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General Motors coins - General Motors Roller Press Cent

GM Roller Press Cent

General Motors Roller Press Cents: In the 1960’s the United States Mint experimented with a roller press to coin cents. It was a joint venture in partnership with General Motors. The reason for the experiment was that the coin shortage of 1963 to 1964 was especially severe with regard to cents. All of the United States’ Mints working around the clock could not make enough cents to replace those that were being withdrawn daily from circulation. The roller press was developed in answer to this shortage.

Following the making of the movie Goldfinger, which is about a plot to steal the gold in Fort Knox, Treasury officials asked for and received permission to have a private viewing of the movie. Several top General Motors executives were invited because they were business acquaintances of the Treasury officials. After the film ended, they talked about the coin shortage. Louis C. Goad, General Motors Executive Vice-President for manufacturing, said that GM could make a press that could strike coins at a rate of 10,000 per minute. The Mint officials liked the idea and contracted with GM to create a prototype of the press.

The Mint provided some funding, but most came from GM along with all of the engineering and construction that was necessary. The prototype and the production press were designed by GM Chief Engineer Ronald Featherstone. His machine fed sheets of coinage strip into a blanking press that produced planchets which were pushed out into matching receptacles on the middle of three rollers. These receptacles each contained an obverse coin die. The planchets, which were made with raised rims, were then struck by the series of dies for the reverse that were mounted on the lower roller. The middle roller then ejected the finished coins that fell into a bin.

In 1965 the Mint contracted with General Motors to build a full-scale model press. GM received $500,000 for building the press. It was completed in early 1967 and tested at the General Motors facility. In early 1968, the press was moved to the Mint in Philadelphia, which was a new facility that was still under construction.

When put into operation, the press actually worked; however, it required very high maintenance. Each time a die cracked or was too worn, the entire press had to be shut down. The torque of the roller mounted dies evidently accelerated die failure. The result was that fewer coins could be minted by this new press than the conventional machine. Also the press and the dies required frequent lubrication, which caused oil to drip onto the coinage strip as it went into the machine. Sometimes the heat caused the oil to vaporize and form droplets. Many of the coins produced had slightly rippled surfaces and were not sharply struck.

Between 1964 and 1968 approximately fifty people worked on developing the press. During that time the coinage shortage passed. The Mint operated the press on a test basis because it never fulfilled its promise. Finally in 1969 the Mint and General Motors issued a press release in which they announced the cancellation of further development of the press. At this time it was suggested that the Mint continued too long with this project to avoid embarrassment at the dedication ceremony of the new facility.

Although an engineering failure, the project left a numismatic legacy. The coins produced at first were larger than a cent so they would not be taken for regular coinage. On the obverse they said GM with MD on the reverse. These stood for General Motors and Manufacturing Development. An unknown quantity was struck in copper or bronze. Another test group was inscribed MANUFACTURING DEVELOPMENT STAFF. These were made from defaced Lincoln cent dies. A third variety also used defaced dies with a different combination of lettering. On the final version the word STAFF appears. Later a tandem roller press used dies engraved by Frank Gasparro. The new test piece portrayed a left facing woman surrounded by letters that could identify individual dies. The reverse had a wreath with similar nonsense letters. These latter pieces were struck from planchets of the same specifications as circulating Lincoln cents.

Actual cents were struck by the Mint using the roller press in 1968-69; however, they cannot be distinguished from ordinary coinage. Since none of these pieces was identified by the Mint, their fate is unknown. Although all of the coins produced on the roller presses are rare, they occasionally appear in numismatic venues. They are actively collected and have been listed in Andrew Pollock III’s book United States Patterns and Related Issues.

Do you own any of these roller press coins? Would you like to sell? Tom Pilitowski is very interested in buying General Motors roller press coins. If you would like to sell, please offer the coin to us and if it's fair, we'll buy it or offer it on our website to collectors and dealers who visit us often to buy and sell. Call us at 1-800-624-1870 or contact us

 

 


gm roller press cent - General Motors coins - General Motors Roller Press Cent

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