Encased Coins


1901 Pan American Exposition

Pan Am Temple of Music 1901 Pan Am Exposition, Buffalo, NY
Pan Am Temple of Music 1901 Pan Am Exposition, Buffalo, NY

Vulcanite Encased Pan Am Temple of Music 1901 Pan Am Exposition, Buffalo, NY



1901 Pan Am - Buffalo Encased


The 1901 Pan American Exposition is thought to be the first time that "encased" coins were made. The encasing of coins in aluminum is thought to have come about at that time due to the availability if aluminum and it's being inexpensive. The early process for making pure aluminum was time consuming and expensive. Aluminum makes up about 8% of the earth's crust and is the 3rd most element, following oxygen and silicon. (1)

"Aluminum, that wonderful new metal! Eulogized on medals of the early 1890's as malleable, tasteless, sonorous, ductile, untarnishable, odorless, and one-quarter the weight of silver, it is no wonder that this “discovery” would capture the fancy of a nation...The first significant attempt to isolate aluminum from alumina (aluminum oxide) was by an English electrochemist. Sir Humphrey Davy, in 1807. Convinced that alumina had a metallic base, he named the metal alumium, later revising the word to aluminum. ...At $17 an ounce (in 1854) it was worth nearly its weight in gold. In 1886 the price of $8 a pound still made it prohibitive for use in industry. It wasn't until Charles Hall invented his Hall process of reducing aluminum by electrolysis in 1886 that it started coming down. It wasn’t until the very late 1880s that numismatic items started to appear. Metalworking firms liked the medal for a wide range of products. Medal makers used aluminum in over 150 different medals for the Columbian Exposition in 1892. "   (2)

I believe the ready availability and low price combined with it's malleability made the manufacture of encased coins possible. The coin made the item something to keep and using it as an inexpensive advertising or souvenir piece began. As a pocket piece it was something a merchant could give away and the customer would keep and hopefully visit the merchant again. As it was inexpensive to manufacture and small enough to be easily carried by visitors to the Expo, it in my opinion was an excellent souvenir. The fact that so many of the pieces still remain is a testament to the use of them as souvenirs.

There are a number of varieties known to exist. The obverse says, "Good Luck / Keep Me and Prosper" and has a horseshoe, a wishbone and a four leaf clover on the obverse of the encasement. The reverse says, "FROM THE / GROUNDS OF THE / PAN AMERICAN / EXPOSITION 1901 / 20th CENTURY PENNY" with the phrases inside a chain and the image of a buffalo at the bottom. This piece recently sold on eBay for over $300.

For a more complete list of varieties of encased cents from the 1901 Pan_American Exposition, in Buffalo, N.Y. see James M. Lawniczak's article posted on the Encased Collectors International (ECI) web site. >> ECI Home page. The article can be found at >> Introduction to the 1901 Pan American Expo Series.

Four leaf clover left and right obverse
1901 reverse of four leaf clover

1901 Obverse Four Leaf Clover Left and Right Stem

Note that the imprint of the four leaf clover carries over to the Indian cent making it easy to insure that the coin was not replaced. The stem of the four leaf clover bends left or right. James M. Lawniczak's article referenced above offers a detailed explanation of the left pointing stem additional varieties based on number of denticles. The right has no varities that are currently known.


1901 Good Luck Penny - Good Luck Keep Me and Prosper
1901 Pan Am - Prosper reverse

1901 Obverse "Good Luck / Keep Me and Prosper" and 1901 Reverse "FROM THE / GROUNDS OF THE... "

The 1901 exposition was held in Buffalo, NY. This led to the use of the image of a buffalo, (properly called the North American Bison) to be used on all sorts of souvenirs including "encased cents". The image below is another unusual piece. I have seen a couple of examples of this piece although I do not currently own one. Note the image of a 'buffalo" on the obverse centered so that the cent is in the buffalo. I'd like to know the significance of the "dustpan" on the reverse. Was it for cleaning up after the buffalo's??

dust pan 1901 Pan American Exposition  encased cent obverse
dust pan 1901 Pan American Exposition  encased cent reverse

Dust Pan encased from 1901 Pan American Exposition

This piece is interesting and not seen as often as the readily available "four leaf clover" variety. It has "Pan American Exposition / Souvenir / Buffalo N.Y." on the obverse and "Good Luck and Prosperity" on the reverse with crossed cornucopias at the top.

1901 Pan American Prosperity encased obverse
1901 Pan American Prosperity reverse

1901 Pan American Souvenir encased cent "Prosperity"

Since the Pan-Am Exposition was often referred to as the "pan" in literature and exunomia related material it is not surprising that "pan" related souvenirs were popular. This "Frying Pan" encased is a really neat piece. It should have a pin attached to the handle. Since the exposition was called the "Pan" American several souvenirs picked up on the "pan" as a theme. I believe there are several styles of encased pans out there, but don't see them often on eBay or ever anywhere else. They are often found with the handle broken off, or bent without the stick pin as seen here. The complete encased frying pan with the handle and pin in perfect shape with a full red cent sells for over $250.



