From retirement hobby to passion: Aiea man’s pressed pennies are tiny works of art

From retirement hobby to passion: Aiea man turns pennies into tiny works of art

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Michael Mochizuki has amassed a huge collection of pressed pennies.

"In my collection I probably have about 6,000 or 8,000," he said.

The technical term is elongated coins. They are one-cent pieces flattened by a machine that simultaneously squeezes and engraves an image into the coin.

“I learned from a website how to collect them, how to mount them and put them in binders, and which type of pennies to use because that matters,” he said.

Mochizuki also designs pressed pennies that are sought after by collectors. Since 2010, he’s created more than 300 different Hawaii-themed designs.

"I've done Hawaii statues, the historic Hawaiian railroad, I've done 20 different lighthouses and landmarks," he said.

Mochizuki takes photographs of places and things he wants to feature on a coin.

He sends them to a friend in Missouri who turns the photos into etchings and then presses the images onto pennies, a process called “rolling.”

Contrary to what some may think, elongating pennies isn’t considered defacing currency.

"If the intent is not to change the value or make it another coin you can use as money then it's not illegal," Mochizuiki said.

He’s also designed elongated pennies for fundraisers for the Hawaii Foobank, and relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey and the 2011 Japan tsunami.

His next design will commemorate the end of World War II. It will combine images of the USS Arizona and Battleship Missouri.

"I feel like I'm contributing to a hobby," he said. "When I'm long gone somebody's going to pick up one of my coins and say, 'What's the story behind this?'

Mochizuki, 68, retired from a career in retail management. Now he has a lot of time to turn one-cent pieces into tiny works of art.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.