Should you clean an elongate? If so, how?
There are as many different opinions about and techniques for cleaning as there are collectors. So the safest answer is, it depends. You may not want to clean older elongates as it can reduce their value. Tarnish is natural and many collectors expect older elongates to have it. That said, it is your elongate, so to clean or not to clean is your choice. Some collectors tend to clean older elongates just a little, without attempting to remove any tarnish. And then for newer elongates, especially those pressed from pocket change, they may clean them, remove any tarnish, and put them away to let them age naturally.
What is cleaning them just a little mean?
Cleaning them just a little is just taking off any dirt, oil, grim or grit. For just that much, use a pencil eraser or a little dish soap on an old toothbrush will do. That is not the same as removing tarnish.
What is tarnish?
Tarnish is the natural result of the copper in the penny reacting with oxygen in the air which forms a layer of copper oxide on the penny that is brownish in color. The more moisture that is in the air, the faster your coin will tarnish.
How is tarnish removed?
By freeing the copper oxide from the copper and rinsing it away. The simplest way of doing that is dissolving salt in an acid, soaking your pennies in it, and then rinsing them with water. Acids alone (e.g. : lemon juice, cola or vinegar) will remove some tarnish. However, acid and salt together will really go to work for you!
When salt (sodium chloride) is dissolved, the sodium ions and the chloride ions separate. The chloride ions bind to the copper oxide, forming copper chloride which is soluble in water. The tarnish floats off the penny and then you can rinse it away.
What’s the easiest salt/acid combination to use?
Ready made, abundantly available answers include ketchup, soy sauce, and taco sauce (whose ingredients include salt and mild acids). When you stop for lunch while pressing pennies, take a moment to try one of them. No kidding, they work; they are safe for kids; and they are edible to boot!
Are there other salt/acid combinations?
Sure, you can also mix lemon juice or lime juice or vinegar or any number of acids with salt. Soak your pennies, rinse, and get pretty much the same effect. Different people use different methods and swear by them.
What about commercial cleaners?
Some collectors find the completely natural solutions kind of messy, so before they put their elongates away, they clean most of them with a commercial copper cleaner such as Brasso or Twinkle.
Are there cleansers to avoid?
Yes, we generally agree you should not use Tarn-X on your elongates. If you do not follow up with another polishing product, your elongates will tarnish much faster after it’s use, and it will tarnish in an odd black and blue way.
What about keeping my elongates clean?
Once your elongates are clean, many collectors will put them away in archival quality coin holders commonly called 2×2’s and they do not touch them again. Air, especially moist air, and handling will cause them to tarnish and get oily fingerprints on them all over again.
Want to skip the entire cleaning scenario?
Many collectors swear by buying pre-1982, bright, uncirculated (BU) pennies in bulk from a coin shop and using only those when they go pressing.
Is it legal?
United States (YES): The United States Codes under Title 18, Chapter 17, and Section 331, “prohibits the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage.” However, it has been the opinion of some individual officers at the Treasury Department, though without any indication of approval, the foregoing statute does not prohibit the mutiliation of coins if done without fraudulent intent or if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently.
Canada (NO): Section 11(1) of the Currency Act states that “no person shall, except in accordance with a licence granted by the Minister [Minister of Finance], melt down, break up or use otherwise than as currency any coin that is current and legal tender in Canada.” Furthermore, Section 456 of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it a criminal offence to deface circulation coins: “Every one who: (a)defaces a current coin, or (b)utters a current coin that has been defaced, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.” The offence is not dependent on fraudulent intent.
United Kingdom (YES): It is also legal to elongate coins in the UK for the same reasons at it is legal in the US. A common misconception is that it is illegal to elongate the coin because it defaces the image of the queen, however, we have been assured by a collector in the UK that it is not against the law to flatten the Queen’s head… so long as it is on a penny.
Check out this letter to CJ Meccarello from A.B. Whitaker, a Special Agent of the US Treasury Department from March 4, 1963 in regards to the mutilation of coins (PDF)
How do I start collecting?
There a numerous ways to build your collection of ECs! Below are just a few of the more common and successful ways we’ve encountered:
1) Join TEC! – If you haven’t already, this is a great way to build your collection! TEC members receive a free EC with every issue of the newsletter. Plus, members have other ways of getting free ECs from TEC: submitting articles, Junior Member birthdays, merit awards, etc. Some of the ECs TEC distributes are commemorative, others are private rolls, or from TEC events – and there is even a special annual dated membership coin!
2) Check out the location databases on the Internet! – primarily www.pennycollector.com. These lists can tell you which ECs you have right in your own backyard…and can help you figure out how much gas you’re going to need on that next road trip.
3) Make extras! – Whether they are machines near your home, or those you find on your travels, always make as many extras as you can – even if it is only one. These will come in handy when you start the next phase in your obsession:
4) Trade! – Many collectors prefer to trade with other collectors. There are several hundred collectors in the Yahoo discussion groups, and they live all over the US and in foreign countries. Elongateds that are easy for you to get may be hard for them to get (and vice versa). It’s a great way to make friends, get packages in the mail, and keep the cost for each elongated you add to your collection to under a dollar or so. Once you have some extras from machines – at least from the ones from near to where you live – it’s very easy to find others from other parts of the country that want them! Trading is not only a great way to expand your collection, but it is also a great way to learn about other parts of the country (and world!), and a great way to make new friends!
