[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!]
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
(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!
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 :)
*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**