Stickered Pennies from around the United States

Have you seen a Penny with a sticker on one side? 

In 1935, R. Stanton Avery invented self adhesive labels and sticker advertising began. A couple of decades later, affixing advertising stickers to U.S. coins came into its heyday. Like their predecessor trade tokens, stickered coins were not exclusively made for business advertisement. Some employers paid employees with them in an effort to demonstrate how vital they were to the local economy. Some were used as premiums, prizes, campaign handouts or commemorated a special occasion such as a town’s anniversary.


MacDougall’s Stickered Lincoln Penny, Seattle, WA
“SPM Small Profit Margin” Saves your pennies

MacDougall’s department store operated on the SE corner of 2nd & Pike in downtown Seattle from 1908 to the 1960’s. It was the smallest of downtown Seattle’s major department stores. According to historian Clark Humphrey, this department store was the first to make the transition from gaslight to electricity in Seattle along with being the first with a passenger elevator to take customers to one of its five floors. The five-story building located at 2nd Avenue and Pike Street, had the wide Chicago windows and steel framing of the most modern department stores of the early 1900s. Demolished 1971 to make way for a parking lot.


Campaign Stickered Lincoln Penny, Rockwall, TX
“All for Hall from Rockwall” Lt. Governor

Politician Ralph Hall, lead an interesting life. At 12, while working in a local pharmacy, he sold two cartons of Old Golds, two Coca-Colas and all the newspapers they had to Bonnie and Clyde. After flying  Hellcat fighter aircraft during World War II, he served in the U.S. Senate 1980-2014, switching parties in 2004 from Democrat to Republican. At the age of 91 Hall lost his seat in Texas’s 4th congressional district. There is an airport, man-made lake and an expressway named after him in Rockwall, TX. Hall would frequently chat with constituents or hand out pennies bearing his name. When the aides tried to scrap the penny giveaway program they got an earful from the public.


The Gay Dolphin Stickered Lincoln Penny, Myrtle Beach, SC
I was at the Gay Dolphin Myrtle Beach S.C.

First opened in 1946 The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove is a beachside souvenir emporium stuffed with over 70,000 items. It first opened in 1946 (when “gay” simply meant “happy” to the owners when devising their whimsical, nautical name), and claims to be the “nation’s largest” gift emporium. The roughly 30,000 square feet is like a maze, even selling an “I Got Lost in the Gay Dolphin” tee shirt. Exploring the wares leads to encounters with pirates, yeti, velociraptor, mermaids, alligator heads, seashells and of courses, dolphins. Few stickered pennies can be found with original sticker advertisement on them.

The Compton Fair Stickered Penny, Compton, CA
Compton Fair Apr. 9 thru 11 at Compton College

Compton Community College was established in 1927 as a component of the Compton Union High School District. From 1932 to 1949, it operated as a four-year junior college, incorporating the last two years of high school as well as the first two years of college. There isn’t much on the Compton Fair and whether it was a reoccurring event as well as if it was just for students or for the community of Compton.

The Aunt Jemima Stickered Cent
Nancy Sasser and Aunt Jemima Make ¢ for You

Aunt Jemima is a brand of pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods owned by the Quaker Oats Company of Chicago, a subsidiary of PepsiCo. The trademark dates to 1893, although Aunt Jemima pancake mix debuted in 1889. Nancy on the sticker perhaps refers to the former slave, Nancy Green, hired by R. T. Davis Milling Company as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890.

The Exchange Lincoln Cent, Largo, Flordia
The Exchange Largo, Fla

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES, also referred to as The Exchange) is the retailer on U.S. Army and Air Force installations worldwide. For more than 100 years before the post exchange system was created, traveling merchants known as sutlers provided American soldiers with goods and services during times of war. Sutlers served troops at Army camps as far back as the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars.

On 25 July 1895, the War Department issued General Orders No. 46, directing commanders at every post to establish a post exchange “wherever practicable.” Post exchanges served two missions: first, “to supply the troops at reasonable prices with the articles of ordinary use, wear, and consumption, not supplied by the Government, and to afford them a means of rational recreation and amusement,” and second, “provide the means for improving the messes” through exchange profits. Since its establishment, the Exchange has been involved in 14 major military operations (to include World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Balkans and Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom) as well as several dozen humanitarian and disaster relief contingencies.

Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World

Save your coins! This is five creepy ways, your coins could connect you to the spirit realm.

Clinton_Road_signTake Your Coins to the Ghost Boy Bridge

The Ghost Boy Bridge is located on Clinton Road, the ‘most haunted road in America’. It can be a bit tough to find at first, because along the road’s 10 miles there are several bridges — this one is just the one with the most litter, graffiti, and coins sitting on rocks beneath it.

Legend has it that if you throw a coin over the bridge it will be thrown back at you by the ghost of a boy who drowned in the brook. In other versions, he recovers the coins you leave between lane lines at midnight, or, on some days, he might even push you in.


Polybius_Arcade_1Spend Your Coins on Polybius

Polybius is an arcade game that is the subject of an urban legend that supposedly first emerged in early 2000. The mythical game allegedly was part of a government-run psychology experiment based in Portland, Oregon. Gameplay supposedly produced intense psychoactive and addictive effects in the player. These few publicly staged arcade machines were said to have been visited periodically by men in black for the purpose of data-mining the machines and analyzing these effects.

Eventually, all of these Polybius arcade machines allegedly disappeared from the arcade market. But it is rumored you can sometimes still find Polybius. There have been accounts of people playing the machines only to return at a later date and for them to not be there any longer.


s-l1600 (15)Use Your Silver Coins to Play Spirit of the Coin

Spirit of the coin is a game similar to the Ouija board, the spirit of the coin uses a talking board to contact spirits and communicate with them. You just need a coin, a piece of paper, and a pen, then you’re ready to turn out the lights and talk to the dead.

On a blank sheet of paper write the alphabet around the edges and write numbers 0-9 across the bottom of the paper. Add the words start, end, yes, and no to the middle of the sheet. Then, in a dark room, light a candle and set a coin on the start. It has been reported that typically silver coins work the best and using objects you have an emotional attachment always enhance the possibility of connecting to the spirit world.

Once set up, just like with a Ouija board, have everyone present place a finger on the coin. Ask the spirit questions and hope for the best!


s-l1600 (14)Place Your Pennies Over Doorways When Moving

This is called the penny charm, and before you move any of your belongings into a new home, it is polite for you to greet the spirits who dwell there. You introduce yourself, explain who you are, how you intend to share the space, how you wish to interact with them, ask for their blessing, and invite them to provide security for you.

If the spirits accept you as a new member of the family and agree to let you reside in their house, they will leave a coin (or coins) on the floor. The coin, usually a penny, will appear close to a door or window (sometimes, it may appear on the actual window sill).

You should express your thanks to the spirits and place the penny on the top of the closest door or window-frame.

The penny acts as a symbolic charm of protection; the coin itself has no power. It represents the signed contract that the spirits have agreed to provide protection, to the best of their abilities, in the dimensions which they can affect.


smoke-1031060_1920Use Your Coins to Play Sara Sarita

This game allows you to communicate with Sara Sarita which legend says is the daughter of Lucifer while in another legend is cited as two sisters who died gruesomely. To play, two people will sit facing each other and ask Sara Sarita if they may enter the game then toss a coin over their shoulder. If both coins are heads up proceed to the game, if both are tails up it is highly encourage to not partake in the game. If one is heads and the other tails than politely ask again.

Once in the game you can ask Sara Sarita only yes or no questions. One at a time ask and then have both parties toss their coin. If both are heads up than the answer is yes, both tails up is no, and one heads and one tails than the answer is maybe. Continue as long as you like but make sure and ask permission to leave the game in the same fashion in which you ended it. If you do not get permission to leave make sure to continue asking until you get a yes. It is said that terrible luck will come upon anyone who leaves the game without permission.

Make sure and keep the coins safe during and after the game since Sara Sarita would not be happy if you spent them.

This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

Why do Copper Coins Change Colors?

If you’re a coin collector or just happen to handle change a lot, you’ve probably seen old copper coins in various colors. From white to green to blue! Why do these coins take on so many different colors? One may think it’s because of something that got stuck to it, maybe a candy wrapper or some sticky food but these colors are actually naturally occurring!

