We’ve all been there before – digging through our pockets or wallet for exact change to get a snack or drink from a vending machine. You finally scrounge up enough quarters, dimes, and nickels, but all you have left are some pennies.

Can you use pennies in a vending machine or do they not accept those bronze beauties? If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: most vending machines in the US do not accept pennies as payment due to their low value.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about using pennies in vending machines. We’ll look at the history of penny usage, examine reasons why most machines don’t take them, review exceptions where pennies are accepted, and provide tips for penny-less vending machine users.

A Brief History of Pennies and Vending Machines

Vending machines have become a common sight in modern society, offering convenience and quick access to a wide range of products. But have you ever wondered if these machines accept pennies as payment?

To answer this question, it is important to delve into the history of both pennies and vending machines.

The Introduction of the Penny in the U.S.

The penny, also known as a one-cent coin, has a long history in the United States. It was first minted in 1793, making it one of the oldest coins in circulation. The penny has gone through various design changes over the years, with notable figures such as Abraham Lincoln gracing its obverse side.

In the early days of the penny, vending machines were not as prevalent as they are today. Instead, coins were primarily used in everyday transactions, and pennies played a vital role in making small purchases affordable for the average person.

From buying candy to using payphones, pennies were a common form of currency for many decades.

The Rise of Vending Machines in the Early 20th Century

Vending machines, on the other hand, experienced a significant boom in popularity during the early 20th century. These machines offered a convenient way to purchase goods without the need for human intervention.

The first vending machines were primarily used to dispense simple products like gum and cigarettes.

As vending machines continued to evolve, they began to accept a wider range of coins, including pennies. However, it’s important to note that not all vending machines accept pennies as payment. Many modern machines are equipped with advanced coin recognition technology, which may reject pennies due to their low value.

It is worth mentioning that some older vending machines, particularly those that have not been updated or retrofitted, may still accept pennies. However, these machines are becoming increasingly rare as technology advances.

To determine whether a particular vending machine accepts pennies, it is best to look for signs or instructions near the coin slot. These will typically indicate which coins are accepted as payment. If pennies are not accepted, alternative payment methods such as bills, credit cards, or mobile payments may be available.

Why Most Vending Machines Don’t Accept Pennies

When it comes to using pennies in vending machines, you may have noticed that many of them do not accept this small denomination of currency. There are several reasons why vending machines are designed this way.

Pennies Have a Very Low Monetary Value

One of the main reasons why vending machines don’t accept pennies is because they have a very low monetary value. In fact, the cost of producing a penny is often more than its actual worth. According to the United States Mint, it costs approximately 1.99 cents to make a single penny.

Due to this low value, vending machines prefer to focus on accepting higher denomination coins, such as nickels, dimes, and quarters, which are more practical for transactions.

Counting and Storing Pennies is Inconvenient

Another reason why vending machines avoid accepting pennies is because counting and storing them can be quite inconvenient. Pennies tend to accumulate in large quantities, taking up space and requiring frequent emptying of the coin receptacle.

This can lead to increased maintenance and servicing costs for vending machine operators. By only accepting higher denomination coins, vending machines can minimize the need for frequent emptying and reduce operational complexities.

Pennies Jam Machines and Slow Transactions

Pennies are notorious for causing vending machine jams and slowing down transactions. Due to their small size and weight, pennies can easily get stuck in the machine’s mechanisms, obstructing the smooth operation of the vending process.

This not only frustrates customers but also leads to downtime for the machine and additional maintenance requirements. To ensure a seamless and efficient user experience, vending machines often exclude pennies from their accepted currency options.

Exceptions: Types of Vending Machines that Take Pennies

While it’s true that most vending machines do not accept pennies, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Let’s take a look at some types of vending machines that do accept these small but valuable coins.

Penny Press Souvenir Machines

If you’ve ever visited a tourist attraction or theme park, you may have come across a penny press souvenir machine. These machines allow you to transform your pennies into unique and personalized souvenirs. Simply insert your penny, along with a small fee, and choose a design.

The machine will then press the penny, imprinting it with the chosen design, creating a one-of-a-kind keepsake.

Coin-Counting Kiosks

Another type of vending machine that accepts pennies is the coin-counting kiosk. These machines are often found in supermarkets or banks and are designed to help people count and exchange their loose change for cash or gift cards.

While these kiosks accept a variety of coins, including pennies, they may charge a small fee for their services.

Some Gumball Machines and Arcade Games

Believe it or not, there are also certain gumball machines and arcade games that still accept pennies. These nostalgic machines can be found in arcades, amusement parks, or even some local businesses. While the use of pennies in these machines may be limited, it can be a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy some old-fashioned entertainment.

It’s important to note that the availability of vending machines that accept pennies may vary depending on your location. If you’re unsure whether a particular vending machine accepts pennies, it’s always best to check the machine’s instructions or ask an attendant for assistance.

Additionally, as pennies continue to be phased out in some countries, the number of vending machines that accept them may decrease over time.

Tips for Penny-less Vending Machine Users

If you find yourself without any pennies and need to use a vending machine, don’t worry! There are several tips and tricks you can use to still get your favorite snacks or drinks. Here are some helpful suggestions:

Carry Other Coins and Cash

One simple solution is to always carry a variety of coins and cash with you. While pennies may not be accepted, most vending machines still accept other denominations such as nickels, dimes, and quarters. By having a mix of different coins, you can easily make a purchase without any hassle.

Look for Card Readers

In recent years, many vending machines have started accepting debit or credit cards. Instead of relying on loose change, you can simply swipe your card to make a purchase. This option is not only convenient but also eliminates the need to worry about carrying exact change.

According to a study conducted by Vending Market Watch, around 42% of vending machines in the United States now have card readers, making it easier than ever to buy your favorite snacks and drinks.

Ask for Change

If you’re in a location where there are no alternatives available, don’t hesitate to ask for change. Chances are that someone nearby may be able to assist you. Whether it’s a friend, coworker, or even a stranger, most people are willing to help out when it comes to small change for a vending machine.

Remember, while pennies may not be accepted in most vending machines, there are still plenty of options available to make your purchase. By carrying a mix of coins, using card readers, or simply asking for change, you can enjoy your favorite snacks or drinks without any penny-related worries!


While most standard vending machines do not accept pennies as payment due to their low value and inconvenience, there are some exceptions like penny presses, coin counters, and certain arcade games that rely on pennies.

Your best bet when hitting up a vending machine is to carry plenty of quarters, dimes, nickels and even dollar bills and cards if available. But if you happen to be loaded with pennies and see a machine that takes them, drop that bronze in for a nostalgic treat.

Vending machines have come a long way since their invention over a hundred years ago, but pennies have remained largely unchanged – and undesired by most coin-operated dispensers. Hopefully this guide has helped shed light on the penny predicament and provided useful tips for navigating vending machines penny-less.

So next time you have a bunch of copper Lincoln heads weighting down your pockets, try exchanging them for silver and profiting from this penny wisdom!

Similar Posts