Introduction: Coin Buttons

Picture of Coin Buttons

I did another instructable where I made conchos and snaps with quarters.
The feedback was very positive, and led me to do another one with just buttons. I made buttons out of Quarters, Dimes, Nickels, and Pennies. Even new pennies, post 1960's in which there is a lot of zinc.

The key is to go slow and dome they pennies out slowly.

Step 1: Dome It Out and Add the Post

Picture of Dome It Out and Add the Post

Dome it out slowly. Working from a large radius block to the smaller.

When you have it where you want it. Drop a copper rivet (michaels/tandy) into the middle. Heat with a small propane/butane torch and then attach the post to the coin with some solder. Once it is cooled, it is time to shine it with a buffer will. You can also get a buffing wheel for a dremel.

Step 2: Flatten the Rivet

Picture of Flatten the Rivet

In order to make a button, the post has to have a hole in it for the thread to go through. I set the rivet and coin on the edge of the vise and hit it with a hammer and flat punch. This made a nice flat area for a hole to be drilled through it.

Step 3: Cut It and Drill

Picture of Cut It and Drill

I cut the rivet with a set of nippers and then drilled a 1/8 inch hole in the stem.



ironman0104 (author)2014-01-05

They look nice but it is still a Federal Offence to willfully damage US Coinage. I do not want you to get into trouble over this since you have a very nice intractable.

stevepauley (author)ironman01042016-11-20

wrong, not against the law to make rings out of coins. Trying to make a quarter into a half dollar is illegal. This is what the law is referring to trying to change from one denomination to another. If it is illegal, why can you get a mickey mouse stamped on a penny at disneyworld?

JamesW33 (author)ironman01042016-01-08

We have a similar law here in the UK, but ours refers specifically to removing metal from the coin (trimming the queen's head, or something like that). I'd expect most countries have a law about modifying currency, just depends if it's policed or not, I suppose.

docrjc (author)ironman01042014-05-24

Have you ever been to a museum, souvenir shop, or any touristy spot in America? Many of them have "Press a Penny" machines that turns your penny into a souvenir. If this were illegal, you wouldn't see those machines. I believe it falls under freedom of speech, (1st amendment) just as flag burning does.


cmacarthur (author)2014-01-06

In the United States, U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331 prohibits "the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage." The foregoing statute, however, does not prohibit the mutilation of coins, if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently, i.e., with the intention of creating counterfeit coinage or profiting from the base metal (the pre-1982 copper U.S. cent which, as of 2010, is worth more than one cent in the United States). -to all of you claiming this person is committing a federal offense. he is not, as what he is doing is not for the purpose of fraud. check your facts. if it was illegal to deface U.S. currency, then why do we have penny flatteners at virtually every zoo and tourist attraction in the country?

Jollyshi (author)cmacarthur2014-01-12

True that^

KROKKENOSTER (author)2014-01-07

I was told by my dad that the pennies in Rhodesia I talk of about 80 years ago had a hole in the middle to enable the Africans to be able to have their money on a string around their necks. One guy used one of these pennies as a washer to enable his car to reach the town fifty miles away. When he removed the penny, a cop spotted him for defacing a penny, it got dents. The following court case he was fined for defacing Government property The judge told him that the monetary buying value was his property but the coin itself belonged to the state! BE CAREFUL!! Make sure before you make this anvil and get fined using it

Newell_Jalynn (author)2014-01-05

who would come up with thus genuis ideaXD

lbrewer42 (author)2014-01-02

"Even new pennies, post 1960's in which there is a lot of zinc."

1982 was the first year the US started making copper coated zinc pennies. Normal penies and the copper plated were made in 1982. From then on they have all been "zincoln" pennies

Neat idea!

EmmettO (author)lbrewer422014-01-03

This is exactly what I was thinking. How could providing a device to mutilate coins on a production scale be legal if the act of operating them was illegal? It may have something in that the provider of the coin smasher does not do the work. The operator does and it's therefore on a small scale but that sounds silly to me. Then again, a lot of the legal system is, when taken absolutely literally, silly. It comes down to if anyone decides it's a good idea to prosecute.

