ENCASED COINS OF EARL FANKHAUSER
"THE PENNY MAN"
OF FORT WAYNE, INDIANA
by Bryan Ryker
Hi! I am a researcher and collector of encased coins made for Earl Fankhauser, "The Penny Man," of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
(Earl Fankhauser in about 1955)
You may ask, "What is an encased coin?" It's a coin (usually a cent) which has a ring of some material clenched around it. The rings are usually made of aluminum, but sometimes other materials were used. One side of the aluminum ring usually has a good luck horseshoe with the words "KEEP ME AND NEVER GO BROKE" or "KEEP ME AND HAVE GOOD LUCK" coined into it. The other side would have whatever inscription the customer wanted -- such as a business advertisement, a souvenir message, or someone's personal information to be used as a calling card.
Encased coins are not to be confused with the kind of thing you could find in bus and train stations, where for a quarter you could dial up one letter at a time and make a single piece saying whatever message you wanted. Encased coins were made 500 to 1,000 or more at a time in large coining presses using engraved dies. A blank aluminum ring, like a washer, would be put in the press, and a coin set in the middle. The pressure used to stamp the message into the aluminum ring also caused the ring to clench the coin -- often so tightly the coin would buckle.
So who was Earl Fankhauser? He was the most prolific creater of encased coins that ever lived. From 1948 to 1965 he had over 650 different encased coins made, covering topics from car dealers (Ford, Plymouth, Rambler, ...), to Presidential campaigns ("I Like Ike", "In '60 it's Lodge with Nixon", "Kennedy/Johnson", ...), to the Boy Scouts, insurance salesmen, drug stores, gas stations, milk men, ... just about anything you can imagine. One of my favorites was for a fish market. Their slogan was "If you can't make both ends meat, make one fish!"
In about 1954 Fankhauser began "signing" the different pieces he sold. In tiny letters along the bottom rim he put "EARL FANKHAUSER FORT WAYNE 1". Because of this and the vast number of different pieces he sold, his name is well known among collectors.
I've written a book about Earl Fankhauser's work with encased coins. It's 80 pages and tells the story of his life and a little about how encased coins were made. He was a very colorful person, like the time he got locked in the bank and made the front page of the paper (photo below). It catalogs the 673 different pieces he had made that I know of and gives an idea of their relative values. As these pieces have become more collectable, prices have been rising. There are also background stories about some of the pieces. It's $8.00, and I pay the postage. If you are interested in a copy, send me a note below. Let me know if you would like it signed.
A while ago I had a lot of fun having a new encased coin made to commemorate the 40th anniversary of our local coin club, the Old Fort Coin Club. I only had 125 pairs of these horseshoe-shaped pieces made, and each piece has different die work. The green piece has a "KEEP ME AND NEVER GO BROKE" reverse. The gold piece has a "KEEP ME AND HAVE GOOD LUCK" reverse. They're all sold now.
(click here for more scans of the Old Fort pieces): souvenir pieces!
Were you thinking of having an encased coin made? Send me an e-mail and I will pass along several tips I learned from doing mine, and even help you design it if you'd like. It's a lot of fun. Click here to view some of the pieces I helped design for friends: designs
You can also go to the following link to see and acquire some of these pieces: Rexdale Publishing
If you would like to see more scans of encased coins and pictures of Earl, just click here: more photos of Fankhauser pieces!
Made any exciting discoveries lately? Since I wrote the catalog, only FIVE "new" pieces have been discovered.
The first new Fankhauser piece was discovered in June, 1997 by Jim Lasniczak:
Here is a scan of the second new piece. It was discovered in August, 1999 by Carl Bangora:
In October, 1999 Carl Bangora discovered a third new piece:
Jim Lasniczak found the fourth new piece in August, 2000 :
The most recent discovery was made in February, 2003 by Bob Purdue. He found it on Ebay:
The "new" pieces pictured above have Earl Fankhauser's signature at the bottom, so we know they were made for him. Because he did not manufacture his pieces himself (they were made by the Osborne Coinage Company in Cincinnati, Ohio), there are many encased coins that have the same "look" as his pieces, but are not Fankhauser pieces.
I have been working the last several years on capturing the history of the encased coins made by the Osborne Coinage Company. They were gracious enough to grant me access to their production records, which fortunately were not destroyed. The records show who a piece was made for, when it was made and how many were made. This is information never before available to collectors! If you would like to look through them, just click here: Osborne Coinage Company production records
I enjoy hearing from other collectors or curious web browsers. Click on my name below to send me an e-mail.
You can post your comments or questions here on my web page.
Just click here to leave a note in my New Guestbook.
Or check out the messages that other visitor's have left: View New Guestbook
Unfortunately my old guest book died, but you can still view the entries here: View Old Guestbook
Encased collectors should consider joining Encased Coins International. ECI membership is free! ECI is where encased collectors and researchers meet to ask questions, share new discoveries, learn, and have fun. The club is internet-based. The web site is a living document, continually growing. I hope you will consider joining.
Visit Rod Sell's page with many other pictures of encased coins, including many encased foreign coins. Learn about bi-metallic coins at his page for the Worldwide Bi-Metallic Collectors Club. Check it out - there are many neat pieces pictured here.
Visit a fellow collector's web page: Ken Humberston's page.
Visit Rich Hartzog's web page. He has a very active list of encased coins and other interesting items for sale: Rich Hartzog's page.
Glyn Farber's web page is all about Louisiana encased coins: Louisiana encased.
You can see the latest pieces I designed for Elaine Rexdale at this page. Look for the Encased Coins link on the left side: Rexdale Publishing
people have visited this page since 7/20/97.(Last updated on 9/5/2009)