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Elongateds: Squished Cent Collectibles
By Dr. Sol Taylor
Machine-rolled cents are popular amusement park souvenirs, such as this one from Magic Mountain in California in about 1976. (Photo: Leon Worden)
Saturday, June 24, 2006
he late Dottie Dow was over 6 feet tall and was known by many as "The Elongated Gal." The title was not so much a pun on her height, but rather a nod to her fascination and knowledge of the collecting specialty known as "elongated" coins.
At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892-93, one or more vendors had on display a special coin rolling machine which, in addition to rolling out or "elongating" a coin, would also impress an image such as a exposition scene or an advertisement for a meat company.
The Columbian Exposition elongateds probably were sold as souvenirs for a nominal fee, since the coins were Indian head cents. However, many other coins have been known to have been elongated at the exposition, which gave rise to the idea that a souvenir-seeking customer would provide a coin (often dated 1892 or 1893) to the press operator, who would then have it elongated and impressed with the exposition scene or one of several other themes.
The meat company probably gave away these tokens as a means of advertising their products; other advertising elongateds are also known from the Columbian Exposition. Several denominations are known today, including a very few gold coins that are very rare and much desired by collectors.
In the 1960s, a group of collectors including Dow, Maurice M. Gould, Ed McClung, Douglas Fairbanks (not the actor) and others formed a society known as TEC, The Elongated Collectors. Dow compiled an extensive listing of all known pieces produced since 1892, including pieces made at the various subsequent world fairs in Portland (1905), St. Louis (1904), Jamestown (1907), San Francisco (1915), Chicago (1933) and New York (1939-40).
These souvenirs and advertising pieces are much in demand; some are very scarce to very rare. Dow published a book in 1965 called "The Elongated Collector" featuring all the pieces known at the time. It has become the bible of elongated collectors.
In modern times, rolling machines have been made and used at many locations. Some of the best known are at Disneyland (all sites), the U.S. Mint and many local county fairs. A typical elongated coin is a one-cent piece with one side blank and the other side embossed with a logo, message or ad.
A popular elongated provided by some missionary group simply had The Lord's Prayer ‹ in very tiny letters. Many versions have been produced in the past 75 years.
Commemorative pieces have been made for such events as the opening of the Golden Gate and Oakland Bay bridges. They probably were given away as souvenirs at the opening or on the first day of operation.
At many of the coin shows in Long Beach from the 1970s to the 1980s, Ed McClung brought one of these rolling machines, and for a small fee you could roll out your own coins ‹ including large coins such as half dollars. Some coin shows contracted with Ed to produce complete type sets of elongateds from the cent to the half dollar, which the sponsors sold at the coin show. The Orange County Coin Club issued several such sets in the 1970s and 1980s. Today many of these sets are quite valuable.
Many coin dealers issued their own advertising elongated cents and gave them to people who visited their shop or table at a coin show. Doug Fairbanks is one of these dealers. He also will custom make elongateds for anyone.
Today, the serious TEC collectors seek out the known elongateds from 1892 to about 1940, and especially those on coins other than Indian head cents. Nona Moore, a longtime dealer and collector, has a significant Columbian Exposition collection featuring many variations of elongated from the 1892-93 fair.
As a young boy, I recall getting a couple of elongated cents at the New York World's Fair in Queens. However, that was over 65 years ago, and I have no clue what happened to them. Today they are sought after and can be found sometimes at garage sales, flea markets and even in coin dealers' "junk" boxes. See what you can find.
For more information, you can Google "elongated coins" or "Dottie Dow," or visit the TEC at tecnews.org.
Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.
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