House & Home

Repurposed Money! How to Upcycle Old Coins

Posted July 30, 2014 3:35 a.m. EDT

Nowadays the Internet is full of bright ideas on how to save money by repurposing just about everything, from furniture to food containers. One type of tip we haven't seen so far, though, is how to upcycle cold hard cash itself. So without further ado, here are our suggestions on how to repurpose old coins for fun and profit.

1. Make money. Check your hoard in a rare coin catalog to see whether you have a treasure trove on your hands. Until you are sure that your coins have no exceptional value, take care to handle them gently and do not alter them in any way – avoid even polishing them for fear of causing damage to their monetary worth. Even if they are not sought after by collectors, old coins made with a high percentage of real silver or copper – or gold, of course – generally have some value due to their metal content. No-longer-used coins normally may be exchanged at a bank for some time after being taken out of circulation.

2. Make jewelry. Upcycle especially attractive coins such as the US wheat cent or the large UK Britannia penny into earrings, bolo tie slides, cufflinks or rings. For a gorgeous bracelet, use all one type of coin … or mix and match different colors and sizes. Coins decorated with a striking silhouette (the disused Canadian caribou quarter, for example) may be cut out with a jeweler's saw in order to craft elegant pendants. A collection of lightweight coins like pre-Euro pennia from Finland can form a dramatic bib necklace.

3. Make noise. Put a few coins into an old oatmeal can with a reusable lid. Give to a rambunctious young child …at your own risk and preferably outdoors! For a gentler jingle, assemble wind chimes out of old coins; those with a hole in the center are simplest to work with. Or tie some to the ends of a silky scarf for your belly dance practice.

4. Make it stick. Attach beautiful coins to magnets for your fridge or to drawer pulls with adhesive. Alternatively, polish one impressive-looking specimen and stick it to a purchased brooch backing to make a dress-up "medal" for your favorite young hero. Adhering one stand-out dollar or drachma to a coin purse is a charming visual pun.

5. Make art. In large numbers, coins can be repurposed into eye-catching sculptures, installations or "paintings" which make use of the coins' variations in shades. Get inspired by Ann Carrington's Manhattan Mettle, a stunning mixed media work depicting the Manhattan skyline by night with the help of dollars and dimes, along with such diverse metal objects as wrenches, pins and subway tokens.

6. Make it homey. In recent years, pennies and nickels have become popular as an element in home décor. Both do-it-yourselfers and professionals may invest hours in super gluing coins to floors, kitchen counters, backsplashes, or bars. Premade penny tiles are also available, though a Wall Street banker might want something a little more upscale for his or her New York flooring. These surfaces would be the perfect partners to the exciting chairs, sofas, and benches constructed from coins by sculptor/welder Johnny Swing.

Laura Firszt writes for

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