Is it illegal to make jewelry out of coins?

Posted by Shawn Hall on

A coin ring is made from a REAL coin. We use all genuine coins from pennies to silver dollars. There is no soldering and we do not melt the coins down to create the ring. A series of specialized dies and tools are used to reshape the coin without affecting the original design of the coin.                                    
      This does lead to some common questions.
            "Isn't it illegal to make jewelry out of coins?" 
            "Can't you get in trouble for this to U.S. coins?" 
                       
      The answer is no: it is not illegal to make jewelry out of coins. It only becomes illegal if a person is attempting to fraudulently alter the coin. Consider the penny smashing machine at national parks and many other government and public attractions.
                                           
     
      U.S. Code is 18 U.S.C. §331 reads: “Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled or lightened – shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
     Still sounds questionable doesn't it?
     The U.S. Mint website clears this up: Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who ‘fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States. This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin in order to fraudulently represent it as any coin other than what it is. The U.S. Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity without fraudulent intent. (Source U.S. Mint)
A Great example of this is the 1883 no cents nickel. This coin and the 5$ gold coin had the same exact design which made fraud quite easy. People were taking the standard nickels, plating them in gold, and passing them off as $5 gold coins. This is obviously fraud and definitely illegal. However, if somebody had taken those same nickles and made jewelry out of them, that would not break any laws because it was not claiming to be something it wasn't. When I take a silver dollar and turn that into a silver dollar ring, I am not trying to convince you that it is anything other than what it it is. All I have done is changed its form.