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The truth about Pennies, is it illegal to deface pennies?

penny necklace and earrings

Elongate Penny necklace and earrings

There are many fun facts surrounding pennies. And since I make lots of jewelry with them, I thought it may be fun to start a series of blog articles examining them one by one.

The question I get asked most at shows, curiously usually by men, is if it's illegal to deface pennies?


Here is a statement from the US treasury:

"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."

penny earrings

penny earrings in ice enamel

I spent much time exploring this question, because 1- I was about to deface (literally) pounds of pennies, and 2- I am a goody two shoes, and the thought of breaking rules or laws hurts my belly. 

What I found is the information above, which sounds like unless I am making my pennies appear to be coins of a different value, I am within my legal rights.

I don't actually know where this idea of illegal defacing money  comes from. It's clearly a fact that floats around in the zeitgeist, because I wondered originally, and I do get the question at least once a show, but some quick google searches aren't bringing me any fact about it being illegal to deface money elsewhere. 
I do think that once upon a time I came to believe that defacing anything with the face of royalty on it would be considered illegal, which would thus extend to cois, but I am having trouble finding any facts on that, so maybe this is vintage fake news.

penny necklace

Penny necklace in marigold enamel 

Future questions I will cover in blog articles are:

- How do I curve my pennies?

- What dates can I request the pennies to show?

- What are pennies from heaven?

- Will this penny jewelry make me lucky?

 Feel free to comment with any additional penny questions you may have!

Shop all Penny jewelry here  

 


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