Pressed Pennies on Display

Each time we visit Walt Disney World, we collect pressed pennies. They're the cheapest souvenir you'll find and they're so fun for our 7-year old daughter to make. We come home with between 20 and 30 pennies each trip. For years, our collection has sat in their cute little Disney penny books in a box on a shelf. We love making them and looking at them when we first get home; the shelf seemed like an anticlimactic place to let them live, so I embarked on a mission to show our pressed pennies some sunshine!


It's important to note that not all pennies are created equal. Pennies made before 1982 were produced with 95% copper and 5% zinc; after 1982 the copper content in pennies became less than 1%. If you press newer pennies you'll notice a silver smear (zinc) through your pressed penny, which is not ideal. Each time we roll our change to deposit we pull out the pennies dated 1982 and earlier to save for pressing. 

If you want to get your dirty pennies shiny and clean there are dozens of ways to accomplish it (seriously – Google it), but I'm lazy, so we simply drop our pennies in a jar, pour in enough white vinegar to cover them, and let them marinate overnight.

A good soak in white vinegar will remove all sorts of gunk from your pennies

In the morning your pennies should be shinier and ready to go! The best way we've found to transport our pennies to the parks is in a Mini M&M tube (bonus points if you decorate it) layered with 2 quarters between each shiny penny. Bonus: You have to eat the M&M's first!

Grubby to shiny with just a vinegar soak!

Once you're home with your new collection of pressed pennies you have all sorts of options for what to do with them. My husband once made my daughter a charm bracelet with a special penny (just drill a small hole and connect it to a bracelet with a metal loop). I've also created 2 displays in picture frames that I'll share with you in a moment. Before you do anything fancy with your pennies, I highly recommend that you do some quick maintenance to keep your pennies looking shiny over their lifetime.

A quick polish with metal cleaner can make your penny look brand new and protect it from tarnishing again in the future

There are lots of metal polishes on the market, so choose your favorite and grab a soft, clean cloth. Rub a bit of metal polish on your penny and then buff it off, just like waxing a car. The difference is hard to capture in pictures, but let me assure you – it's huge, especially if you didn't do the vinegar soak beforehand! The polish will also help prevent your penny from tarnishing in the future.

If you want to take it one step further, you could also clear coat your penny. We laid our pennies face up on a piece of cardboard and sprayed them with Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating (again, there are tons of products on the market, so pick your favorite).

Now you're ready to create!


I bought a 10×13 picture frame and removed the glass, then taped the glass with strips of red duct tape. Be super careful not to cut yourself!

Take care not to make the glass wider by wrapping too many layers of duct tape around the edges. You want the glass to fit back into the frame.

I did vertical strips and then did a few horizontal strips just to make it visually interesting. Once I had the tape the way I liked it, I placed the glass back into the frame. Next, I punched white cardstock circles with a 3/4″ circle punch and placed them randomly around the red tape. I also used large number stickers to spell out “2011” in the corner so I would remember the year we collected these pennies.

Make sure you have everything right where you want it before you glue anything down.

Next I laid out my pennies where I wanted them. I moved each of them at least a dozen times until I found an arrangement I liked, so be sure you wait until the very end to glue your pennies down. I used Pop Up 1/2″ Glue Dots with permanent adhesive to stick my pennies down. Sometimes when pennies are pressed, they come out bowed a bit and the extra thick Glue Dot ensured that the adhesive would make contact.

Ta-da! My finished project. It's very visually busy, but I hung it in our hallway so it's not too distracting.

I like the dimension the Pop Up Glue Dots provided to the pennies and the texture of the Duct Tape

There are dozens of variations on this project: You could use black duct tape and make a Mickey theme, choose a pretty fabric as your background, choose some Disney themed duct tape, find a pretty scrapbook paper, etc. Have fun with it!


My favorite penny project we've created is our World Showcase map with pennies from each of the countries we visited during our February trip this year. I used an 8.5×11″ document frame and removed the glass and recycled it, then found a high resolution map of Epcot's World Showcase online. I used Photoshop Elements to add the “February 2013” text to the top of the map and used trial and error to make sure that I had the spacing correct for the penny layout I was envisioning. Once I had it spaced the way I wanted on the page, I printed the map out on Epson presentation paper. I put the paper back in the frame (with no glass).

I prefer presentation paper to photo paper for this project because photo paper would be glossy and reflective and the presentation paper is matte.

Next I simply glued the pennies by their countries. We went with hot glue for this project and it was super simple. Honestly we completed this project in less than 30 minutes after we had polished and clear coated the pennies. When we visited the World in February, France was undergoing refurbishments and they had removed their penny machine. A penny from France is at the top of our souvenir list for our next trip, and then the world will be complete!

Each time I walk past this picture, the Epcot map catches my eye and I smile. I love being able to trigger such great memories with just a set of 51 cent souvenirs!

Hopefully, with the metal polish and the clear coating, these pennies will stay shiny for a very long time!

So tell me – what do you do with your pressed pennies when you get home? I'm always looking for new pressed penny projects to keep our pennies from dying a lonely death in a book!





Wendy blogs about memory keeping, motherhood, and Disney dreaming over at Reale Life – come by and say hello!