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1901 Vulcanite Encased

Image of the 1901 Vulcanite encased 'Temple of Music

Vulcanite Encased



Vulcanite Encased from 1901 Pan-Am Expo

1901 brought the Pan American Exposition to Buffalo, NY. The Expo was a World's Fair, but this one was focused on the Americas. The Pan Am Expo is of particular interest as there were a large number of souvenirs sold. One of the most popular, due no doubt to the low price, was encased coins. It is currently thought that the encased cent made its debut there. With the availability of inexpensive aluminum for the encasement the encased cent was a born. Below is an example of one type.

The vulcanite encased from the Pan Am Expo are just a little different. The encasement is not aluminum but "vulcanite". What is vulcanite? It is a rubber compound also called "ebonite". The ebonite nomenclature comes from it being a substitute for ebony. It is made from vulcanized rubber that is 25-80% sulfur and linseed oil1. It is inexpensive and easily formed into a variety of shapes. For the souvenirs from the Pan Am Expo it was formed into a disc shape with a raised edge. The disc was approximately 38 mm in diameter and the raised edge was on both sides. As you can see from the example below, one side held a picture of one of the main attractions of the expo and the other had the Indian cent with a ring around it with "I AM NEVER BROKE /LUCKY SOUVENIR" and the smaller text "Patent Applied For". The picture on the one side was an image printed on a paper sticker and glued to the vulcanite.

With the "Temple of Music" piece the vulcanite was blue. The Temple of Music is the most famous building at the expo, as President McKinley was shot while on the steps in front of the Music Temple. The vulcanite pieces are rare, especially with the sticker intact and in good condition. The Indian cent is usually close to mint state and full red, as the edges of the encasement are raised on both obverse and reverse. I find it interesting that the color of the vulcanite varies on each piece. I am calling the coin side the obverse 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 if you can find them. In his Introduction to the 1901 Pan American Expo Series2, James M. Lawniczak lists seven varieties vulcanite encased:

    List from Introduction to the 1901 Pan American Expo Series2 by James M. Lawniczak

  • (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.
  • (NY)-(BUF)-PX-83. Green, with a Night View of Tower pictured (the Electrical Tower at night)
  • (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".

Frederick M. Lavin in his PANorAMa of the PAN=AM3, an illustrated guide to souvenirs from the Pan=American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo, NY, lists seven types of the vulcanite encased cents. Frederick explains about the vulcanite encased ...a much thicker hard plastic like substance covered with paper on the obverse and reverse; the penny is visible only on the obverse. The edges or rims come in different colors, red, blue, green, orange, yellow and tan; each reverse may come in each of the colors but only the ones which have been seen are listed. Each obverse is the same as follows:

    List from Frederick M. Lavin's book PANorAMa of the PAN=AM3

  • Obverse: "I AM NEVER BROKE. / LUCKY SOUVENIR / PATENT APPPLIED FOR" IN TAN LETTERS AGAINST A BLACK BACKGROUND.
  • EC31 Reverse: "WHERE DOES GRASS GROW? / IN MEXICO / YOU'R (sic) A BUFFALO / PUT ME OFF / PAE / EX-PO"; seen with a blue or green rim
  • EC32 Reverse: "YOU'VE GOT TO SHOW ME / I'M / FROM / MISSOURI / PAE / BUFFALO"; SEEN WITH A RED RIM
  • EC33 Reverse: photograph of "GOVERNMENT BLDG."; seen with a red or orange or tan or yellow rim
  • EC34 Reverse: photograph of "TRIUMPHAL ARCH"; seen with a tan or blue or red rim
  • EC35 Reverse: photograpg of "TEMPLE OF MUSIC"; seen with orange or green or red rim
  • EC36 Reverse: photo of "NIGHT VIEW OF THE TOWER"; seen with a green or tan rim
  • EC37 Reverse: "OH FUDGE / FORGET IT / PERHAPS TAINT TRUE/ PUT ME OFF AT BUFFALO"; reported but not seen rim color unknown

As you can see, Jim lists 7 different Pan Am vulcanite types as does Frederick. Neither one lists the "IT'S UP TO YOU / GO AS FAR AS YOU LIKE / PAN-AMERICAN / BUFFALO". Both lists are identical in listing seven the same (7) slogans and/or images. Lavin in his book lists several colors for each piece, while Jim lists only one color. It is safe to say that there at least eight (8) different vulcanite encased from the Pan-Am Expo of 1901 without taking into account color varieties for each image or saying.

Pictured below are the "Temple of Music" - "It's Up To You Go as Far as You Like" / Night View of the Tower - You've Got to Show Me I am From Missouri / Government Building - Triumphal Arch. I have not seen the PX-86/EC37. I do not have PX84/EC31 (Where does grass grow) or PX86/EC37 (Oh Fudge/ Forget It) and would like to add an image of these pieces to the website, so if you have themplease send me an image and I will post it and attribute it to you.

Image of 1901 vulcanite encased cent Temple of Music on one side and encased 1901 Indian Head cent with 'I am never broke Lucky Souvenir' on other side

PX-81/EC35 - TEMPLE OF MUSIC

1901 vulcanite encased cent - 'It's Up To You / Go as Far as You Like / Pan-American Buffalo' on reverse and 'I am Never Broke Lucky Souvenir' on obverse

GO AS FAR AS YOU LIKE (Unlisted)

Pan-Am vulcanite encased 'Night View of Tower'

PX-83/EC36 - NIGHT VIEW OF TOWER

Pan-Am vulcanite encased

PX-85/EC32 YOU'VE GOT TO SHOW ME/ I'M/ FROM/ MISSOURI

Vulcanite encased from Pan-Am Expo 1901

PX-82/EC33 - GOVERNMENT BLDG.

1901 Pan-Am Arch

PX-80/EC35 - TRIUMPHAL ARCH

  • 1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebonite
  • 2 Introduction to the 1901 Pan American Expo Series, James M. Lawniczak - An Introduction to the Pan-Am Series as posted on the ECI website, http://www.encasedcollectorsinternational.org/
  • 3 PANorAMa of the PAN=AM An Illustrated Guide to Souvenirs from THE PAN=AMERICAN EXPOSITION of 1901 in Buffalo, NY - complied by Frederick M. Lavin



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