Craft supplies can cost a pretty penny, which is why I’ve been obsessed for the last few years with DIY projects that use actual pennies in their design. A penny saved is a penny earned, and I’m not above flaunting my financial prowess — even when it comes to gift giving.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with pennies — maybe not as obsessed as these penny hoarders, but let’s just say particularly fond thanks to a Depression-surviving great aunt who used to play something she called “the money game” with me and my younger brother and sister.
Whenever we visited, Auntie Ann would sit us all down at her kitchen table and pull out a Mason jar full of change. She’d quiz us on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters — any equation that we got right meant we got to pocket the change. On more than one occasion my brother and I would trick our little sister, then still too young for math, into trading us her dull, tarnished quarters for our pretty, shiny pennies. Ah, siblings. Money lesson number one, Grasshopper.
So when I was thinking of DIY gifts for my brother this Christmas, I knew it had to be a penny project — something not too small but not too big for his new Brooklyn apartment, and something I could easily ship. Given the trendiness of marquee letters, I settled on making an abbreviated BKLYN for his mantle using this tutorial from The Crafted Sparrow I’d been saving on Pinterest for years.
I simply purchased cardboard letters for a few dollars each from the craft store, gave them a coat of Krylon Copper Metallic Brilliance spray paint, and arranged two layers of pennies on each letter, affixing with E6000 craft epoxy (allowing to dry for 12 hours between layers).
I really liked the weathered patina of the older pennies, and alternated heads and tails, shiny new and more tarnished pennies, on each letter and layer for a more interesting and authentic vintage look.
The whole project took about a day and a half (maybe 3 hours of actual work), two tubes of E6000 and about $2.50 worth of pennies. I used the silver paint pen from my Darby Smart kit to write a personal message on the back of the letters along with our names with the date, you know, so they know they’re handmade. (If you’re planning to ship them, as we did, all 5 letters fit easily into a flat rate USPS box.)
According to a recent CNN report on the worth of pennies, this may just be the gift that keeps on giving, too; since many of the pennies were minted prior to 1982 and are therefore made of real copper — which is currently worth about $2.41 for every 100 pennies — it’s even better than the bonds we used to get in our stockings!
Have you ever made a project with pennies? Love to hear from you! Check out 9 more of my favorite penny projects over on Boston.com today, or follow my Pinterest board Pennies for Thought.