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coin modifying laws? Answered

so my friends and I are planning to sell, well...things (I'm not going to give out any details as of now, later) that incorporate small round metal disks. now in all of our prototypes weve used coins for our purposes and they work great. but for what we make we need to cut and sand coins in different ways. and my friends always tell me "its illegal to change money in any way." But I've heard that its only illegal to modify money to change or duplicate the amount its worth - like making a penny into a dime is illegal but making a penny pac man figure isnt. can anyone clarify this for me? I'm fine doing illegal things like modifying coins for personal use but if were going to sell these I want to be a little more clear as to what is going on.



8 years ago

Does anyone know where I can get one of these presses/machines?...flattens a penny coin and stamps a design on it?

True...however...trying to find a 'used' one seems impossible.
I figure if I can locate the manufacturer I'd at least be able to get one.

I use to see these machines at old Carny booths and midways at Fairs...but haven't been to a County Fair in decades.

How about ebay? 

Thanks Zac...appreciate the quick response. Was hoping to locate manufacturer source.

Ah, I see; I'm not much help when it comes to that...

It's funny how lots of people use that nickname for me... 

Thanks again for your response...most folks wouldn't have gone that far.

"It's funny how lots of people use that nickname for me..."

Well...Great Minds think Alike. :-)

Although your photo is dark without much detail...you look like you could be a Professional Magician.

Thanks again m'friend...Take care.

~ ED

Assuming that you're from the U.S - Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 17, Sec. 331 states the following: 

        "Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs,diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined atthe mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by lawmade current or are in actual use or circulation as money within theUnited States; or Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells,or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the UnitedStates, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced,mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened--Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than fiveyears, or both."

It looks like you can alter the coins unless you do so fraudently. Then again, I'm not a lawyer, so I'd recommend contacting the U.S. Mint.

It used to be illegal in the UK, but now (as long as you aren't turning it into another denomination) it isn't, which is why we now have a rash of coin-mangling machines at tourist venues - you put in a penny and a 50p piece and turn a big handle.

It keeps the 50p, and gives you the penny back, squished into an oval with the venue's logo stamped in it.

I think, basically, as long as you can't mistake it for legitimate currency afterwards, you're OK.

For instance, Here on Instructables, and the fishing lure in Make 13 made of a few pennies, linked with wire.

thats what I originally thought. and we have those penny stampers in the US too - and I think theyre everywhere, because I've never been to a country without seeing at least one. anyway thanks for all the replies, were both pretty confident that were not going to get arrested, which is good because underground trade is a b***h. :D

. Why not go straight to the source? US Treasury's web site. Click on "Contact Us". If they don't know, who will?


10 years ago

This isn't the reply you want: but I find it slightly humorous

-Something is only illegal if you're caught.

It's illegal to try and spend a modified coin, and, until the price of copper and zinc goes down, illegal to melt them down for metal or export more than $5 worth (US mint special rules). Other than that, it's legal to use small amounts-your problem would be that you aren't using the coins as some form of art (as in you can still see that they are coins), you are using them as metal which, if someone WAS watching, could be considered a form of smelting.

For personal use, you are okay. As long as you do not modify a penny and claim it is a dime, and then go sell it. In my feeling, if you are making "coin art", you should be perfectly fine. Sometimes online coin dealers may modify coins and claim they are an Error/Variety to raise its value. Sadly, users on eBay fall in to this trap and lose lots of money.

You know those machines that flatten pennies and imprint a picture on them? That's modifying money, so I suppose it isn't illegal. So you may want to tell your friend about those.

actually ive heard that those are illegal. but its only illegal if u use pennies over 1960 or something like that????? i could be completely wrong but thats just what i hear

actually, there is complicated legal jargen plastered on those machines on why they're legal. I've read it before, but i understood little of it.

You've a good point sunbanks, every museum in this country has dozens of penny squishers, and I haven't heard of a single docent or curator being arrested.

I think it's legal as long as you don't melt down the coin and sell it for the metal, for the metal in pennies are worth more than 1 cent.

. According to the guy here, it IS illegal. I made a quick search at usmint.gov and treasury.gov, but didn't see anything (I would have thought that would be near the top of the FAQs, but no mention).
. Googling "defacing coins" brings up a lot of hits.

ok thanks for all the replies. since I dont live in canada, I'm pretty confident anything we decide to do will be legal (at least in the modifying coins sense) I'll post back here when our designs are finished. okay maybe not right here, but somewhere on instructables/a place where you can find it easily.

it's illegal in canada, its defined as destuction of government property, big fines

you're aloud, the US stopped backing up the US money with gold and silver and that stuff. I learned that from the half dollar ring podcast ;)