Instant Winner Hall of Fame

Shell's Mr. President Coin Game, States of the Union, Famous Facts & Faces, Famous Americans, Man in Space, Hot Wheels Coin Game, Presidential Coin Game, Sunoco's Landmarks of America and Antique Car Coin promotional games all issued prize-winning game coins including Instant Winner tokens. All of them are elusive and many are quite rare.

Below are surviving examples of prize-winning medallions and tokens.



Instant Winner Coin

North Dakota, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 1).


Instant Winner Coin

Hawaii, Instant Winner Token, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 1).


Instant Winner Coin

New Mexico, Instant Winner Token, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 1).


Instant Winner Coin

Mississippi, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 1).


Instant Winner Coin

Montana, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 2).


Instant Winner Coin

Hawaii, Instant Winner Token, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 2).


Instant Winner Coin

North Dakota, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 2).


Instant Winner Coin

Alaska, Instant Winner Token, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 2).


Instant Winner Coin

Mississippi, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 2).


Instant Winner Coin

New Mexico, Instant Winner Token, Shell's States of the Union Coin Game (Version 2).


Instant Winner Coin

Mercury IV, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Man In Space Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Mercury VIII, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Man In Space Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Henry Clay, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Famous Americans Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Woodrow Wilson, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Famous Americans Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Franklin Discovering Electricity In Lightning, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Famous Facts and Faces Game.


Instant Winner Coin

The Telephone, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Famous Facts and Faces Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Einstein's Key To Atomic Energy, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Famous Facts and Faces Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Washington Crossing The Delaware, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Famous Facts and Faces Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Lincoln's Log Cabin, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Famous Facts and Faces Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Lotus 72, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Hot Wheels Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Mount Vernon, Instant Winner Token, Sunoco's Landmarks of America Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Stutz Bearcat, Instant Winner Token, Sunoco's Antique Car Coin - Series 1.
Heavy surface oxidation has ruined the appearance of this coin. Regardless, it is extremely rare.


Instant Winner Coin

Dodge Sedan, Instant Winner Token, Sunoco's Antique Car Coin - Series 1.


Instant Winner Coin

Cadillac Landaulet, Instant Winner Token, Sunoco's Antique Car Coin - Series 1.


Instant Winner Coin

Rickenbacker Sedan, Instant Winner Token, Sunoco's Antique Car Coin - Series 2.


Instant Winner Coin

Chrysler Six, Instant Winner Token, Sunoco's Antique Car Coin - Series 2.


Instant Winner Coin

Abraham Lincoln Silver Eagle Winner, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Presidential Coin Game (1992).
All instant winner tokens in this game were struck on nickel-silver planchets and over-printed with red paint.
This made them easily distinguishable from the regular game coins which were all struck on brass planchets.


Instant Winner Coin

George Washington Silver Eagle Winner, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Presidential Coin Game (1992).
All instant winner tokens in this game were struck on nickel-silver planchets and over-printed with red paint.
This made them easily distinguishable from the regular game coins which were all struck on brass planchets.


Instant Winner Coin

Rutherford B. Hayes, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Rutherford B. Hayes, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Chester A. Arthur, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Chester A. Arthur, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

"One Dollar" Shell Emblem, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.
This is the only coin in the series struck on a gold-tinted aluminum planchet. Extremely rare.


Instant Winner Coin

Herbert Hoover, Instant Winner Token, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.


Instant Winner Coin

Herbert Hoover, Prize-Winning Medallion, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.



Instant Winner Hall of Fame

The coins pictured above are prize-winning tokens and medallions from eleven different gas station game promotions that ran from 1968 to 1992. Each of these tokens and medallions could have been redeemed for cash or prizes in the games but, for various reasons, they were not redeemed. All unredeemed tokens are elusive and some are quite rare. All of the coins shown are aluminum except for the two Presidential Coin Game tokens which are nickel-silver.

How Many Exist?

The quantity of prize-winning tokens still in existence is unknown. Most were redeemed for prizes during the games and those are presumed to have been destroyed. For games that issued large quantities of prize-winning tokens (for example, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game) there may be thousands of unredeemed tokens still in existence. For games that issued relatively small quantities of prize tokens (for example, Shell's Hot Wheels Coin Game) there may be less than 100 pieces remaining.

If you have any prize tokens from any of the games, please contact me so I can add them to my census report. If you have tokens not pictured above, and you provide photos, I will be happy to add them to the Hall of Fame. These photos are intended to be a reference source for all collectors. Send email communications to me at this address: travelbug -at- billjamie.com.