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pile of various cull wheat cents

There are two common forms of attack upon these older metals. In the milder case, a metal may tarnish. “Tarnish” is a thin coating on the surface of a metal and is usually very uniform and does not often destroy the intended purpose of the metal. “Corrosion,” on the other hand, is often not uniform, but may cause pits and may reach such proportions as to destroy the metallic object so that it cannot be used for its intended purpose.

In dry air, even tarnishing takes place quite slowly; however, with the usual atmosphere around us, the humidity accelerates the tarnishing process. The lowest oxide level of copper is cuprous oxide, or cuprite. Its color is pink. Barely noticeable at first, a penny becomes darker over time due to the tarnish layer thickening, as well as the continued oxidation to the black cupric oxide, tenorite.

Over time, and upon repeated or prolonged exposure to moisture in the presence of dissolved acidic substances, such as carbon dioxide and the polluting substances found in acid rain, tarnished copper turns green. Among these acid substances are the oxides of sulfur and the oxides of nitrogen. Reacting with moisture, they form dilute solutions of strong acids.

Copper that is exposed to open air will corrode and undergo a series of chemical reactions that lead to the development of a patina – a coating of copper oxide molecules which actually protects the metal beneath. Over time, copper transitions from its shiny brown color to a darker brown shade.

After many years it transitions into blues. At an even later stage the formation of copper sulfate, carbonate and chloride salts in varying concentrations turns the surface green. There are several factors which affect the amount of time these processes take including moisture, temperature, and the level of pollution. The formation of the natural green patina seen on copper roofs and statues takes a very long time, but methods have been developed to speed the process up using chemical reactions.

Statue_of_Liberty_7Coins aren’t the only place we often see this chemical reaction take place; we’ve all seen the greenish blue Statue of Liberty, but did you know Lady Liberty was once a copper color? That’s right, the famous statue was once covered in a thin layer of copper and was bronze when she first arrived in the United States from France. Acid in rain covers the Statue of Liberty whenever storms hit New York, and her exposure to oxygen from being in the middle of the ocean gradually turned her blue over the years.

An Unusual Tradition Continues at This Grave


John Wilkes Booth is undoubtedly one of the most notorious names in American history. If you visit his grave, you’ll have to find it first. After shooting Lincoln and escaping to Northern Virginia, Booth was shot while trying to escape capture and his body brought back to Washington, DC, for confirmation of his identity. He was originally buried in the Old Penitentiary along with the two men who conspired with him. His body was exhumed in 1867 and re-buried in a Penitentiary warehouse. It was finally released to his family in 1869, who took the body to their own family plot for final burial.



20046526_10209637484474970_6772455346360581552_nHis family plot is easy to locate, but since the family believed a large headstone might be unseemly and attract unwanted attention, no one is quite sure which stone is his. Common tradition points to a small, unmarked stone, and over time, a tradition has developed. Visitors to the grave place a penny on top of the stone; if Lincoln’s portrait is face up, it designates support for Lincoln. A few occasional face-down pennies would indicate support of Booth. Coin collector William Davis recently visited the grave and took pictures of the coins present at the time.



19989648_10209637484434969_3293582512244474740_nIt’s likely that the tradition developed from the military custom of leaving coins on a soldier’s headstone. Different coins indicate different relationships to the soldier buried; some say the tradition goes back to the Vietnam War, but it can only be traced to the  2000s.



19959298_10209637486035009_852017781684380025_nIt’s almost certain that no one was leaving pennies at Booth’s grave before the early 1900’s, as the pennies did not bear Lincoln’s portrait until 1909, when the VDB design was introduced. However, it did arise organically, as folk traditions do, and is an excellent example of folklore and tradition in action in the contemporary world. (For another example of this, see our post about coin trees and the work of folklorist Ceri Houlbrook.)



However the traditions develop, humans have long used coins as offerings, luck charms, and wards against evil; it’s no surprise they would be used to send a message at a grave.



[All photos courtesy of William Davis and used by permission.]

