Side Hustle #70: Making Rings and Jewelry Out of Coins!

by Guest Writer -

nickels made out of earings

*Featured Side Hustle*: Ride sharing companies like Uber have made it easier than ever for anyone to start a profitable side hustle. If you have a reasonable driving record, a smartphone, can pass a background check, and have access to a car that’s less than 10 years old, you could be making serious side income within minutes just by driving around your city!

Check out Side Hustle #52 to learn more about driving for ride sharing comanies like Uber and Lyft..

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[Okay guys, I think I finally found the PERFECT side hustle for us money nerds ;) Making money from money itself! Haha… The full circle of financial life! And here to amaze us with all his artsy wizardry, is Michael Bonard – founder of Money-Rings.com who shows us the ins and outs today. If you enjoy this, consider supporting his Kickstarter page so he can continue growing his business!]

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If you are like me and like to create things with your hands, then the path I kind of fell into might just be a possible side hustle for you.  

I never thought in a million years I would have a jewelry line.  I went to the Columbus College of Art and Design as a fine art (painting) major where I also focused in blown glass and ceramics which I consistently did for 12 years.  I had never worked with small metals before.

After years at a dead end job where my artistic abilities were undermined, I eventually became frustrated enough to actively go searching for more creative ways to make money. I thought about being a production glassblower focusing on ornaments, to starting to make my own chocolate where I had a great idea for custom molds they would be poured into, to even blown glass clocks!  I wasn’t giving up.

Then one day I attempted to make a ring out of a penny just to see if it would work.

It didn’t look pretty, but it definitely worked! And once I found out it wasn’t illegal*, I started planning my exit strategy and eventually quit my 9-5 within a year to focus exclusively on making rings and jewelry out of money. Which I’m proud to say I’m now doing full-time.

How Do You Make Rings Out of Coins?

hand made coin rings

Here are the abbreviated step to give you an idea.

What you need: space, tools, time and lots of patience.  Oh – and the best part – spare change! Right from your very own pockets :) Look for the coins that are in the best condition to set aside for this.

Okay, here we go..

First, make a hole in the center of the coin.

making hole in coin

A disc cutter and a mallet make it a lot easier than using a drill, but a good disc cutter can be expensive so use what you already have when first starting out.

Next, you need to heat or “anneal” the coin until it has a slight glow.

heating up coin for ring

Propane or mapp gas torches are fairly inexpensive, and the easiest way to heat them quickly (be careful of burning yourself though!).

This process enables you to manipulate the metal while keeping its integrity. It’s at this point you’re able to change the shape of the metal.

Have you ever used aluminum foil?  Well, it’s actually made from one solid ingot that’s run through a heated press over and over and over again until it’s stretched into one humongous roll. Pretty wild.

coin mallet process

To stretch the coin into a ring, the least expensive way to do it (and how I started out myself) was with a ring mandrel and a rawhide or plastic mallet (harder mallets will mark the coin).

Strike the coin repeatedly and as evenly as possible. Once it stretches a couple sizes, reheat the coin and repeat until you get the desired size.  Then, make sure to flip the coin around and hammer the walls in so the now top ridges are equal with the bottom.

coin ring process

At this point the cut part of the metal will still be rough, so you’ll then need to sand and bevel the edges so they’re smoother. Next, use a steel wool or Brillo pad to sand all the relief parts of the coin to bring out the shine and show off the lettering/designs of the coin.

You now have a ring you can wear, give away or sell!

And it’s at this point you determine how much more energy and money you want to pour into the trade, or if you’re okay just doing it as a fun hobby for family and friends. It takes a bit of work to produce a single coin, but there are ways of speeding up the process the more you practice and research, and of course the more you drop on fancier tools too ;)

You also get better results in the end:

state quarter rings

(The coins on the left are from the process we just went over, and the one on the right is with my current process after years (and literally 1,000+ hours) of working on my craft)

How Much Can You Earn Making Jewelry Out of Coins?

Okay – Let’s break down the numbers.  The popular state quarter ring sells anywhere from $20-$50+, depending on the quality of it and which person/retailer is selling it.  The amount of profit you take away will depend on how productive and inventive you can be with the process, but you’re looking at anywhere from $20-$100+ an hour, less the cost of resources and tools.

