Valley Forge National Historical Park – Valley Forge, PA

One day this past weekend I was out running errands with my youngest daughter Melody.  She had been a little cranky and in-between stops she fell asleep and I knew that I had to do whatever I could to ensure she got a nice long nap.  I just started driving and eventually found myself on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I really was just trying to find someplace nearby that I could set the cruise control and not be stopping at a red light every one hundred yards.  Since I was heading out towards King of Prussia I knew that the Valley Forge park was nearby and was always on my to-do list.  As I get older I find myself more and more interested in American History (where you when I was in high school).  You can check out a previous visit to Gettysburg, PA here (Part 1 and Part 2).  As luck would have it just as I was pulling into the parking area Melody woke up and seemed ready to stretch her legs a bit, and what better place than a park.

Valley Forge was the camp where the American Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-78 during the American Revolutionary War.  More than 2,500 American soldiers perished here due to starvation, disease, and exposure to the harsh winter.

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I’m no historian so I won’t go into much more detail about what happened at Valley Forge since I will most likely quote something incorrectly.  Instead be sure to stop by the Historical park and check out the visitor center.

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I will say it’s always nice to be greeted upon arrival by the great General George Washington.

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There are some very detailed exhibits throughout the Visitor Center museum detailing what Valley Forge.  What the conditions were like, how the soldiers spent their down time, living conditions and more.

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There was also an interesting collection of weapons on display and detailed descriptions of each.  If you take your time visiting each exhibit you could easily spend an afternoon here, but there are many other places to see and things to do.  There is also a theatre showing a movie about the events at Valley Forge.  It’s not long only about 20 minutes or so but well worth the price of admission (did I mention this is all free? yup free).  After we finished checking everything out we headed back down to the main area of the visitor center for their gift shop.

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Named the Encampment Store there is plenty of T-shirts, Christmas ornaments, shot glasses and books just like you would find in most of these little shops.  Over to one side of the store I came across one of the other reasons I had always wanted to visit this park.

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It just wouldn’t be a weekend trip without coming across a penny machine somewhere. My family always laughs when I try to play it off like I didn’t know the machine was here.  Ahh they know me all too well.

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The designs available here include The National Memorial Arch, a Revolutionary Cannon, America’s First Army, and Dogwoods.

I would have loved to spend even more time here, and we didn’t get to wonder around the park.  The wind was really making it hard to stay outside for too long and as I saw Melody’s cheeks getting red I knew she was ready to head back to our car.  Hopefully I’ll get back here in the near future when it’s a little warmer so I can really experience all there is.  Be sure to stop by and get a bit of a history lesson, a nice walk through the park and of course don’t forget to press a set of pennies before you go.

The Franklin Institute 2016 – Philadelphia, PA

On a recent weekend trip into Philadelphia with my daughter we decided to go check out The Franklin Institute.  We had visited this museum a year or so ago and my daughter really enjoyed all the interactive exhibits and of course all the other kids running around.  I have always likes science museums and this is really one of the best ones I’ve ever been to.  Plus they are notorious for having quite a few penny press machines, and was one of the first 8-design touch screen machine I had used (click here to read all about it).

Atrium

Hanna and I did explore the entire museum, but just so you know most of the machines can actually be accessed right in the main Atrium shown above with no admission required (but if you park in their garage there is a fee).  Now I know I have a habit of calling these penny press machines which in most situations is correct, but more and more machines have been made available where the supply a coin like token instead.  So technically these machines were token presses but they work exactly the same.

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The first machine was located right by the elevators that take you down to the parking garage below the museum.  This machine had four designs and each were $1.

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The designs on this first set included the Liberty Bell, City of Brotherly Love Philadelphia, I Heart The Franklin Institute, and Fels Planetarium.

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Just a few feet away was the second machine sitting right beside the Information Desk.  These designs were also $1 each.

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The images available in this set: The Train Factory, The Franklin Institute Science Museum, Our Carbon Footprint, and the Philadelphia Phillies logo.

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The next machine is situated in great location just outside the Restrooms.  I’m not sure why places put the machines here (seems very common) but I guess it’s to guarantee foot traffic.  These were also $1 each.

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The designs on this set included the Joel M Bloom Observatory, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac’s Loft and the Air Show.