You could probably sell these on ebay and as long as you weren't making tens of thousands of them, you'd be under the radar and therefore fine.

astein3 (author)EmmettO2014-01-04

The law prohibits fraud, not metal working... making a coin into a different coin is illegal; making a button into a coin is illegal; but making a coin into a button, not so much -- unless your planning to use it in some society where buttons are a means of exchange. here's what the law says (enphasis added):

18USC sec 331: "Whoever FRAUDULAENTLY alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned"

jlambert (author)2014-01-03

If making them for adding to a gift for someone, use mint dates from year they were born.

TallTrav (author)2014-01-03

I used to make buttons for police, fire and ambulance uniforms (as well as other kit). This is a great way to fancy up your gear (I'm going to let my Scouts have a go at it). You can eliminate the rivet and use a small metal ring (copper, brass, nickel silver). Just use an old slot screwdriver (or a small cold chisel) and a hammer, to make a line in the middle of the back of your button. It allows for easy alignment and adds strength to the soldered joint. Just make sure it's placed so the face of the button sits pretty. As far as solder is concerned, you can always get a "harder" type. I still have a bag of buttons from way back that some rookie (me) put the line on the back sideways. Keep at it!

dougbyte (author)2014-01-03

Way cool ible. thanks for posting

salishsilver (author)2014-01-02

you could also use electrical wire, 12 gauge and bend it into a coil around a nail, then nip or saw off single rings and solder those on. A lot less work. I make buttons similar to this and use easy or medium silver solder (I'm a silversmith).

seadraggin (author)salishsilver2014-01-03

I like it! I will give it a shot.

Will you explain how solder is categorized?

I was just using cheap electrical solder. I also have silver solder and silver wire.


salishsilver (author)seadraggin2014-01-03

There is a lot to solder. for lead (Pb) solder, there is acid core and rosin core, and solid. Acid core is used for things like radiators, plumbing and anything non-electronic. Rosin core is used mostly for electronics. Some lead solder has a small amount of silver in it to add strength for higher pressure applications. Silver solder like I use for jewelry comes in extra-easy, Easy, Medium and hard. Those names have to to with melting temperatures. Extra easy melts at 1145F through to hard melting at 1365F, with flow temperatures above those I listed. Silver solder like this is classified as brazing. Other than jewelry I soldered circuit cards by hand for about 5 years in my hinter days.

seadraggin (author)salishsilver2014-01-03

Awesome info. Thank you so much!

gstephens1 (author)2014-01-03

Ever since I was a kid, I remember seeing the machines that allow you to put in a penny and a quarter. The machine would smash the penny and imprint some design on it. I still have a couple of the souvenirs somewhere, and I have seen such a machine locally in the last year. I think making buttons is fine.

Not to mention AWESOME!

drice7 (author)2014-01-01

Very cool buttons, but it got me thinking. Isn't it illegal to destroy money (even if you are adding value through asthestics)? That got me thinking even more. Would you say that these buttons increase the barter value of whatever they are attached to (for when the shtf, and money devalues, leaving us with bartering as the new legal tender)? Im just sayin'.

Lambert98 (author)drice72014-01-01

As Istember said, the law only applies if you attempt to make a profit from your work or in any way alter the value. I melt pennies for their zinc constantly, which I use in sand casting, but due to my source of metal, I cannot sell my creations.