I built my business for wholesale when I started, but knew that I needed 4 revenue streams and one of those streams was retail through fairs and festivals. It is something that is definitely a hustle and a ton of work setting up and tearing down, but a typical 2 day festival was/is equivalent to a month at my old job. And sometimes it just takes one day!

Though the retail costs usually go up with the denomination of the coin, especially if it is made of silver, I still let the market (you) ultimately dictate the final price. I’ve created over 100 designs made from coins, many of which never made it to market because they ended up not working out visually or financially. It can get tough turning a hobby into a business, but you really have to hustle hard if you want it to work.

Speaking of downsides…

The Cons to This Gig

This goes for any business owner, but the biggies were having to sacrifice my hobbies, my art and my nights and weekends to make this work full-time.  Gary Vaynerchuk explains it well with his “stop binge watching house of cards” explanation

You can also seriously injure yourself!  I’ve had may fair share of cuts and burns over the years, but on one special occasion I almost chopped off my thumb while making earring displays with my table saw. Luckily my “Studio Assistant” was sleeping in my studio the whole time while I drove to the hospital to get stitched up.  I was unable to use my thumb for 2 weeks, and had to adapt fast to continue production for a festival the next week.

Another con: with sites like Pinterest, there is a lot of copyright violations going on. People start to think they can copy designs and sell it under their own name. Once you start shaping the metal into different and unique designs though, the creator of that design is the owner of it. I’ve had problems on my Instagram page where people would start to (try to) copy my earring designs and then use the same titles and copy descriptions of the products! Definitely a headache, and definitely a con to the business.

Other potential down sides:

  • If you end up developing methods similar to mine and do a lot of polishing, you can say goodbye to your hand modeling days…. Your nails are shot.
  • This doesn’t go for everybody, but I consistently created fine art for 12 years and making jewelry from coins is heavily frowned upon within the community. So be prepared to be shunned which can really suck big time.
  • And lastly, if you’re a coin collector (sorry J. Money!), it may be tough for you to punch a hole through such beautiful coins.

How You Can Get Started

Honestly, the best thing you can do is just that – get started! Try it out at home, and then follow it up with some good old fashion researching.

In fact, one night I remember working late in my studio and deciding to take a coffee break. When I jumped onto Youtube there was a trending video titled (if you can believe it) “How to Make a Ring out of a Quarter!” My stomach dropped! Partly because the process was very counter-productive, but also because I knew everyone would now want to start making quarter rings themselves to sell everywhere. I remember pulling two all-nighters that week to bump up my product designs to stay on top of my game.

So what I’m saying is that you don’t have to spend the countless hours of trial and error and coming up with new processes necessarily, because there’s a community out there you can already start learning from. I recommend trying out a number of processes as there are so many ways to get from point A to B in this industry. And maybe you will come up with an even better way!

In Summary

Though I never became the full-time artist I wanted to be, I have found a way to create things for a living and I’m having a blast expanding my jewelry line. I’ve put aside my other bodies of work to focus on Money-Rings exclusively, and I’m truly grateful for my current situation.

Give it a shot! You never know what can turn into a full-time hustle!

For those too impatient and want an even faster way of producing coin rings, you can use that numbered piece of plastic there in your pockets and visit www.money-rings.com :)

michael bonardi coin rings

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*If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me about the legality of doing this! I get that question so many times at big festivals that I have auto-response answers, some of which are pretty funny… So if you ever see me at a festival, ask that question and see which one you get :) But yes, the real answer is that it is illegal to deface currency if your intent is to fraud the government. An example would be turning a $5 bill into a $50 bill or a nickel into a quarter and passing it off.  Another example is shaving metal off of a coin to profit from the shavings, and then spending the shaved coin.  Ever wonder why ridges exist on coins?

Michael Bonardi has been crafting coins into unique jewelry for over four years. You can find his work at www.money-rings.com, as well as on Facebook and Instagram. Check out his Kickstarter page before it ends to support him and get some of his fantastic creations in return!