The V.D.B Controversy

On August 2, 1909 people began lining up to get their hands on the freshly minted Lincoln Cent that was to replace the Indian Head Cent.  There was such demand for this coin because it was the first American coin to feature a real historical person on its obverse, and Abraham Lincoln at that (see our previous blog “The Lincoln Wheat Cent”).  Three days after the coin’s release, it was pulled back off the presses amid controversy about the size of the artist’s initials on the reverse. Although no one really knows for sure what happened, there has been much speculation about this event.

From the day Victor David Brenner was tasked by President Roosevelt to redesign the penny, Chief Engraver Charles Barber had an issue.  Barber did not like the idea of working with an outsider who had nothing more than sculpting experience. Some say Barber was jealous because Brenner’s design was selected over his own.

In June of 1909, the final design was approved by both Barber and Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh, including approval of the initials V.D.B along the bottom of the reverse.  In fact, Barber encouraged Brenner to include his initials and refused to let him use a more discrete “B” placed somewhere else.


The day of the coin’s release, rumors started circulating about the placement of the initials.  Some believe a jealous Barber went behind Brenner’s back and began accusing him of being too vain.  Because Brenner was paid for his work, he should not have felt the need to put his initials in such a prominent place on the coin, if at all.  Others have said it was the public that raised a fuss because the initials were simply too big.  Another group of people felt the whole discussion was ridiculous. Adding the artists initials to a coin was a long standing tradition, dating back to ancient Greece.  In fact, the latest gold piece designed by Augustus St. Gaudens and released in 1907 had his initials in the field, on the reverse.

Regardless of the facts, the coin was pulled off the presses on August 5th until a compromise could be struck. Either the initials could be removed all together, the V and D could be removed, simply leaving the B, or the V.D.B could be moved to a more discreet location.  Despite objection from Brenner, the first option was selected as Barber argued any of the other options would take much too long.

During the halt in production, rumor spread that the government was going to recall all the pennies with the V.D.B initials. This caused a bit of a craze as people began hoarding the already in demand coin.

On August 12, 1909 the Lincoln Cent hit the presses once again, this time with no initials, and by the end of the year, supply had finally caught up with demand.


Barber passed away in 1917 and the issue of the initials was revisited shortly there after.  In 1918, the initials V.D.B were restored to the coin, this time on the obverse, at the bottom of the Lincoln bust, near the rim of the coin.  They remain there to this day.


Not only did this controversy affect the general public, but the coin collecting community as well.  While there were 28 million 1909 V.D.B cents minted at the Philadelphia mint, there were only 484.000 minted in San Francisco.  These 1909 S V.D.B cents became very popular and still are, selling for several thousand dollars a piece in mint condition.

Image courtesy of CCF Numismatics [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of CCF Numismatics [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Check out all the Lincoln Wheat cents we have available on Ebay and our website and see if you can spot the 4 different varieties:

1909 V.D.B with no mint mark (minted in Philadelphia)

1909 S V.D.B (minted in San Fransisco-highly collectible)

1909-1917 with no initials

1918-1958 discrete V.D.B on the bottom of Lincoln’s bust

The Sense behind the Cent

The American Revolutionary war was officially ended by Congress on April 11, 1783. It is estimated that America had around 3 Million people in it at the time, all from various European countries.  All these people brought with them the culture and tradition from their native lands and the great melting pot was born.  Along with ideas and traditions came various units of trade.  If you could pop back to this time in American history, you would find coins from all over the world being used for trade.  Each coin had its own value, look and weight.  Imagine the confusion this would cause.  It was soon clear that this country needed its own unit of trade, one that was uniform and would be recognized by anyone.  And so the penny was born.

Designed by Benjamin Franklin, the first penny was called the fugio cent.  It was privately minted from 1787 to 1793 and made solely of copper.  The obverse featured the sun shining down on a sundial with the caption “fugio” (I fly or flee) on one side.  The bottom says “Mind your business”.  The reverse shows 13 interlocking rings meant to represent each of the 13 colonies with the words “we are one” in the center.


