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First Edition Pressed Penny set available at Dunn County Historical Society

Donations will go towards penny press machine at Rassbach Museum

The Dunn County Historical Society is offering a First Edition Pressed Penny Set, featuring images of five iconic county historical sites — the Colfax Municipal Building, Devil’s Punchbowl, Hilkrest School, Mabel Tainter Memorial and the Omaha Depot. The reverse side design is unique to the first edition coins as part of a fundraising effort to purchase a penny press machine for the Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie’s Wakanda Park.

Pressed pennies go by many names: elongated, smashed, flattened and squashed. Penny presses flatten and stretch the coin while embossing it with a new design. Such coins are often used as commemorative or souvenir tokens, and it is common to find coin presses in tourism hubs such as museums, zoos, amusement parks, natural landmarks and other locations of this kind.

The first elongated coins in the United States were created at the World's Columbian Exposition, held in 1893 in Chicago, Illinois. Collecting pressed coins is a branch of numismatics, in a category known as exonumia, or oddball coins that don’t fit any standard definition of money. The hobby of collecting pressed coins has expanded throughout the United States and the world.

“I started collecting pressed pennies because they’re great little souvenirs of places I’ve visited,” said Mark Quilling, society member and organizer of the Rassbach Museum’s “Collectors Day” event. “They last forever being made of metal and are easy to transport and store. Plus, they're fun to make!”

“We’re excited about obtaining a penny press for a number of reasons,” said Melissa Kneeland, executive director of the Society. “In our case, the resulting pressed pennies will draw attention to, and create pride in five historical sites in the county. By registering our press and designs online at collectors’ websites, we’ll draw new visitors to the area and the museum and create an additional source of income to support the Society and its programs. These presses are quite popular at museums around the country.”

“Another tie-in to our museum programs is that it will provide a transformational activity that has STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) applications. It will provide opportunities to teach about force, machines and metallurgy,” said Kneeland.

This first edition is limited to 200 sets. A minimum donation of just $20 will go toward purchase of the press through the Penny Press Machine Company’s pre-press program. Donors will receive a numbered box set of all five designs sealed in coin mounts. Donors of at least $50 may opt to receive the set in a mini-display case.

Sets are available at the museum store at 1820 John Russell Road from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The museum hopes to raise enough funds through this effort to have the press featured at the museum’s next Collectors Day event, to be held September 23, 2023.

Formed in 1950, the Dunn County Historical Society seeks to discover, preserve, interpret and disseminate knowledge about the history of Dunn County and its role in Wisconsin, and to inspire interest in the past.


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