**For 69 other side hustle  ideas, click here**

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mustard Seed Money May 19, 2017 at 6:05 am

Awesome article!!!

My sister left her corporate gig to become a full time artist. She grinds everyday but she is so much happier than working a traditional 9-5. On top of that she has the flexibility to work from home and spend more time with her growing family.

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2 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Nice!! I read time and time again that it’s all about finding your *purpose*, and sounds like she has finally landed hers :) (Or at least finally took a chance on hers! Once and artist, always an artist, right?)

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3 Michael May 22, 2017 at 10:08 am

I love hearing this and will never tire from these stories. Once you do it you want to pay it forward too. There is a whole community of people out there too – I just got back from a festival and it is so awesome to feel that energy.

Please congratulate your sister for me :)

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4 My Sons Father May 19, 2017 at 6:20 am

Very cool! Looks like it requires are lot of patience, but the results are awesome. Love the creativity!

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5 Nicole May 19, 2017 at 7:22 am

Those look great! Thanks for sharing your story. I don’t have the patience, or the tools :)

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6 Miss Mazuma May 19, 2017 at 7:45 am

I literally woke up today thinking I should start making jewelry again and then I see this. Weird!! I have a specific idea in mind (not coin ring related or that would be REALLY weird!) and have to start gathering my tools. Jewelry is an AWESOME side hustle if you don’t mind some of the side effects. In my case, carpal tunnel and a less than exciting social life when working weekend festivals, but the money is good! And now with Etsy you don’t have to ht the fest circuit as hard…I hope. ;) Your work is amazing, Michael. Love the gallery!!

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7 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:13 pm

I WANT TO SEE THE JEWELRY YOU MAKE!!! I will be one of your customers even if you don’t make any men stuff! :)

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8 Miss Mazuma May 21, 2017 at 9:08 am

No pressure! ;) I totes “bought” a ring from Michael via his Kickstarter campaign. I NEVER buy jewelry so this is a big deal but I LOVE the product and it is rare that something speaks to me. So excited!!

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9 Michael May 22, 2017 at 10:14 am

Thank you Miss Mazuma!

Carpal tunnel is definitely a con :( especially if you are doing production. I try to limit the time I will spend on one particular step at a time and then try o figure out alternative methods that are not as bad for your hands, wrists and other parts of your body.

Maybe I’ll see you at a festival down the road!

Cheers!

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10 Budget on a Stick May 19, 2017 at 8:18 am

That is so crazy cool!

I really want to give it a try. Luckily for me i bet between my father-in-law and dad (who have massive amounts of tools) i could probably try it out with little money invested!

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11 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:13 pm

DO IT!!

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12 Money Under the Cushions May 19, 2017 at 8:22 am

Nice looking pieces! I’ve actually never seen these in person. I think it would be kind if cool to have one. Congrats on turning this into a business. Thanks for sharing!

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13 MMP May 19, 2017 at 8:38 am

Very unique! Love the rings. Thanks for sharing Michael’s story!

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14 Owen @ PlanEasy May 19, 2017 at 8:51 am

Very cool. Back in the day I built log furniture and handled the process from logging to manufacturing. Selling at festivals/art fairs was crazy. Sales in 1-2 days could easily cover a full month of minimum wage work. Lots of risk when starting your own art/craft business but if you can make ti work it’s well worth it.

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15 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Logging! You’re an official lumberjack!

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16 Owen @ PlanEasy May 26, 2017 at 8:10 am

Lol. Yup. I’m not 100% sure but I think that may have sealed the deal for my girlfriend, now wife ;)

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17 Michael May 22, 2017 at 10:20 am

Some people at festivals make crazy good money. If you do enough of them it is definitely 6 figures but tons of work. I daydream sometime of living somewhere warmer where it would be easy to do shows every weekend if I wanted to.

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18 Owen @ PlanEasy May 26, 2017 at 8:13 am

Oh absolutely. I met plenty of other vendors that did it full time. It is a bit if a lifestyle choice because you’re constantly travelling to the next show/festival. At one point I flirted with the idea of doing it full time (I did this during college and only in the summer) but it would take a ton of commitment and risk to turn it from a summer job into a full time business. Instead I took the easy/safe route and got a regular job after graduating.