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I know I gave a link about this 8-Design machine above but couldn’t help including it in this post as well.  Please note that this machine is no longer near the Pendulum Staircase (which required admission), it is now located near the Restrooms (yay!) as well (no admission required).

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I really do like these new machines and I couldn’t resist pressing another set.  It does take cash, credit or Apple Pay which is what I used and it worked perfectly.

As a recap this museum really is a great place to visit and an easy way to spend an afternoon with your kids (or just by yourself).  The exhibits are fantastic, the special exhibits are even better, plus you can press 20 new tokens all within a 100 foot radius.

Albany, New York

In just a few days we had been able to visit quite a few placed in our Upstate New York visit and on one of our last days it was late afternoon and we decided to pick a spot to get a hotel and rest for the evening.  We were coming up to Albany, NY and figured that would be a pretty easy place to find a hotel.

Albany Sign

We headed downtown and found a reasonable hotel that had a vacancy.  My family wanted to stay and rest in the room so I took the car out and decided to see if I could find any nearby penny machines.  As luck would have it there was one not too far away, I just had to hope the place was still open.

NY State Museum

The New York State Museum as you can see from the above picture is a very unique building.  They have some great exhibits and admission is free but donations are always welcome.  By the time I got inside they were actually starting the process of closing everything up.  I asked the security guard as nicely as I could if it would be okay for me to just stop over by the gift shop and use the penny machine.  He waved me through and I felt like I was getting away with something.

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I fumbled some change out of my pocket and pressed a set of coins.  They all came out nicely even though the machine was a little rough rolling.

NY State Museum Pennies

In this set you will get a I Love (Heart) Albany, a Carousel Horse, a Wooly Mammoth, and a Trilobite.  I stored my new pennies away and thanked the guard again as I left and heard the doors being locked behind me.  After the short drive back to our hotel I was greeted by my family that seemed ready to go and find something to eat.  Having a secret up my sleeve I mentioned that we should go to the Crossgates Shopping Mall as they would have a varied selection of places to eat.  Everyone was on board and a sneaky grin crossed my lips.

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The mall was a bit of drive away but we drove around the parking lot checking out the available restaurants.  We ended up choosing The Melting Pot which is a fondue restaurant.  All I’ll say is their desert Chocolate fondue is to die for.  Yes you do technically cook your own food, but the experience is still pretty cool and fun for the entire family.  Once our meal was over and we were completely stuffed with melted cheese and chocolate we figured it was a good idea to walk around the mall for a bit.  Eventually on the second floor we came across the food court and my plan fell into place.

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A penny machine was are the changes?!?!  My family just laughed and realized how I had orchestrated this entire side trip.  You’d think they would know better by now.

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I pressed my coins and we finished our after dinner stroll.  With the bloating feeling in our bellies starting to subside we eventually made it back to our car and then back to the hotel to get some sleep.  It was finally time to admit that our trip was over and time to head back home to Jersey.  Spending this time with my family was really a treat and we came back with some great memories and a pocket full of new pennies.  Overall it was another great family trip.

Franklin Institute 8 Design Penny Machine – Philadelphia, PA

Just a few days ago I was checking out pennycollector.com to see if there were any new machines around my area and I almost jumped out of my seat when I scanned through the Philadelphia locations.  Last year I had taken my daughter Hanna on a day trip to Philly checking out some historical sites and ended with the Franklin Institute which is a huge science museum.  We had collected all the coins at that time, but brand new for 2016 they have added another machine.  Even more cool is that it’s one of those new super-multi design machines by the pennymen.

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Last spring I wrote about the first time I was able to use one of these machines which was located in Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.  Below is the marquee at the top of this new machine.  I like the “Limited Edition” as it makes me hope there will be more designs available in the future.

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This machine functions exactly the same way as the one I used in Florida, except I did notice that this machine appears to be using coin blanks instead of pennies which are supplied by the machine.  To use the machine you start by making your selections on the touch screen.

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You can press one design for a dollar, or get all eight for $5.  You can pay with cash, credit, or Apple Pay.  Being the techie I am I used Apple Pay and elected for all eight designs.

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Above is a picture of the working parts of the machine and the die used to press each design along with samples of each coin.  Below I have included a short video I took of the machine in action.

