The following are questions that I have been asked many times relating to coin ring-making and answers to them that I have compiled over the last few years:
1.) Are Coin Rings legal to make?
I often get asked if making a coin ring is against the law. While coins altered for the purpose of counterfeiting are illegal, as long as an altered coin is not being done so with the intent to counterfeit, then it is not illegal… at least in the United States. In essence, what you are doing is that you are turning a coin into a washer (by punching a hole into the center of the coin), and then changing the entire shape of the coin by forging it into a coin ring. The coin is now a piece of jewelry, or “wearable art”, as I like to call it.
Additionally, the following excerpt is taken directly from the US Department of the Treasury’s website regarding the topic, which you can go to directly by clicking here.
“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 and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.”
The key words in the statute above is “fraudulent intent”. If you altered a piece of US currency, and then knowingly attempted to use it to make a purchase or to represent it as something other than an altered coin, that would be fraudulent intent, and that is illegal. (An example of this illegal fraudulent intent would be altering a US $1.00 bill and attempting to pass it off as a $20.00 bill.)
For those who are still hesitant about making a coin ring in light of this concern, think about all of the hand-crank operated machines found at places like DisneyLand, The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, etc., where you place a US penny into it and flatten the coin which then presses it with the image of the location of where you are. If it was illegal to alter a coin in this manner thereby turning it into a souvenir, then those machines would not be around.
2.) Where is the best place to buy coins to make into coin rings?
This question comes up a lot. I always tell people to start making coin rings with the “change in your pocket”….. literally. Start with coins like clad quarters and half dollars, (your local bank will often have the JFK half dollars if you don’t have any). This gives you invaluable experience gained only through practice on the various techniques of coin-ring making and gets you familiar with the process, without worrying about making a mistake on a more expensive silver coin, for example.
As far as using 90% silver coins to make rings, a great place to start is to look up a local coin shop/dealer in your area to get some 90% silver coins. Talk to the owner of the shop; let them know what you’re looking for and why. It’s always good to have some type of report/connection with them.
Tell them that you want “junk” silver quarters/half dollars, etc. Many shop owners will let you pick through what they have, and you’ll mostly only be paying what the metal content, or “melt value” of the silver coins are worth; as junk silver coins will not contain any numismatic value. It’s best to stay away from coins that have “numismatic” value; (or value based on factors such as overall condition and amount minted) at least when first starting out.
You can also look on eBay for coins, but I recommend going to any of a number of online sites to first determine what the general values of the coins are before buying them.
The “Official Red Book” of Coin Values is a great resource for knowing the numismatic value of specific coins: https://www.whitman.com/redbook
You can also go to: http://www.CoinFlation.com …. this website will give you an up-to-date pricing on the “melt values” of various coins based on their weight and metal content.
Knowing the basics about coin values and specific metal content will help you tremendously as you begin and continue to make coin rings!