1901 frying pan obverse
1901 frying pan reverse

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Frying Pan Variety.



The frying pan below has the cent held by four small "v" shaped punched out pieces from the pan bottom. While not totally encasing the cent it firmly holds it in place. The frying pan is not made of aluminum and is a thin gauge.

1901 frying pan obverse
1901 frying pan reverse

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Frying Pan Variety. Some do not recognize this as encased, but I feel it is.



The following piece is perhaps one of the first if not the first horseshoe shape. Note the "buffalo" at the bottom of the obverse. Also of note is the way the bottom is cut out to form the horseshoe.

1901 Pan American Exposition Horseshoe Obverse
1901 Pan American Exposition Horseshoe reverse

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Horseshoe


1901 Pan American Exposition with Heart Obverse
1901 Pan American Exposition with Heart reverse

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased with Heart and interlaced wishbones


Pan American Vulcanite Encased

At the Pan American Exposition a number of encased cents were made using a vulcanite (hard plastic) encasement which had a sticker affixed to the reverse of the piece. Below are a number of examples. It is interesting to note that the color of the vulcanite varied.

Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent
Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Vulcanite with the saying. "It's Up To You/Go As Far As You Like/Lucky Souvenir"


Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent
Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Vulcanite with the image of the Government Building, (NY)-(BUF)-PX-82


Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent Missouri
Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent Missouri

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Vulcanite with the saying, "You've Got To Show Me / I'm From Missouri / Pan-American Buffalo" (NY)-BUF-PX-85


Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent Obverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Vulcanite with the image of the Triumphal Arch
Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Vulcanite with the image of the Triumphal Arch

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Vulcanite with the image of the Triumphal Arch" (NY)-(BUF)-PX-80


Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent image of night view of the tower
Pan American Expo vulcanite encased one cent image of the night view of the tower

Obverse and Reverse of 1901 Souvenir Encased Vulcanite with image of a night view of the Tower (NY)-(BUF)-PX-83


Pan Am Temple of Music 1901 Pan Am Exposition, Buffalo, NY
Pan Am Temple of Music 1901 Pan Am Exposition, Buffalo, NY

Vulcanite Encased Pan Am Temple of Music 1901 Pan Am Exposition, Buffalo, NY ((NY)-(BUF)-PX-81)


The vulcanite pieces are rare, especially with the sticker intact and in good condition. The Indian cent is usually in close to mint state and full red as the edges of the piece are raised on both obverse and reverse. I find it interesting that the color of the vulcanite varies on each piece. I see red, orange, green and black on the Temple of Music. I am calling the coin side the obverse of these pieces since the "heads" side of the coin is shown. As you can see on these pieces they were sold as a "Lucky Souvenir". These pieces are currently commanding between $150 and $375 on Ebay.

In his Introduction to the 1901 Pan American Expo Series, (3) James M. Lawniczak lists seven vulcanite encased:

  • (NY)-(BUF)-PX-80. 1901, RD,38mm, vulcanite, holed in middle for cent to sit in, about twice as thick as the aluminum. I Am Never Broke// Lucky Souvenir / Patent Applied for\\ [thin paper sticker on back -- picture of the Triumphal Arch]// Triumphal Arch. This has a blue edge and border, grey black background and yellow lettering. Another sample has a white edge and border. JL, PAECS (with the white border), all the -80 series should run $100 or so.
  • (NY)-(BUF)-PX-81. Same as -80 except has orange border and Temple of Music on rev.
  • (NY)-(BUF)-PX-82. Another example with an orange border and the Government Bldg. pictured on the rev.
  • (NY)-(BUF)-PX-83. Green, with a Night View of Tower pictured (the Electrical Tower at night), printed at the bottom: Night View of Tower.
  • (NY)-BUF-PX-84. Dark green, with words on the rev.: Where Does Grass Grow?/ In Mexico/ Your Buffalo/ "Put Me Off"/ Pan American/ Expo.
  • (NY)-BUF-PX-85. Red with words on the rev.: You've Got to Show Me/ I'M/ From/ Missouri/ [line across]/ Pan-American/ Buffalo.
  • (NY)-BUF-PX-86. Oh Fudge/ "Forget It"/ Perhaps Taint True/ "Put Me Off/ At/ Buffalo".
You can see from the images above examples of (NY)-(BUF)-PX-80, (NY)-(BUF)-PX-81, (NY)-(BUF)-PX-82, (NY)-(BUF)-PX-83, (NY)-BUF-PX-85 - the sixth image above "It's Up To You / Go As Far as You Like / [line across]/Pan-American Buffalo is not listed.



Footnotes:

  1. Aluminium   wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium
  2. David Schenkman TAMS Journal Vol 30, No. 6, December 1990, as quoted from E-Sylum v20n24a12
  3. Introduction to the 1901 Pan American Expo Series, James M. Lawniczak - An Introduction to the Pan-Am Series as posted on the ECI website.



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