After the machine finished pressing my designs I gathered them up and finished checking out the museum and eventually headed home.

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You can see each design came out really nice.  I know when I used the machine in Disney almost every coin rolled a little short and the pennies used in the machine were not the greatest so the end results were a little disappointing.  But these really came out nice.

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The first four designs include The Amazing Machine, Your Brain, the Sportszone, and Electricity (very cool exhibits by the way for electricity, so cool they will make your hair stand on end).

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The second set of four designs are the Changing Earth, Kidscience, the Train Factory, and the Franklin Air show.

So if you are near Philly and in need of a science fix make sure to drop by the Franklin Institute.  It’s a beautiful museum with a whole lot of really great exhibits, and interactive things for people of all ages to enjoy.  The museum already had five penny machines available and this now makes six.  Plus these new machines are really cool and getting eight new pressed coins is a nice addition to your collection.

Madame Tussauds – New York, NY

When wandering around New York City you never know when you may run into a celebrity or walk by a movie set.  My dad used to work on Madison avenue and said there were numerous mornings he would be walking into the office building and there would be clean up crews getting Madison Ave back to working order from a night of shooting a movie.  However if you are only in town for one day or even just an afternoon there is a guaranteed way to have your picture taken with some celebs, although they are technically made of wax but you’re family and friends don’t need to know.

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Madame Tussauds is a famous wax museum chain that has locations all over the world. Last year when my family took a quick trip to Washington DC I wrote about visiting it and you can read about it here.  This location right off Times Square is huge.  As you enter the museum Alicia Keys, Al Roker and Matt Lauer are there to greet you as you wait in line for tickets.

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However before getting in line I headed over by the elevators and used the first penny machine that is located in the lobby.

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No admission is needed to use this machine, however the second machine is found further inside and you do need a ticket to access that machine.

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This first machine was also used to be located at the Empire State Building which I had visited years ago and picked up coins.  Recently it had been relocated but the designs available are still the same: Skyride, NYC Checkered Cab, Central Park NY, and an NYC Sightseeing Bus.  After using the machine I jumped in line to get my ticket and was then off to meet some celebrities.  First up Angelina Jolie.

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Unfortunately I’m not very good at selfies so the pictures I took me with arms around her didn’t come out very well which is probably for the best and will keep me out of trouble.  The museum is set up in different sections to try to organize the figures.

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In the golden age of cinema I met James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.  Each section has up to 10 or 12 people and you are able to stand right up next to them for your celebrity photo-op.

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For sports fans these mostly consisted of New York team players like Eli Manning of the New York Giants, but they just couldn’t leave out the great Joe Montana from the San Francisco 49ers.

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There was even a Marvel Superheroes section that had all The Avengers available to match up with.  This area was packed with kids so I just snapped a couple of pictures and headed towards the next area which consisted of historic figures and U.S. Presidents past and present.  At the end of the tour you are sent into the gift shop and eventually to a set of elevators that take you back to street level.  While I waited for the elevator I noticed off to the side was the second penny machine.

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Fortunately I was the first at the elevators so the area was empty while I used the machine.  But only after few minutes the place started to fill up with people anxious to leave.

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The machine rolled the designs nicely and worked without any issue.  The penny designs all said “Madame Tussauds New York” and included images of the New Year’s Ball Drop, the New York Yankees, 9/11 We Will Never Forget, and Times Square Station.  I put the pennies away and stepped back over to hope on the elevator that arrived shortly after.

I was in need of something to each which was going to work our perfectly since my next stop was going to offer just that.  It was only a short walk away but being so close to Times Square the crowds make getting anywhere more difficult than it should be.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – New York, NY

Have you ever hear a story about an event that was so unbelievable you had an internal debate with yourself about whether it maybe, possible could be true… or may not?  For me it was always urban legends that would get me.  At the beginning I would completely convince myself for sure they were fake, then as I heard more and more people retelling the same story I started to think otherwise.  In either case these stories are entertaining if nothing else.

Now why do I bring this up?  Well my next stop in New York city is part of a franchise that deals in just these sorts of things.  Ripley’s Believe It or Not! was founded by Robert Ripley who documented bizarre events, people, animals or items that would have people to this day still questioning their authenticity.  Ripley’s started as a cartoon “penal”, and eventual spanned numerous media formats like radio, TV, books, and eventually museums.

