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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

For the Love of Money

In one of my many bored forays onto the Internet, I think I’ve found yet another amusing and interesting site. Welcome to the world of squished coinage, specifically, the Squished Penny Museum. Located in Washington, D.C., the museum prides itself on being based around items found in one’s pocket and the fact that their entire collection is worth, in all, roughly $40.

The penny is sent through a machine that exerts 22 tons of pressure in order to make a print upon the coin. Coins placed on railroad tracks and flattened by speeding trains do not technically count as having been “squished.” Although it is technically against the law to “alter coins or other forms of currency for fraudulent uses,” you may squish away as long as it will no longer be considered currency.

There is even an organization, called The Elongated Collectors (TEC), which presses, collects, and trades in these novelty items. This has been a practice since the latter decades of the 1800’s and continues to be popular with a somewhat small niche of people. These items are used to advertise, commemorate events, or honor people.

I have fond squished penny memories of my own, from the time my own father took me to place coins on the train tracks, to long car trips with stops at roadside junk shops where one could inevitably find some type of flattened metal which bore some fact that particular locale was famous for. It makes me wonder why I never picked up such a hobby as this.

Dismayed by the discoloration which accompanies the crushing of currency? Well, the website www.squished.com can explain that mess, “Unbeknownst to most people, the Treasury Department in Washington, DC has had an impact on squishing practices. Prior to 1982, the content of each penny was 97% copper and only 3% zinc, providing a uniform look to a final squished product. But the percentages have been reversed since, causing the zinc to bleed through to the surface and smear the elongated cent. In order to avoid this unsightly streaking, use a penny from 1981 or before.”

This is a website that is helpful to anyone looking to get started in this unusual hobby. It offers anything from locations of machines to links with fellow coin compressors and a chance to buy a “certificate of squishery” for that special smasher in your life.

Making a penny is a fairly complicated process. After being heated 1800 degrees Celsius, in order to soften and clean the coins, the dual imprints of the Lincoln Memorial and Lincoln’s head are simultaneously stamped on both sides of the coin, using 40 tons of pressure. The mints have a job roughly equivalent to dry cleaning and mending whatever faults there are before the coins are ready to go back into circulation.

The Philadelphia U.S. mint, the largest in the world, churns out 19 million cents per day at the rate of one million coins per half hour. Of the pennies produced, only 23% end up being recycled. Although the U.S. holds half the supply of the world’s copper, most of it is too expensive and too deep in the earth to mine.

Visit www.squished.com to learn more about the weird and wonderful world of squishery. This definitely beats visiting the Darwin Awards website or playing endless games of cribbage. Where else can one indulge in the marvels of money while having none? This a hobby perfectly suited to the limited budget of any student.

About the Contributor
MiMi Yeh served as arts editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003; 2003-2004 *Evan Sicuranza served as arts editor for Fall 2002 Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.