The Franklin Mint Scratch

Many prize-winning and Instant Winner coins produced by The Franklin Mint have one or more heavy scratches on them; sometimes on the obverse, sometimes on the reverse and sometimes both. These scratches occurred at The Franklin Mint at the time of manufacture (after striking but before they were sealed in packets). Some of the scratches are quite heavy and most have left a gouge in the rim. The scratches are uniform; slightly curved and all appear to have been made with the same tool. I have not been able to determine the cause or purpose of these scratches. I'm certain that the scratches occurred at The Franklin Mint because I have seen these scratches on many tokens, in many collections all around the country. No other explanation can account for a uniform and predictable scratch.

These scratches do not appear on the common coins from the games, only on the prize-winning key coins. One possible explanation is that the prize-winning coins went through an additional counting or processing machine whereas the regular coins did not. This hypothetical machine perhaps had a metal ejection finger (or some other mechanical feature) that accidentally caused a scratch in the course of processing.

Another possible explanation - though less likely - is that The Franklin Mint intentionally scratched all the prize-winning coins. Oil company promotional games are serious business, with millions of dollars (and company reputation) at stake. Tight security is necessary and The Franklin Mint employed several security measures in the execution of the games they produced. For example, all the prize-winning and INSTANT WINNER coins had secret marks placed on their dies. Perhaps the scratches are just another control measure to identify an authentic prize coin. In my opinion the scratches are not intentional. I think they happened accidentally in the course of manufacture.

Secret Marks

Between 1968 and 1992, eleven different oil company promotional games used metal ‘coins’ as game pieces. In most of the games, the dies used to strike the prize-winning coins were intentionally prepared with secret marks and these marks can be seen on the coins. The marks provided a way for game officials to confirm the authenticity of genuine coins and detect counterfeit coins. Many different measures were used to help prevent cheating. Marking the dies was just one of them.

Coins made for games like Sunoco’s Antique Car Coin Game (1969) were susceptible to counterfeiting. It was possible to grind off the obverse half of one coin (for example, a Chrysler Six instant winner coin worth $1) then grind off the reverse half of a Packard Touring Car non-winning coin, then glue the two halves together to create a $2,500 prize-winning instant winner coin. To make it easy to detect such a counterfeit, the reverse die of the Packard Touring Car instant winner coin has a unique mark that shows on the coin. A counterfeiter would need to know about this mark - and successfully recreate it on the coin - in order to fool the game officials. The counterfeiter would also need to know about – and remove – the secret mark on the Chrysler Six coin. All instant winner coins have their own unique marks and it is unlikely that a counterfeiter would know which secret marks belonged on which coin.

Coins made for Shell’s Mr. President Coin Game (and others like it) were much harder to counterfeit because the obverse designs of the prize-winning coins were not used on non-winning coins. So, for example, in order to create a Warren G. Harding $5,000 prize-winning coin, the obverse design would need to be created by a counterfeiter from scratch. This is possible, but the counterfeiter would also need to know which secret marks belong on a Warren G. Harding coin and recreate them as well. It is unlikely that a counterfeiter would know which secret marks belong on a Warren G. Harding coin which made the marking of the dies both clever and effective.

Despite efforts to prevent it, cheating did occur during the games but usually not by customers playing the game or by counterfeiting. Cheating was mostly conducted by gas station owners and employees who found ways to detect the prize-winning coins without opening the protective wrapper, then cashing them in themselves.

If you study the images above you will be able to find many of the secret marks.

What Constitutes a Complete Set?

Mr. President Coin Game    (Shell Oil, 1968)

Thirty-nine different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Twenty-three are common* and sixteen are key prize winners. Of the sixteen keys, seven are shown above and two others should be obtainable. As for the remaining seven, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of thirty-two different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have twenty-nine in my collection and I am aware of a collector who has thirty. I am not aware of anyone who has more than thirty.

Famous Facts & Faces    (Shell Oil, 1968)

Thirty different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Twelve are common* and eighteen are key prize winners. Of the eighteen keys, five are shown above and five others should be obtainable. As for the remaining eight, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of twenty-two different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have seventeen in my collection and I am aware of a collector who has eighteen. I am not aware of anyone who has more than eighteen.

States of the Union (Version 1)    (Shell Oil, 1969)

Fifty different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Thirty-three are common* and seventeen are key prize winners. Of the seventeen keys, four are shown above and four others should be obtainable. As for the remaining nine, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of forty-one different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have thirty-seven in my collection and I am aware of a collector who has thirty-nine. I am not aware of anyone who has more than thirty-nine.

