These items have been manufactured by Italian entrepreneurs since the early 1900's for sale to tourists. Most of them come from the Mt. Vesuvius volcano region near Naples which last erupted in 1944. The lava coin pictured here may have been brought to America by a returning serviceman. Italian coin pressed into a piece of lava The coin is a Italy Bronze 5 centesimi 1919, about 19 mm in diameter The lava size is 2-1/2 x 2 x 1-1/2 inches (6.0 x 5.0 x 4.0 cm) and weighs 3 oz. (87 gm). An American friend gave me this interesting rock and asked me to identify it. It had to be made near an active volcano in a tourist area, and the most likely ones are Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. Etna in Italy. The volcano Mt. Vesuvius and the neighboring Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum are a famous attraction and are visited by thousands every year. The area has a large tourist industry including the manufacture and sale of souvenirs. Mt. Etna in Sicily has erupted many times and is also a tourist attraction. A man from Italy wrote me that there are lots souvenir shops near Mt. Etna selling lava pieces, but he did not see any with coins in them. A World War II soldier reported that a man was selling such items near the summit of Mt. Etna. Baedeker's Southern Italy and Sicily Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedekerm, published by Karl Baedeker, Publisher of Leipzig, Germany in 1912 has a statement about the volcano Mt. Vesuvius: "Of the Minerals ejected by the volcano, most of which are found in the older lava of Mte. Somma as well as in that ejected during later eruptions, about 50 species are at present known. A small box of specimens may be purchased for 1/2-1 fr., a piece of lava with a copper coin embedded in it for 1/4-1/2 fr." (A French franc was worth US 20 cents in 1912) At least two British museums have similar objects, the Cliffe Castle Museum and York Museum. A man from England wrote me that his World War II veteran grandfather brought a lava coin dated 1942 back from Italy, thus they were still being manufactured in or after 1942. I have seen only copper coins used in this way and always the coin side with the date is visible. More about the coin: The coin is a Italy Bronze 5 centesimi dated 1919 with a diameter of 19 mm. It is about the size of a United States cent. A similar coin with the same date: Italy 5 centesimi 1919 Bronze, 19 mm, 3.27 gm The other side of the rock: Lava piece back side Another example of lava coins from a different part of the world. In 1907 Martin Johnson (later the African explorer and filmmaker with Osa Johnson) hired on to the boat the Snark which was owned by writer Jack London and his wife Charmian. They sailed to the South Pacific and visited various islands. At one island, Upolu, a volcano was erupting. The crew members walked on dried lava and watched slow flows moving down the mountainside. Then they stuck coins onto the ends of sticks and dipped them into the lava to make souvenirs.