5) Tell All Your Friends, Family & Co-Workers! – Tell them all about your obsession… and get them to tell their friends, family, and co-workers. All these people may not always remember which pennies are the “right” ones, but they generally always remember that you collect them and will bring elongateds to you from places you didn’t even know existed — much better than getting a postcard! Everyone may get a laugh at it – and maybe even poke a little fun at you – but, that little laughing fit will help them remember your hobby when they happen to see a machine on their next trip. Sure, they may have laughed at it, but 99 times out of 100, the very next time you see that person, they will have a smashed penny for you! We can’t tell you how many times we’ve been made fun of for our hobby only to have those same laughing people show up with some new ECs for our collections within a month or two! And it’s REALLY great revenge if they are adults with children that laughed at you….because more often than not, their kids catch the Bug at the same time! HA!
6) Purchase Them! – On occasion, most of us will break down and buy elongateds, especially older ones that are keeping us one away from a “complete set.” There are some long time collectors (e.g., Doug Fairbanks) who have many, many, many elongateds that they make available at very reasonable prices. Doug’s handwritten yearly catalog alone is worth its weight in copper. You might also get serious about tracking eBay auctions for elongated coins, hoping to learn more about older coins — how often they turn up, how much they go for, etc. There is a whole separate section on eBay specifically for “Elongated Coins”! This is a great way to both obtain ECs for your collection by purchasing them, as well as a good way to find out about ECs from locations that have not yet made it to the online location lists.
7) Attend A Coin Show. Coin shows are held all over the country and are great ways to learn about Numismatics. Many of these shows are attended by TEC members, and they often also have booths dedicated to ECs. At the very least, there are always booths for coin collectors that have at least some ECs in their collection. Shows are also a great way to meet new people with similar interests. TEC always has a booth at the Annual ANA Worlds of Money Convention – with free coins as well!
8) Ask For A Machine. When you are visiting some place that just seems to SCREAM for a machine….you know what we are talking about…a touristy place that has souvenirs out the wazzoo – everything from souvenir toenail clippers to souvenir yachts – but does not seem to have a penny machine…ASK them why they don’t have one! Often they need an explanation on why it IS in fact legal, but you can also explain to them the benefits – increased traffic, inexpensive, cheap to maintain/run, great for attracting kids (followed closely by the adults, who have the money!), etc., etc. Within a year or two of your discussion with the staff of a place about getting a machine, you might just be surprised to find one there on your next trip!
9) Call/Write for ECs. Do you know of a penny machine some place that has designs you would love to add to your collection? Have you tried, and tried, and tried to convince your family that they need to take a quick jaunt to this place “just for fun”…even though it is 2,389 miles from your home – and they aren’t going for it? Have you asked, pleaded, begged, and offered up your first born to the other EC collectors on the Internet for traders from that spot with no one responding? Well, often the best way to get what you want is to rely on Ma Bell and the good ol’ post office. If you run into a wall in your quest for a certain EC, find the phone number of the place, call them, and speak to someone that wouldn’t mind pressing the coins for you. Offer to send them the pennies, the quarters, and the SASE for the return mailing. More often than not, you can find a sympathizer that will help you out. And, within a week or two, you can add them to your collection! Keep in mind – it often helps to ‘tip’ the presser as well!
10) RECRUIT! Want to add ECs to your collection? Then spread the disease!!! Get your friends and family interested in the hobby. Show them your collection proudly; tell them about the machines in their area or where they are traveling, etc. It helps to hone in on their interests – for example, know someone that just LOVES trains? Tell them all about the train ECs they could collect! Know someone else that is an Animal Lover? Show them your zoo ECs! Believe me, this method really works! Once they are hooked, they are forever in your debt (make sure you explain that that is part of the deal…they must be forever in your debt!!), and pick up extras for you wherever they can!
Why do the elongated machines jam?
There are a lot of reasons for the machines jamming, mostly because they are machines with moving parts. Do your part to keep the machines working correctly by only putting in the coins that the machine accepts. Only use a U.S. Penny in a machine in the U.S. If the machine calls for a penny, don’t deposit a dime, and vice versa.
How do I get the Lincoln image to be on the back of my elongate?
Some collectors prefer to have the obverse, or “heads” side of the coin on the back of their elongates in order to show the date of the coin. Most 4 die manual machines have the die on the left hand roller, so you put the coin in the slot with Lincoln facing to the right. (The roller gear is driven by the crank gear, so turn the crank and see what turns after that.) Most electric machines however, have a long chute which allows the coin to turn, so it may be hard to set it up correctly.
What is the best way to carry the stuff I need for a trip to a coin machine?
Plastic quarter tubes that can be purchased from your local dollar or store, or available from your local bank. You can set these up in advance with your quarter and penny combinations so that you do not have to spend a lot of time getting the coins you need. Set the coins up in order, 2 quarters – 1 penny, 2 quarters – 1 penny, etc.