So on reddit today I saw this quarter that was artistically carved and made into a necklace/medallion. I've also seen people that create rings out of quarters and not to mention those penny-pressing souvenir machines in many places... which led me to ponder whether this was illegal as many people claim and point to USC 18 Section 331 or thereabouts...

USC 18 Section 331 starts with:

Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins...

(emphasis mine)

I'm not a lawyer, but I've always thought this meant that it was illegal to alter or deface currency only if there was intend to defraud with such "altered" currency? Is my interpretation correct? now I'm not quite sure, since I recall that recently Obama pardoned a person convicted of "mutilation of coins"...?

1 Answer 1


You seem to doubt your interpretation of the law because you assume that the guy was convicted in the absence of fraud. In fact, that is not the case.

He was convicted of cutting pennies down to the size of dimes so he could use them in vending machines. The conviction therefore confirms your interpretation of the law rather than calling it onto doubt.

  • Great, thanks, yeah I should have researched into that case more! Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 20:34

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