The art of elongating a coin more than a century-old practice

Artistic alteration: Thousands of pieces available to collectors
By , Coin World
Published : 01/25/17
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The following is the third of four parts from the cover feature of the Feb. 6, 2017, monthly issue of  Coin World:

The field of elongated coin collecting is in a state of perpetual expansion as many new designs are issued annually.

Elongated coins are transformed when forced through a series of rollers that smash the coin and impart a design from a die onto either the obverse or reverse. The elongating process, accomplished through the use of hand-cranked or electronically driven apparatus, also stretches the details of the host coin.

Many U.S. coin shows like the Florida United Numismatists convention and the American Numismatic Association spring and summer conventions have one or more hand-crank rolling machines onsite providing often free souvenirs.

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Such machines are not limited to coin shows. It’s difficult today to visit popular tourist sites without being presented the opportunity to obtain one or more elongated coins as souvenirs.

Electronic elongating machines require placement of the coin to be rolled, and a fee for the service to be inserted into the proper slots and pushed into the machine, before the elongation process is triggered and the finished coin dispensed.

Many historians suggest elongating coins as souvenirs was a novelty introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, although some records suggest an earlier date.

Elongated coins from the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition have been seen on host coins other than U.S. coins.

Among these, illustrated nearby, are an 1893-dated souvenir rolled on an 1872-H Newfoundland 20-cent coin.

Elongates were also made as souvenirs at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. What is believed to be a unique example is one rolled on an 1837 Feuchtwanger cent.

Among the references that illustrate and expound on elongates and their issuers are Today’s Elongateds by Lee Martin; Yesterday’s Elongateds by Lee Martin and Dottie Dow; and Angelo A. Rosato’s Encyclopedia of the Modern Elongated.

Coin rings, et al

Charmy Harker, who calls herself The Penny Lady (http://www.thepennylady.com/), penned the cover article “Penny Potpourti” for the March 2015 issue of the American Numismatic Association’s journal, The Numismatist.

In the feature article, Harker discusses and illustrates the use of coins in creations other than circulating currency. Among her favored items are coin creations employing Indian Head cents, including pieces fabricated into miniature tea kettles by prisoners with life sentences.

Harker has also exhibited pieces from her collection at coin shows nationwide, earning recognition for her displays.

Collectors are familiar with coins that have been inserted into bezels to be worn as necklaces or coins that have been inserted into rings. 

In a rather unusual option, the coin itself, through pressure and metal manipulation, is formed into a ring.

The Mint Coin Ring Gallery at ChangeYouCanWear.net and TCSCustoms at https://www.etsy.com/shop/tcscustoms are two vendors that offer ring possibilities employing pretty much any coin presented.

Pricing on the coin rings varies according to the time needed, the complexity of fabrication and the precious metal content, if any, of the coin used. A single ring can take hours to make, since many of the steps in conversion from coin to ring are done manually, instead of being mechanized.

Each coin ring artist develops their own techniques to successfully render what was once a coin into a wearable piece of jewelry.

Some artists use a tapered metal pole called a mandrel on which to steady the coin, hammering the rims repeatedly until a bowl shape is formed. The rims are then filed with files of varying degrees of coarseness to smooth them, continuing the process until a band shape is formed.

The process employs the use of multiple hand tools, like files and hammers, and is augmented by various grades of sandpaper and steel wool for polishing.

Depending on the maker, a ring can be custom-made for the future wearer, who may supply the coin and commission the work. 

Keep reading this series on collectible coin art:

Engraved love tokenAltering coins into love tokens, hobo nickels and rings creates collectible art: Federal statutes make it a crime to purposely deface United States coins to intentionally pass them off as something they are not. But art is another matter.

Hobo nickelHobo nickels enjoying numismatic resurgence, as new artists start carving: The Indian Head 5-cent coin, often called a Buffalo nickel, has often been the coin of choice for carving a hobo nickel.

Repoussé gold coinPop-out or repoussé, high relief from a different angle: An unusual altered coin collecting specialty focuses on pieces referred to as pop-out, pushed-out or repoussé coins.

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