New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge Pressed Penny Set

I remember watching a movie when I was a kid called Pete’s Dragon and one of the tense scenes towards the end took place at an old Lighthouse during a storm.  Among everything that happens in the movie from bandits to a magical dragon the one thing that stuck with me most was that lighthouse.  I think it was a few things, first the architecture of a lighthouse is always very unique and interesting, plus the more practical reason to serve as a navigational aid for boats and ship.  There is something fun and mysterious about them.

I lived in New Jersey for just over 20 years and had visited a few lighthouses as I visited different areas of the state.  Whenever possible, even though I’m afraid of heights, I would walk up those winding staircases to get the bird’s eye view from the top.  Regardless of my fear, it was always worth it to get those breathtaking landscape views which are sometimes hard to get in New Jersey.  But something I never knew existing was the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge.

A couple months ago a fellow pressed penny collector wrote a quick post on Facebook about this challenge due to a pressed penny available (more on this shortly).  Apparently in 2019 is the 20th anniversary of this challenge.  What exactly is this?  It takes place annually over a weekend in October, for 2019 the dates are October 19th-20th, and encourages participants to visit as many of lighthouse locations throughout New Jersey.  This not only allows you to experience the lighthouses but helps to raise funds for their preservation.  In total there are 15 locations to visit and are spread out mostly up the east coast but there are some on the west side of the state along the Delaware River.  The map above is something I put together just to help illustrate where all the locations are.  Some lighthouses have a small fee to visit but most just accept a donation.


As I mentioned above there were already some pressed pennies at a couple of the lighthouses available year-round.  However new for this year’s challenge was a special designed pressed penny at all of the 15 locations.

They also released a special booklet to store all the pennies you collect along the way.  Above is a close up of the challenge penny that is located on the front of the booklet.  Of course, now that I live in Florida, it just didn’t fit into my schedule to fly up and try to complete the challenge in person.  I was able to cheat a little bit and buy the full set and booklet from the online store.


Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City.  At 171 feet tall this is New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse and is also one of the oldest in the country.


Barnegat Lighthouse is located on the northern tip of Long Beach Island and has fantastic views of the Barnegat Bay and eastern coastline.

Museum at Barnegat is located nearby the Barneget Lighthouse and houses the original Lighthouse 1,025 prism lens, along with photographs and artifacts of the lighthouse and surrounding area history.


Cape May Lighthouse was built in 1859 and is located in the Cape May State Park.  You can climb the 199 steps to the top for some amazing ocean views.


Delaware Bay Lighthouse is a white conical metal tower topped by a black lantern at a height of 76 feet.  The structure rests on a black trumpet-shaped iron caisson built into the breakwater.


East Point Lighthouse was built in 1849 is located in Heislerville is situated at the mouth of the Maurice River and overlooks the Delaware Bay.


Finns Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1877.  The historic iron tower is in the Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is 115 feet tall.


Twin Lights of Navesink Lighthouse is located in Highlands New Jersey.  This unique lighthouse was constructed from local brownstone in 1862 and features two non-identical towers and dual lights.  One fixed and one flashing.


Sandy Hook Lighthouse is part of the Gateway National Recreation area.  The lighthouse overlooks the Sandy Hook Bay and is walking distance from nature trails and nearby historic sites.  There are 95 steps to the top and then a nine-rung ladder to the lens room at the top.


Sea Girt Lighthouse is in a red brick building that first started operating in 1896 and was the last live-in lighthouse built on the Atlantic coast.  This means the tower was integrated into the keeper’s living quarters.

Sqwuan Beach Life Saving Station #9 is located in Manasquan New Jersey.  It was constructed in 1903 and was in service until 1936.


Tatham Life Saving Station is located in Stone Harbor New Jersey.  The oldest existing building in Stone Harbor was built in 1895 and has a tower to observe the Atlantic Ocean, Hereford Inlet, and back bays.


Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse is located along the shores of the Delaware River in Paulsboro New Jersey.  This 1880s lighthouse features a steel skeletal structure that reaches 85 feet tall.  There are 112 steps to the top which houses the lantern room, watch room and keeper’s dwelling.


Tucker’s Island Lighthouse is located in Tuckerton New Jersey.  This is a reproduction of the original lighthouse which infamously fell into the ocean in 1927.


U.S. Life Saving Station 30 can be found in Ocean City New Jersey.  This 1880s structure features a gabled roof, lookout tower, boat bay, and a wrap-around porch.

Here is a look at the entire penny set in the booklet.  It’s nice that there are specific labels for each of the coins, and the plastic sleeves are oriented differently depending on if the penny has a vertical or horizontal design.

That really is a great set of pennies and the challenge seems like it would be a lot of driving and make for a long weekend.  But I will admit I wish I was able to participate this year.  You can visit the website for the challenge here, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the 2020 dates to see if maybe I can try and do this new year.  Hopefully, the pressed pennies are a big hit this year so they continue it in years to come.


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.