States of the Union (Version 2)    (Shell Oil, 1969)

Forty-six different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Twenty-nine are common* and seventeen are key prize winners. Of the seventeen keys, six are shown above and two others should be obtainable. As for the remaining nine, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of thirty-seven different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have thirty-five in my collection. I am not aware of anyone who has more than thirty-five.

Famous Americans Coin Game    (Shell Oil, 1968)

The quantity of different game pieces issued depends on your opinion of what an 'issue' is. The game board has spots for the twenty-four basic obverse designs so some would say there are twenty-four in a complete set. However, three major reverse designs were used, and the Lewis & Clark medallion has two major obverse varieties. There are also many minor varieties that show subtle design changes.

In my opinion, forty-eight different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Thirty-seven are common and eleven are key prize winners. Of the eleven keys, two are shown above and two others should be obtainable. As for the remaining seven, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of forty-one different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have thirty-eight in my collection and I am aware of a collector who has forty. I am not aware of anyone who has more than forty.

I have cataloged twenty-nine minor varieties in this series and there are probably more. The varieties were created when The Franklin Mint prepared new dies using redrawn obverse designs, or changed the position of the portraits in relation to the lettering. By numismatic standards, many of these varieties are significant enough to qualify as a separate issue. Therefore - counting the minor varieties - at least seventy-seven different game coins were produced.

Man in Space    (Shell Oil, 1969)

Twenty-six different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Fifteen are common and eleven are key prize winners. Of the eleven keys, two are shown above and four others should be obtainable. As for the remaining five, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of twenty-one different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have seventeen in my collection. I am not aware of anyone who has more than seventeen.

Hot Wheels Coin Game    (Shell Oil, 1972)

Fourteen different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Ten are common and four are key prize winners. Of the four keys, one is shown above and one other should be obtainable. As for the remaining two, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of twelve different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have eleven in my collection. I am not aware of anyone who has more than eleven.

Presidential Coin Game    (Shell Oil, 1992)

Fifteen different game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Eight are common (they were struck on brass planchets) and seven are key prize winners (they were struck on nickel-silver planchets). Of the seven keys, two are shown above and one other should be obtainable. As for the remaining four, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of eleven different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have ten in my collection. I am not aware of anyone who has more than ten.

Antique Car Coins - Series 1    (Sunoco, 1969)

Thirty-one different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Twenty-five are common and six are key prize winners. Of the six keys, three are shown above. As for the remaining three, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of twenty-eight different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have twenty-eight in my collection. I am not aware of anyone who has more than twenty-eight.

Antique Car Coins - Series 2    (Sunoco, 1969)

Thirty-one different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Twenty-five are common and six are key prize winners. Of the six keys, two are shown above and one other should be obtainable. As for the remaining three, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of twenty-eight different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have twenty-seven in my collection. I am not aware of anyone who has more than twenty-seven.

Landmarks of America    (Sunoco, 1969)

Twenty-four different aluminum game pieces were issued and that would constitute a complete set. Twenty are common and four are key prize winners. Of the four keys, one is shown above and one other should be obtainable. As for the remaining two, it is questionable whether they even exist.**  Therefore, a set of twenty-two different medallions may be the largest possible set that can be obtained. I have twenty in my collection and I am aware of a collector who has twenty-one. I am not aware of anyone who has more than twenty-one.

Varieties

To the question 'What constitutes a complete set?' treated above, only the basic designs were considered. However, The Franklin Mint produced multiple dies for many of the game pieces, and many of the dies exhibit minor design differences. This has created dozens of varieties of the game coins. Collectors may consider that a complete set should include one each of all the varieties. I will attempt to catalog the varieties as time permits. Three examples follow.


Oregon Varieties

Above: Two varieties of the Oregon medallion, Shell's States of the Union (Version 2).


Bell Varieties

Above: Two varieties of the Alexander Graham Bell medallion, Shell's Famous Facts and Faces.


Washington Varieties

Above: Three varieties of the George Washington medallion, Shell's Mr. President Coin Game.
Most presidents were minted with both narrow and wide field die varieties, where the distance between the
lettering and the rim varies slightly.

*Varieties exist. Some coins have multiple varieties with significant design changes.

**I've been searching for years and I have never seen one, heard of anyone possessing one, or found any reference to one ever being offered for sale. It is possible that they were all redeemed during the game and destroyed. That seems unlikely but until one is found, that hypothesis stands.

Questions and Comments are welcome. Send an email to me at this address: travelbug -at- billjamie.com.


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