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These museum are located all over the world and I will admit I have visited quite a few of them in the past.  To be honest I’m not sure exactly why I keep going into them as most of the items inside are the same in each of the locations, and some are pretty hard to look at.  I don’t have a week stomach but do tread lightly when visiting these locations.  However on this trip I had a location right next door that I did want to spend more time at so I didn’t actually go into this museum other than to press the pennies that are located in the gift shop (no admission required).  But as I walked inside from 42nd Street I did take a look at some of the “free” exhibits available by the front entrance.

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As you can see the Auditorium included plenty of skeletons, creatures that can’t possibly exist (or did they?), pictures, things floating in jars full of fluids, tall people, short people, and plenty of people with physical anomalies.

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The gift shop was to the right of the ticket area just next to the two-trunked elephant on the wall.  The doors slid open and the machine was located right inside.

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This machine was a little unique in that the gear ratio was pretty light.  Meaning that it was very easy to turn, but you needed to turn the handle about 10-12 times per penny. Also each penny cost twice as much as standard machines.  It was $1.00 per penny plus obviously your penny.  Luckily I had brought along some extra quarters just in case of a situation like this.

Ripley's Believe It NYC Pennies

These designs were really nice I must admit.  In my past trips to these museums they almost all have penny machines but these were the first nicely detailed coins I have found at a Ripley’s.  The designs included: The Ripley’s Odditorium Marquee, a Shrunken Head, the World’s Tallest Man, and a Two-headed Goat.

Another set in my pocket and it was time to get out of here.  I could feel the oddities calling my name, but I had other places to visit and more coins to collect.  Thankfully I didn’t have far to go as the next place was right next door.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – New York, NY

When visiting New York City we are almost always drawn right to Times Square.  It’s a place you’ve seen on TV and in the movies so many times that when you are there for the first time it seems like you’ve been there before.  But over the years each time I visit the crowds just seem to get bigger and bigger and my patience grows smaller and smaller.  On this trip I did have a few places near Times Square to visit but first I was taking a break from the crowds.  As I walked down 12th Avenue towards the Lincoln Tunnel I saw a sign that told me I was closed to my next stop.

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The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum has been on my to-do list for years, but it is a little out of the way from where we usually visit in NYC.  This trip I was making sure to head over because I couldn’t wait to step aboard an actual Aircraft Carrier.

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The museum was originally founded in 1982, but was closed in 2006 for a two-year renovation.  It is a military and maritime museum that houses numerous aircraft on board for visitors to see and learn about.  A recent additional to the museum that opened to the public on July 19th, 2012 was the Space Shuttle Enterprise and is now located in the Space Shuttle Pavilion on the top deck of the Intrepid.

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The Intrepid has some tight security before you can access the pier.  I had paid for my ticked online the night before so I was able to skip that line, and head right out onto the pier where the sheer size of the Intrepid became apparent.

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Before boarding the Intrepid there are some things to see and do along the pier but still require admission.  The submarine USS Growler was a cruise missile submarine whose mission was to provider nuclear deterrent capabilities.  This was done off the west-coast of the Soviet Union during peak years of the cold war.

USS Growler

I was about to check out the Growler but something else on the pier caught my eye and was immediately drawn to it.

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The British Airways Concorde SST.  It was a supersonic passenger jet that featured a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04.  First flown in 1969, and eventually entered service in 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years until 2003 when it was retired.  This aircraft was beautiful and really mesmerizing.  After taking my pictures and reading all the information they had on display I turned around and came face to face with a penny machine.  What can I say I’m obsessed!

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What was even better was that this coin set was all about the Concorde.  I put my first set of coins in the slider and as I pushed it in….it jammed.  I couldn’t believe it.  Taking a few minutes I tried to get the slider back out, but didn’t want to make things worse.  So a little dejected I had to move on without getting this set.

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As you can see from the above picture of the machine marquee the four designs included the Concorde in various views of flight.  I was a little bummed about the machine but quickly remembered that I had a huge Aircraft Carrier in front of me that I hadn’t even stepped onto yet (oh and there were two more machines somewhere).  I decided to take the elevator up to the stop deck and work my way back down.

