big mashup of their other theme park icons like The Simpsons, Fast and Furious, and Jurassic Park.

Just like the other stores, there was no pressed penny machine.  But something that did catch my eye is this 2019 Universal Coin.  It was encased in this thin acrylic case with a large cardboard mat around it.  The coin itself just had the Universal Studios globe logo surrounded by reels of film.

The back of the coin has more of the film reels and says “The EPIC Adventures at Universal Studios 2019”.  It’s nice that it was dated so I’m assuming it will only be available through the end of the year.  Although to be honest there were a LOT of these in the store.  Did you see the price tag?  $24.99 for this one coin.  I was really interested in picking one of these up but wow that price was a bit steep and even I couldn’t justify spending that amount.  Maybe if I hold out until the end of the year they will be discounted, fingers crossed.

Located near that big coin I did find a basket with some new Universal Pressed Penny booklets.

The price wasn’t too bad at only $8.00.  Plus you do get one pressed penny embedded on the front cover.

It’s just the classic Universal Studios globe logo but still a fun penny to have in your collection.  I didn’t pick this booklet up at the airport as I’m sure they have them back in the parks so I’ll double-check the next time I’m there.

That was about the closest I got to a new pressed penny at the Orlando International Airport.  As I mentioned at the beginning there is one other Disney store called the Earport that is being renovated right now.  It is due to open again in a few months I believe so I’ll be sure to go back and see if the old machine is back or if maybe we can expect some new designs.  Safe travels!!