Is It Illegal to Deface Pennies For Jewelry?

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.

enameled penny post

The question I get asked most at shows is if it's illegal to deface pennies for my jewelry? In this blog post, I will explore whether it is illegal to enamel pennies to make jewelry with.

Enameled penny charm necklace

First and foremost, it is important to note that defacing currency is illegal in the United States. According to Title 18, Section 331 of the United States Code, it is a federal offense to "mutilate, cut, deface, disfigure, or perforate, or unite or cement together, or do any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued."

back of enameled penny charm necklace

Pennies are considered currency and are subject to the same laws as other forms of currency. Therefore, it is technically illegal to deface a penny by enameling it to make jewelry with. However, the key issue is intent. If you are defacing pennies with the intent to make them unfit to be reissued, then you are breaking the law.

enameled penny earrings on card

On the other hand, if you are enameling pennies for artistic purposes and have no intention of making them unfit to be reissued, then you are not breaking the law. In fact, the U.S. Mint has stated that it is legal to alter coins for educational, artistic, novelty, and amusement purposes as long as the coins are not used fraudulently.

enameled penny earrings

In conclusion, since I am enameling pennies for artistic purposes and have no intention of making them unfit to be reissued, then I am not breaking the law. So you can buy and wear my enameled penny jewelry with a clean conscience.


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?

- Why are pennies associated with luck?

- Will this penny jewelry make me lucky?

enameled penny post stud earrings
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1 comment

I have a family member who works at the US mint in Chicago and I asked him this question. He said it is in fact illegal to alter US coins. How much trouble someone would get in depends on how they were altered and how many were altered. It would also obviously only happen if someone knew your name, and were able to report you. If it seems legit and you had defaced enough of them they most certainly would look into you and your business especially if you are selling the coins you altered. That’s where you get into more trouble apparently. Hope this helps.


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