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After getting off the elevator I snapped the above two pictures in an attempt to show how big the flight deck was by the number of aircraft located here.  In the picture on the right in the back you can see the Space Shuttle Pavilion “Tent” that houses the Shuttle.  I walked onto the deck and saw another aircraft I had been obsessed with as a child.

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The Lockheed A-12 was a reconnaissance aircraft built for the CIA by Lockheed and had the internal code name “Archangel”.  It was the precursor to the famous SR-71 Blackbird also created by Lockheed.  Also on the deck from the US Air Force was an F-16 Fighting Falcon.  From the US Navy was an A-4 Skyhawk, F-8 Crusader, an A-6 Intruder.  From the US Marine Corp was an AV-8C Harrier which is really cool, this plane can take off and land vertically.  Lastly from the US Army a Vietnam-era UH-1 Iroquois.  These were just some of the amazing machines that you could get up close and personal with.  I actually spent a lot more time here than I had initially planned for but I just couldn’t pull myself away.

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Due to time I didn’t go check out the Space Shuttle but I really kick myself now for not doing so.  There is a separate admission to see it, but after coming home I have seen some pictures online and it just looks amazing.  This just means I’ll have to go back and see it in the future.  Anyways, with the top deck done I took the elevator down to the next level.

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Inside there were more plans, and as you can see from the above picture even one of the ships propellers that made this monster craft move.  Towards the far end was the Exploreum that has some interactive exhibits for the young (or young at heart) to play with.  Over in a small alcove I found the next penny machine.

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To be honest if I wasn’t specifically looking for this machine I probably would have missed it.  It just off to one side underneath a kind of platform.

USS Intrepid 02 Pennies

The four penny designs at this machine were an image of the U.S.S. Growler, an American Flag “Honor, Educate & Inspire”, the U.S.S. Intrepid, and the U.S.S. Intrepid 1943 Bell.  After storing these pennies away I began to look for the last machine located on the Intrepid.  I had a rough idea where it was but wasn’t exactly sure how to get there.  My online research said it was near the mess hall / food court but the map I was given didn’t really say how you got it to.  I eventually asked someone and they pointed me towards a door that revealed a set of stairs.  After doing down a few flights I came out in the food court.

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As you can see in the above picture the machine is located on the right side just outside the restrooms.

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This place was pretty deserted even though the rest of the museum was fairly busy.  I assume from the lack of signage not many people know how to get here.

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The images on these pennies were the Lockheed A-12, the H019A Sikorsky, the A4 Skyhawk, and the Grumman F11 Tiger.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one looking for this machine.  As I started to pretty my set there was another couple that entered from the stairwell and came right up beside me. We spoke for a little bit and I found out they were new to collecting pressed coins but were having a great time coming across machines throughout the city on their weeklong trip.  I immediately welcomed them to the hobby and told them all about TEC (The Elongated Collectors) and Pennycollector.com for all their future trips.  They were very thankful for the information which I’m always more than happy to pass along.

With a smile on my face I headed back to the stairs and went all the way back down to the pier and towards the exit.  For anyone in military history, or airplanes in general this is really a great place to check out.  Unfortunately I had put off Times Square as long as I could and started to head back in that directly.  There were still a bunch of places I had to visit and the large crowds weren’t going to make it easy.

** Updated:  After I got back home I waited about a week and then sent my letter to the Intrepid explaining that the machine by the Concorde had been out-of-order and asked if someone would mind pressing me a set.  I had included a set of quarters and pennies as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope to aid in returning them to me.  I kind of forgot about it for a couple of weeks until one day I came home and there was a FedEx package on my front step.  I opened it to find a very nice letter from one of the management staff at the Intrepid.  They apologies for the machine not working and send me a set of the coins, but also returned my quarters and pennies because of the inconvenience.  This just made my day and I always really appreciate when these placed take the time to help our their guests whenever possible.  Thank you Intrepid Crew!!