ManifoldSky (author)Lambert982014-01-02

It is NOT illegal to alter a coin to make a profit.

wrksnfx (author)ManifoldSky2014-01-02

ManifoldSky (author)wrksnfx2014-01-03

First, that statue applies to paper currency, NOT coins, and is therefore not applicable. The relevant statue for coinage is 18 U.S.C. § 331, that refers to a party who "fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States" etc.. There is no attempt here to make the denomination of the coin different, or confuse people as to its value. So again, there is NO law making altering coins illegal, and as such, this instructable is perfectly legal. As for the bank notes that ARE mentioned in 18 U.S.C. § 333, this statute discusses "whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System,with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both."
Again, the key is intent. If you INDEND your actions to render the bill unreissueable, you might run afoul of the law (though first amendment claims would trump any such U.S. statute). If such action renders the bill unreissueable only as a byproduct of said action, this statue does not apply. In fact, the case law shows only one time in the history of the U.S. where this statue was even attempted to be enforced, namely Keese v. Zerbst, 88 F.2d 795 (C.C.A. Kan., 1937).
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that certiorari be denied 57 S.Ct. 933 (1937).
Here, the defendant had been convicted of a forgery offense, and attempted to argue that he should only have been convicted of defacing currency. As indicated by "certiorari denied", the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and the Kansas court decision stood as rendered. So even in this case, 18 U.S.C. § 333 was not really applied.
The net result of all this is that, again, there is nothing illegal about altering coins for artistic or other such purposes, and only limited liability for the similar alteration of paper currency.

snoopindaweb (author)drice72014-01-02

Happy and Healthy 2014 drice7, I seen another instructable where the aurthor contacted the National Treasurey. He was told that if procedures rendered the money unuseable like encaseing in plastic, all was good. He even gave the person's contact information at the Treasury. I forget.

lstember (author)drice72014-01-01

It is illegal to alter money in the attempt to change the value, bleaching or whatever they do for counterfeiting a $5 bill to make a $100 bill. It is not illegal to alter/destroy money if not altering to change the value as a bill/money.

McChungy (author)2014-01-02

awesome post!

just a question though, does the solder actually provide a permanent hold? from my experience they are relatively soft ..

seadraggin (author)McChungy2014-01-02

I haven't done any tests on them, but they sure seem pretty solid. I held them by the stem and buffed them on a wheel was some force with no issue.

ac-dc (author)McChungy2014-01-02

Of course it does, solder is not actually very soft at all compared to plastics used in buttons or the clothing material itself. It's a button not a hammer.

ac-dc (author)2014-01-02

You left out step 4 which is chamfer and polish the hole you drilled. Otherwise the sharp edges on the hole will wear through your thread sooner than it ought to.

tauhid (author)2014-01-02

I prefer drill the stem first, then cut it later.

billbillt (author)2014-01-02

great idea..

lime3D (author)2014-01-02

This is totally legal. I wish folks would stop saying it is illegal, every time someone makes a work of art, using a coin! Question. .. would it be easier to put the hole in the rivet before attaching to the coin?

seadraggin (author)lime3D2014-01-02

The coin actually have me something to hold on to, but it certainly could have been drilled first. Cheers.

arpruss (author)2014-01-02

I am not a lawyer, but I looked carefully at the US Mint's rules a couple of years ago. Those restrictions forbid exporting, destroying or defacing pennies and nickels for their raw metal value (no restrictions on other coins, besides the usual prohibitions on counterfeiting). But the Mint explicitly allows the use of small quantities (they don't give numbers) for artistic or educational purposes. The buttons sound like an artistic purpose to me as long as you don't make a significant business of it.

But melting them down for the raw metal would seem more problematic.

andrea biffi (author)2014-01-01


Dr. Gonville Farnsworth (author)2014-01-01

Very cool Instructable. These would also make great buttons for Renaissance/Medieval boots and other footwear. If you don't mind, where did you source the doming block? I have an account with Rio Grande and I reckon they have them there but wanted to ask first. Thanks and please, do share any further ideas like this with us.

They are available at harbor freight tools ( for 42 dollars. Pretty handy piece of kit.

tbarrett6 (author)2014-01-01

domeing the coins out would be easier if you annealed the coins first, that is heated to cherry red with torch to make them soft.

gcanders (author)2014-01-01

These look great! The copper pennies would be great button flys on jeans.

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