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Cartoon image of a captured prisoner

Is making coin rings legal? It sure is! The last thing I would want to do is something that would get me in trouble with the law. The specific law that addresses this topic can be found here: 18 USC Ch. 17: COINS AND CURRENCY (house.gov). I aim to create meaningful coin-related jewelry that can become unique keepsakes or gifts. They make wonderful conversation pieces and are just simply fascinating. The law comes into play for the illegal conversion of coins when it is done for fraudulent purposes. Imagine a scenario like this:

  • Someone takes a nickel and cuts little notches around the coin to make it look like it has a reeded edge. They take their new "nickel" and try to pass it off as if it was a quarter at their local candy store.

Does that sound a little far-fetched? In the late 19th century, some unscrupulous people were doing this precisely; only the nickel was gold plated and passed off as if it were a $5 gold coin! These fraudulent coins became known as "Racketeer Nickels." As you can imagine, this was quite illegal. You can read more about Racketeer Nickels here: Fact or Myth: Josh Tatum and Racketeer Nickels (coinweek.com).

What's an example of a legitimate alteration of coins? Well, one example would be an elongated coin, such as can be found at Theme Parks and even National Parks. This form of "Exonumia" (the study or collecting of numismatic items other than coins and paper money, including elongated coins) serves as a souvenir to remember the adventure. Another could be placing a coin on a train track to squish it. This is an instance where it's legal to squish your coin, but it's considered trespassing since the tracks belong to the railroad companies. Therefore, it's certainly not encouraged. I should point out that these laws are specific to the United States of America. Places like Canada and England don't allow the alteration of their coins in their countries unless you have a license to do so. The reason is that the coins, even though they may be in your possession, are technically the property of the King of England. 

There are other laws regarding the melting down of copper cents and nickels that I won't go into now, but suffice to say, I'll keep creating high-quality, coin-related jewelry. It's a tradition for the ages and a privilege and honor to make!    

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