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American Museum of Natural History – New York, NY

Traveling the world has always been a goal of mine, but so far I haven’t made it much beyond Canada and a handful of U.S. states.  My cousin however has become quite the world traveler visiting places like the Philippines, China, Machu Picchu, and many more with plenty of great story to accompany each trip.  In between big trips to these far away lands the traveling bug still hits him and he has the need to go somewhere close.  He’s from Canada and coming down to New Jersey tends to be one of his stand by locations.  With our proximity to New York, Pennsylvania and even Washington DC it makes for an ideal place to visit a lot of places in a short amount of time.

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Being Canadian he has an extreme love of Hockey and has a bucket list to visit all the professional arenas.  On this most recent trip I was offered a few different venues to see a hockey game with him and decided to check out the New York Islander’s new home arena the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY.  The drop of the puck wasn’t until 7:30 that night so I had a whole day to wander around New York City and try to collect some new pennies.  Now where to start?

I wanted to make sure I got to visit as many places as I could so my trip began early in the morning with a train ride into Penn Station, then jumped on the Subway for a 10 minutes ride to the American Museum of Natural History.

AMNH Entrance

This museum is one of the largest in the world.  It was originally established in 1869 and the original building was opened in 1877.  The size of this place is truly amazing, and the number of exhibits really makes this a special place to visit.

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As soon as you walk in through the main entrance you realize how big the museum is.  There are two large dinosaur skeletons in the midst of battle looming over you as you buy your admission ticket.  The museum has four floors and includes a planetarium, and IMAX theater.  However the animal diorama’s are really something they are known for.

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In the Akeley Hall of African Mammals there is a centerpiece that includes 8 African Elephants in a characteristic alarmed formation.

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Eventually I made my way over to the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs which as I’ve mentioned in the past I just can’t resist.  Seeing the size of these animals is still almost too hard to contemplate that they walked the earth millions of years ago.  The names are always too complicated for me to pronounce but there is one favorite that I have to locate at each museum.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex who doesn’t want to see this fierce carnivore, just obviously not in person.  Thankfully Jurassic Park hasn’t become a reality just yet.

As I made my walk through all the exhibits I did come across each of the four penny machines located here.  I visited this museum about 7 years ago and three of the machines were the same but the fourth was new.  But that didn’t stop me from pressing a brand new set of each coin.

AMNH Museum Store

As with most museums they have a gift shop, but the main one located here has a staircase in the middle of it and actually covers multiple floors.  On the first floor just outside the gift shop was where I found the first machine.

AMNH Machine 01

I always come prepared with enough quarters and pennies (plus extra just in case of a short roll) but just in case each of the machines did have a change maker right beside them.

AMNH 01 Pennies

The first machine had four designs: Stegosaurus, Barosaurs, the American Museum of Natural History building, and a T-Rex Skull.  I took the stairs in the middle of the gift shop up to the second floor and found the next machine located outside the shop doors.

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So far all the machines were working perfectly and I had no issues pressing the designs.

AMNH 02 Pennies

The next set of pennies has images the Alaska Brown Bear Diorama, The Rose Center for Earth and Space, a Haida War Canoe, and the Australopithecus Couple.  For the last two machines I had to go all the way up to the fourth floor.  The third machine was right outside the DinoStore.

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Our of the four machines available in the museum this was the busiest one.  Since it was located right near the Dinosaur hall it wasn’t too surprising this has the largest crowd.

AMNH 03 Pennies

These four pennies were pressed with images of an Allosaurus, the huge Blue Whale, the herd of 8 African Elephants, and the main entrance to the Museum.  The last machine was located beyond the Dinosaur hall toward inside the gift shop by the temporary exhibit called Life at the Limits.

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Just like the other machines this one was in perfect working condition, and was the only new machine since my last visit.

AMNH 04 Pennies

These last four coins had the Easter Island Head, a T-Rex skull, a Mammoth Fossil, and Theodore Roosevelt.  With all the coins acquired and safely stored in my jacket pocket I made my way back down to the 1st floor and headed outside into the unusually warm November day.  My next stop was directly across Central Park but suddenly I realized I had a huge obstacle in front of me.

NYC Marathon 2015 02

The New York Marathon was going on, and there were road blocks all over the place to keep people off of the Marathon route.  It was cool to be in the city and right alongside the runners but I had pennies to press and needed to figure out a way around the course.  It took a little longer than I thought it would but I eventually made it to the next stop on my list.