In 1973, the price of minting a United States one-cent penny neared a value equal to the value of the coin itself. This created a crisis at the US Mint because they were going to take a heavy loss on minting pennies. They tried to develop alloys using alternative metals, such as reviving the steel penny, but their efforts were rejected by Congress, and the value of the copper-zinc alloy had declined from the 1973 highs.
Pennies in hiding
The effect of this was that there were few copper-zinc pennies minted for 1974, and a shortage ensued in the late spring and summer of 1974. The United States Mint made an appeal for pennies to be returned into circulation. The Mint estimated that 30 billion pennies were “in hiding” – in shoeboxes, jars, and various other places. Once such instance would be fountains in malls and parks.
Hersheypark had a number of fountains and small pools that were constructed in 1973 for the Grand Concourse region where Tram Circle is located (this region was effectively merged with Tudor Square in 1974, except for Tram Circle). People attending the park would frequently toss pennies into these pools.
Because of the shortage, Hersheypark chose to help the Mint by having employees had to shovel out the pennies so they could be put back into circulation.
In June 1974, a photographer for the Associated Press got a few photos of Jessie Gladfelter and Carol Stambaugh shoveling coins into buckets. The photos were then distributed through AP Wirephoto and featured in many newspapers across the country.
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I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks on my website, The Amusement Parkives, which I founded in 2016.