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19 Joe May 19, 2017 at 9:02 am

That’s really awesome. I like it a lot. Thanks for answering the legal question too.

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20 ZJ Thorne May 19, 2017 at 9:14 am

These are beautiful! I appreciated seeing your process. (I love working with tools). It’s great that you found a way to make your passions work for you. Seems that flexibility has been key.

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21 Ms. Frugal Asian Finance May 19, 2017 at 9:14 am

Oh my, this sounds complicated to make (IMHO) but so cool! I’ve been thinking about opening an Etsy store, but my art skills are equivalent to those of a student in elementary school. Good luck with the business!

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22 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Hey – a lot of people appreciate that type of style! Just call it that – “elementary school style” so it looks on purpose, haha… I love art that looks like a kid’s done it, and half the time you have no idea whether they really did it or not! Art is interesting like that.

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23 The Savvy Couple May 19, 2017 at 9:20 am

What an amazing side hustle! A little creativity and hard work can change your life. Thanks for sharing =)

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24 Friendly Russian May 19, 2017 at 9:33 am

Interesting and very creative. And this rings look really awesome.

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25 Ty Roberts May 19, 2017 at 9:34 am

I love hearing about unique things like this. The end product looks great and it’s cool that you got to ditch your corporate gig to do something that’s more fulfilling.

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26 Paul May 19, 2017 at 9:47 am

Awesome stuff. Imagination and hard work always comes through. Kudos.Will be sending my wife to your website http://www.money-rings.com/
All the best with it.

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27 Mrs. Picky Pincher May 19, 2017 at 10:56 am

Neato Toledo! You really can make money on just about any talent you have. :)

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28 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Hah! Can’t say I’ve heard Neato Toledo before.

Tell me you live in Toledo so it’s even better?? :)

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29 Jody May 19, 2017 at 11:38 am

My dad did something like this in his childhood in the 40s using a silver dollar and an old teaspoon to beat the edges of the coin flatter and flatter. Then he’d drill a hole in the middle of the coin, put an old nail through it, and beat the nail to flatten out the inside of the coin/ring! It must have taken him forever, but it’s a similar idea. Very cool stuff!!

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30 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:20 pm

That is awesome! Does he still have it?

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31 Master Duke May 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

How cool, thanks for sharing!! I have a friend who does handmade jewelry, they love it!

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32 The Tepid Tamale May 19, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Those rings are really, really cool!

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33 Lily @ The Frugal Gene May 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Holy moly that’s awesome! I was looking for a ring for my husband that’s “untraditional” but still masculine. This is perfect!!! – I’m guessing this doesn’t have the ability to be resized does it? He might be in between size.

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34 Lily @ The Frugal Gene May 19, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Everything is sold out aw! Oh I forgot to add: wouldn’t rappers and the hip hop community love this?!

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35 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:22 pm

YEAH THEY WOULD!!

But they’d need *gold* coins to rock ;) Which I’m sure is even easier to manipulate as it’s much softer…

(Make sure to email Michael btw if you really want one – it says it’s all sold out but I’m sure he can hook you up!! It’s just temporary as he gets some shows ready and finishes out Kickstarter promotion stuff.)

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36 A A Rod May 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm

I’ve been collection coins since I was a kid and just turned 40 not long ago. I’ve been in banking for nearly 15 years too. In all this time I have collected coins from all over the world. I probably have $400 worth in Canadian coins alone. I think I need this side hustle.

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37 J. Money May 19, 2017 at 5:24 pm

That’s my dream as a coin collector myself – working in banking to scoop up all the gems! :)

You ever come across any morgan or peace dollars people turn in? Or even better – $500 or $1,000 bills?? I want those sooo bad, man. Such a cool (and valuable) part of history.

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38 A A Rod May 19, 2017 at 5:57 pm

I have seen three $500 and one $1,000 in my tenure. Supposedly Texas is the place to be if you want to get your hands on a $500 or $1,000. A lot of cattlemen use them as an ‘under the table’ medium of exchange for buying cattle and such. They are a close knit groups that swap around those bills from time to time.

