The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 6, February 6, 2005, Article 15


The Chicago Tribune published a great story on February 3rd
about a local couple who collect elongated coins and have
turned part of their home in Washington, D.C. into a museum.
Here are some excerpts from the article:

"Christine Henry and Pete Morelewicz's museum isn't so
much a museum as it is their hallway.

What started in 1996 as a mantel display of souvenir pennies
gathered on a cross-country trip has mutated into the Louvre
for collectors of elongated, souvenir pennies. Though the
married couple display a permanent exhibit of 250 coins just
off their living room in the capital's historic LeDroit Park
neighborhood, they're currently cataloging a collection of 5,000
to 6,000 oval-shaped cents sporting designs from Disney and
to Stonehenge.

"Originally, we joked that it was our museum," says Henry,
34. "But the joke happened, people really did start coming
over and looking at it. With the Internet, we traded and
bought more, and it just grew and grew."

Now, Henry and Morelewicz curate one of the largest, most
respected obscure collections. They operate a Web site,, and have welcomed guests from 30
states and at least three foreign countries."

"Though elongate historian Angelo A. Rosato, 84, owns
examples of squished Austrian and Russian coins dated
1818, he credits an unnamed Chicago jeweler with the
invention of the modern pressed coin. At the fair, a nickel
run through a modified jeweler's mill was stamped with
the words "Columbian Exposition 1893."

Though the Chicago jeweler's name has been lost to history,
an entrepreneur based in Buffalo named Charles F. Damm
took up the practice of engraving dies to press coins at special
events during the early 1900s. The hobby fluctuated in
popularity until 1976, when bicentennial fever sparked a flurry
of merchandising mementos and a resurgence of squished coins.

"Now, it's unbelievable; it's crazy," says Rosato, a former
jeweler who spent 22 years writing the 1,760-page tome
"Encyclopedia of the Modern Elongates."

Rosato's work serves as a continuation of Dottie Dow's
1965 and 1981 books on elongates. Since 1990, Rosato
says, he can't keep track of the explosion of new designs.

"It just went into a commercial aspect. Prior to 1976, it
was strictly a hobby and there was a couple hundred
collectors in the country," he says.

Today, Rosato says, thousands collect stretched pennies
from worldwide locations. Fourteen separate Yahoo!
newsgroups are devoted to various aspects of elongates,
and eBay hosts a steady stream of pressed penny auctions.
An eBay search at press time found upward of 500 listings
for stretched coins and related ephemera. Online coin club
The Elongated Collectors ( has a roster
of 628 dues-paying members."

The reporter even contacted two elongated coin die
engravers: "Until you asked my name, no one knew it,"
says Jimmy Vargas, Eurolink's chief engraver.

Since 1994, Vargas has engraved all of Disney's elongate
mintage, from the gun-toting Mickey Mouse on Frontier
Land coins to the new Disney Tokyo designs. Years ago,
Vargas says, computers used to engrave the coin dies, but
"over the years, the challenge has been that everyone wants
something more intricate."

So, Vargas spends six to eight hours on each die with a
high-speed rotary drill, like a dentist's drill, carving out a
three-dimensional image in mirror reverse. Most Eurolink-
engraved patterns carry a nearly imperceptible "e" in the
dotted design border.

Legendary Florida engraver Jim Dundon usually hides his
"J" and "D" separately in his dies. You can also sometimes
spot his work in coins sporting "JJ" or a capital "P" and "E"
for Paradise Engraving, his former company name. Since
1979, Dundon has engraved dies full time, turning out
"thousands and thousands" of designs, he says."

"Squished Penny Museum's Henry and Morelewicz are
penny people. Morelewicz, 31, a graphic designer for
Washington City Paper, even designed a squished cent
to propose to Henry, a decorous oval reading, "Will You
Marry Me?"

"Most girls get a diamond ring, but I got a squished
penny," Henry says. "It was very cool."

[It's a really well done article; you can read the whole thing at
this address. It even includes links to a number of web sites
relating to elongated coins. -Editor]

Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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