If you’re a coin collector you have likely ran across a few cut out coins at one point or another. Depending on your views, it can either be frustrating that the coin got ‘ruined’ or you might see it as an exciting and beautiful piece of art. Carving into, cutting up, clipping, and generally changing a coin has been done in several ways for centuries. With our modern technology this more precise type of cut out coin has definitely gained popularity.
The cut coin is a dramatic and beautiful way to turn coins into jewelry and works of art. The background of the of the coin is typically cut away, leaving the stamped figure floating inside the outer rim of the coin. Even small, common coins can be made into pendants, earrings, or cuff links. While the technique is simple, it takes a lot of practice to perfect.
Two of the most popular ways to create these cut out coins is with a scroll saw or with a jeweler’s saw. The jeweler’s saw is a bit more traditional and is a delicate saw with an adjustable frame. Typically a carver will choose a coin with a well-defined, smooth-edged image, like a head or profile to start. Then, drill small holes in the background portion of the coin, using a drill bit and place the holes near the center of the area that is to be removed.
A carver would then insert the jeweler’s saw into one of the pre-drilled holes, using the saw to carve away the background material around the figure. And leaving the top edge of the figure attached to the rim. Lastly a coat of clear acrylic is applied to the coin to protect it and give it a luster. While seemingly simple this is an art that can take years to master and gets more difficult depending on the coin one wishes to cut out.
The second method, uses a scroll saw, a precise electric saw. While the method is very similar to the jeweler’s saw is takes a completely different practiced skill set. Just like before, the carver will start by drilling small holes into the coin. From there, the coin is smoothly moved along the pattern with the scroll saw. Once finished, the coin is dropped in a jar of acetone.
Every cut out coin takes hours of precision and dedication to the art of creating the cut out. If you’re interested in pursuing this art or owning a coin of your own — don’t worry it is not illegal! They do not violate any U.S. statute provided that the alteration to the coin is not done with fraudulent intent. Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States. This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is.
While one can hope that carver’s won’t carve an incredibly rare coin or verity, bar those possibilities it is hard not to admit that cut out coins are beautiful works of art.