We have a coin machine that counts and sorts coins for our members. Gems I’ve picked up over time have included a early 40’s German coin with the swastika on it, a Walking Liberty silver coin as well as other silver US coins. My most recent gem is a 1960s Canadian silver quarter with a Lynx on it. Google that coin. It’s pretty sweet looking.

As far as other paper money… I’ve picked up a few Silver certificates $1, $2 and $5 bills. Those are neat too.

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39 J. Money May 21, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Fascinating!!! I knew $1,000s were prominent back in the day for drug dealing, but never heard of cattlemen using them, haha… thanks for the insight.

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40 Phil @ PhilanthroCapitalist May 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm

This is SWEET. I think I’m going to give it a try.

I recently had a *FAILED* side-hustle (that I think could still work): delivering late-night coffee and donuts to kids studying for finals. Like InsomniaCookie, but for coffee. I printed out sweet flyers, bought everything, and was all ready to go (already had a vendor’s license bc of another small business).

Turns out that the KSU library gives away free coffee at the front desk.

Still, all I have to do is emphasize the “donuts” part. I think it’s still doable.

What’s the worst that happened, though? I eat donuts for the next few weeks and I stocked up heavily on coffee. Win/win, really.

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41 J. Money May 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Hah – love it! Plus people are lazy so if you were literally going around to where the people were and asking them (or better yet – wear a big funny sign!) I bet they’d still go through you vs the free place :)

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42 Mike Collins May 19, 2017 at 10:33 pm

The ring made with the state quarter looks totally bad-ass! Love it!

I’m surprised it isn’t illegal though. I thought there was some obscure law against defacing money, but then again I’ve seen those machines that crush pennies into souvenirs.

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43 Dividend Diplomats May 20, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Ha, very interesting, all those spare pennies could be really put to use : ) Very, very interesting.

-Lanny

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44 edward gonsch May 23, 2017 at 11:26 pm

Seems kinda vulgar to push people off of etsy with copyright claims. Having worked in jewelry for a number of years, aside from a couple (3 or 4) designs, I really don’t see anything passably unique in your collection. Surely, your claim isn’t based on the medium? Coin jewelry has been around for longer than you or I. I mean if it’s exactly the same as your design with a clearly similar promo pic, etc. that’s one thing, but you definitely lose some artist cred when you get litigious.

On that note, what I’m really curious about is if you’ve actually followed through with legal action or if you just have some legal forms drawn up that you use to bully artists and to get etsy to remove competition?

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45 Michael May 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm

People have been making jewelry with coins for thousands of years…

In the article above I never mentioned ETSY let alone “pushing people off” of it.
(Please read above)

It is unfortunate you are painting a picture and labeling me as a person that would “bully artists” You might be surprised – many people would look at it the other way around. The person that uses a companies website to purposely copy designs/support-material, profit from it and claim as their own original creation can easily be looked at as the primary aggressor and “bully.” (read above)

Obviously my claim is not based on the material – That would be ridiculous (like claiming the use of oil and pigment to paint an image as your own idea which would need to be licensed -lol). I was simply stating that in this digital era people incorrectly assume that everything is up for grabs and you can copy anything for profit. How many people actually read the Terms of Service they agree to? Not many.
https://turbofuture.com/internet/Is-Pinterest-a-Haven-for-Copyright-Violations

Under the cons of the business side of this I mentioned that copycats of “original” designs were a con and a definite “headache” – To avoid potential giant headaches it is recommended that you “package” any creative line carefully. As you stated above “I mean if it’s exactly the same as your design with a clearly similar promo pic, etc. that’s one thing” (Please refer to the example I mentioned in the article)

Competition is a good thing – It creates better goods and services. Theft (unfair competition) can be immoral, unfair, lazy, unoriginal and illegal.

There is a difference between competition and unfair competition.
And some people will even go to the level of slandering their competition with false claims to try and remove competition. For the record “Seems kinda vulgar to push people off of etsy with copyright claims” stated by you was neither stated or implied by me. Having people attempt to tarnish your reputation with false claims is another “Con” not mentioned above…

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46 edward gonsch May 24, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

Best of luck to you, sir.

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