From here, a series of what we now call large cents were produced from 1793 to 1856.  Here is a list of the different large cent varieties they made:

Flowing Hair Cent (1793)

Liberty Cap Cent (1793-1797)

Draped Bust Cent (1796-1808)

Classic Head Cent (1808-1814)

Coronet Cent (1816-1857)

Matron Head Cent (1816-1839)

Braided Hair Cent (1839-1857)

No pennies were made in 1815 because of the war of 1812 and the shortage of copper that resulted.

By the mid 1800’s, these large cents were quickly becoming unpopular in commerce and expensive to mint.  These coins were large and became heavy to pack around.  Also, due to inflation, the price of copper started rising so that it was now costing more than 1 cent to make a penny. By 1850, pennies were no longer profitable to mint.



In 1856, the flying eagle cent came into circulation (pictured above).  This coin was much smaller than its counterpart and was made of only 88% copper.  The other 12% was nickel, which was a much more affordable metal.  To get these new “small cents”, people could exchange their large cents or other worn foreign silver.  So many flying eagle cents were made that they quickly overwhelmed the system.  They were not considered legal tender and therefore banks and other merchants did not have to accept the coins. Flying eagle cents were only minted for three years.  The eagle design did not strike well and it was replaced by the Indian head Cent (pictured below).

50244-01 50244-02

The Indian head cent was minted from 1859-1909. Most of these coins were minted to pay union soldiers during the Civil War. After the war, in 1864, its composition was changed once again to be 95% copper and 5% zinc.  Also in this year the Coinage act of 1864 was passed.  This act made the one cent coin legal tender and now merchants and banks across the country had to accept them.

In 1909, to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday, the design on the penny was changed once again.  Commonly known as the wheat cent (pictured below), this coin featured a profile view of Lincoln on the obverse and a pair of wheat ears circling the words “one cent” on the reverse  Lincoln was the first historical figure to be used on a US coin and his picture remains on the penny to this day.

35918-01 35918-02

Although its design has changed many times, the purpose of the cent remains the same. It was not only our first official coin, but it helped shape our nation.  Check out all the different cents we have for sale on Ebay and our website and stay tuned for more about the infamous wheat cent

The US Penny Debate

When Canada discontinued their penny last year, the news seemed both trivial and obvious. For years, there has been a debate in the States to do the same. While many people advocate to put the sparest of spare change out of its misery, the penny also has strong supporters demanding its survival.

When the half-cent was discontinued a hundred and fifty years ago, it had the spending power of a modern-day dime and was deemed irrelevant due to inflation. Had the penny been ended when it reached the worth of a modern-day dime, it would have been gone by 1950.

How does Canada make the transition of phasing out pennies easier? Rumor has it that they just use US Pennies for change!

For the last six years, the cost of minting a penny has been more than its actual worth, coming out to over two cents per coin in 2012. When Canada discontinued their penny, it cost them 1.6 cents to mint each one. The US Mint has been researching cheaper metal alternatives to comparatively expensive zinc, which constitutes 97.5% of every penny minted since 1982.

There is also the question of the everyday usefulness of pennies. You can’t exactly use them in vending machines, parking meters, or toll booths (except in Illinois, where support for the Lincoln-faced coin is especially strong). Counting them out to make exact change when paying in cash can be cumbersome and, according to some, wasteful of time.

Not only Canada has dropped its lowest-denominated coins. Countries that smoothly made similar transitions with their low-value coins include Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain. In fact, in the states, military bases eliminated pennies over thirty years ago.

Whether the penny could be discontinued anytime soon remains to be seen. Two bills since 1990 have been proposed to end the penny, and both failed. Supporters of the penny, including the organization Americans for Common Cents, argue that if they are discontinued and prices are rounded to the nearest five cents, the government will actually lose money because nickel production will increase. A nickel costs eleven cents to mint — yet another coin that costs more to mint than its own worth.

Penny supporters also point out that drives for charities, which thrive on people donating their extra loose change, would be in danger of suffering. It can also be argued that elimination would not end the loss of money from minting, but actually increase it with the higher demand for nickels, as well as add to inflation as businesses would likely put a “rounding tax” on goods that have prices that don’t end in zero or five. It’s even possible the Denver Mint, the main supplier of pennies, would have to downsize and people would lose their jobs.

There are a lot of factors to be considered in this debate over the penny. Opinions, comments, and questions are welcome.