General Motors coins -
General Motors Roller Press Cent
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withdrawn daily from circulation.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.
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
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
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