How to Drill a Hole In a Coin

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The most common reason to drill a hole in a coin is to make it into jewelry. Coins collected from your travels can be turned into earrings or necklaces, allowing you to keep those memories close. Another popular option is to make a charm bracelet with coins that were minted in years that have personal significance to you. 

Drilling Holes in Coins

Holes in coins are simple to make with the right tools and technique. Use this guide to transform your spare change into craft supplies. 

Coins scattered from a jar
  1. Prepare your work area. Put down newspaper or cardboard. Take care to complete the entire drilling process over the protective covering. Drilling into coins generates metal shavings that can easily embed themselves in bare feet or your pet’s paws. By containing your drill area and cleaning up promptly, you can avoid a painful accident. 
  2. Insert an appropriate bit into the chuck of your drill. You can use a steel twist bit, the kind that you may have purchased in a set when you first got your drill. For easier drilling and a cleaner hole, consider bits made out of titanium. Drill a pilot hole to start with and enlarge the hole with successively larger bits until you reach your desired size. 
  3. Clamp the coin securely to your work surface. Attach the coin to something that you don’t mind drilling into, like a piece of scrap wood. As the bit exits the coin, you won’t be able to stop it fast enough to protect the surface it’s clamped to; so don’t use your dining room table, kitchen counter, or any family heirlooms. 
  4. Mark the intended hole on both sides of the coin. Place your mark at least ⅛ of an inch away from the edge of the coin. Drilling any closer risks perforating the edge of the coin and leaving you with a missing chunk instead of a hole. 
  5. Put on eye protection. Whenever you use a drill, there is a chance that the bit could break and become airborne. Broken drill bits can cause serious eye injuries, so protect yourself with goggles, glasses with side shields, or even a full-face shield. If your bit does break, here is the process for getting it out of the coin.
  6. Using a medium torque setting and medium speed, start drilling. Line the drill bit tip up with the mark you made in step three. Double check the directional toggle on your drill — the side that is pressed in should have an arrow pointing forward. Hold the drill at a 90 degree angle to the work surface. Apply gentle pressure to the back of the drill with both hands. Work the drill through the coin, stopping before you punch out from the other side. Back the bit out of the partial hole. 
  7. Flip the coin over and finish the hole by drilling into the other side. If you drill all the way through the coin from one side, your exit hole will be a mess, full of burrs and bulging. By flipping the coin over, you drive the cut pieces of metal inwards, against the coin. This reduces the risk of injury should the coin find its way into jewelry. Unclamp the coin and use sandpaper or a file to smooth any remaining rough spots. 
  8. Reset your work area. Carefully gather the metal shavings in the center of the cardboard or newspaper, and transport them to the trash. Use a vacuum on your work surface and the floor underneath to pick up any stray shavings or metal spirals. 

How to Make a Hole In a Pressed Penny

Many cultural attractions have a penny pressing machine on site. After feeding a coin into the machine, a series of cranks and gears stretches and flattens the penny into an oval shape. As a final step, it is imprinted with a design. These popular souvenirs don’t take up any room in your suitcase, so it’s easy to amass quite a collection. 

Person using a drill

The process detailed above will easily drill through pressed pennies. But if you don’t own a drill, or if your battery isn’t charged, don’t worry. You can create a hole with nothing more than a hammer and nail. 

  1. When you know how big you want the hole to be, look for a sharp nail of the same diameter. You can choose any of the many different types of nails.
  2. Mark the penny and clamp it to a scrap piece of wood that is longer than the nail.
  3. Hold the nail in place with your non-dominant hand and grasp the hammer firmly in the other. 
  4. Strike the head of the nail with the hammer, driving the nail through the penny and into the wood.
  5. Use the hammer’s claw to pry the nail out of the wood and free the pressed penny.
  6. Flip the coin over and use the hammer to soften any rough edges. You may need to poke the nail through from the opposite side to clean the hole. 

Is it Legal to Drill Holes in Coins?

It is legal to drill a hole in coins as long as you never attempt to use the currency again.  

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.” 

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According to the US Treasury Resource Center, “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.”

In other words, as long as your plans for the coin don’t include spending it, you can drill as many holes as you want. 

Conclusion

Drilling through coins is a quick and easy job, suitable for DIYers of all levels crafting jewelry and gifts. Protecting yourself from shavings is a high priority when drilling into metal. Use a clamp to secure the coin to an appropriate surface and drill at a medium speed with medium pressure.

Finish the hole from the other side to avoid jagged edges. Holes in thin or previously altered coins such as pressed pennies can be made using a hammer and nail. Drilling into coins is completely legal for any purpose other than fraud.

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.