My American Flag using Pennies – The Conclusion (Part 2 of 2)
This is part two of a two part series celebrating Memorial Day. Part one is here. Enjoy.
As we pickup from part one, my family and I had been placing pennies, alternating between shiny and dark pennies for each stripe. Each stripe was four rows thick. When we got about halfway up the flag it was time to decide what I was going to do with the left blue corner of the flag. The other examples I had seen used dark pennies similar to the red stripes in the flag. It looked cool in the photos however I thought it would be neat to try something a little different. The idea in my head was to age the pennies like the Statue of Liberty and develop a greenish blue patina effect. I again searched for how to do this quickly and found that you needed a few basic home ingredients: salt and vinegar. I used an article from jewelrymakingjournal.com to learn how to do it. Most of the pennies turned out either white or bluish green however not all of them where as good as I wanted. So, to add to the effect we also used white and blueish green paint to make the effect even more pronounced across the piece.
At this point, the flag was coming together nicely. I decided to take a little break and turned it over to my wife who needed to construct and paint a boarder to frame in the project. She made the border out of 6″ pieces of pine wood, and put it straight on top of the plywood, since we allowed ourselves the space to do so. Then, in order to merge the two together, she hid the seem with a simple 2″ piece of pine turned sideways. She attached them both with liquid nails, and her handy nail gun. After all was cured, she stained it with some leftover stain from our floor project (2 parts jacobean, one part ebony). She could have stopped at that point, however she wanted a distressed barn wood look. To achieve that look she took some white chalk paint, and wiped off the brush on a towel before applying, to get a worn look not a painted look. After it dried she lightly sanded it, then sealed the deal with a dark wax to tone down the white and age it.
Next, I had to add the 50 stars. I decided on using the state quarters minted in the 2000s. Each state quarter would be one star placed in alphabetical order. I referenced the site cointalk.com which had several different ideas on how to place the quarters on the flag. I decided the best way was to place the quarters on top of the pennies, since due to their size, there was no good way to fit them in between the pennies without leaving awkward spaces in between. Once I had my plan I had to figure out how in the world I was going to get the 50 state quarters without paying an arm and a leg for them. First, I
started by rummaging through each of my children’s piggy banks. May I say the kids are doing quite well for themselves. I was happy to find 10 of the 50 I needed right away. Next I had to broaden my search. I went to the local car wash and got $80 worth of quarters from the change machine. I’m sure the owners were thrilled. After sorting through them I came up with 48 of the 50 I needed. The two hold outs were Alabama and Minnesota. Instead changing more of my money into quarters I decided to look on line and at coin dealers around town. I found a place in town that had them for a dollar a piece. When my wife went to pick them up she told the kids she was buying 2 quarters for 2 dollars. One of my middle children looked at her weird and said, “that doesn’t make any since mom.” No it doesn’t.
With the 50 coins in hand it was now time to place them on the flag. Since they were going to go on top I was a little worried about how I was going to make sure they were evenly spaced and level. I tried a few different techniques before settling on one that worked. I ended up using two old pieces of wood and marking them equal parts across the top and side. There was a good diagram with the American flag dimensions from wikipedia that I used as a reference. Next I used a L-square to make sure the quarters were level and straight. It turned out to be a very effective method and made it quick and easy to place the 50 quarters.
The last thing to do was to protect the coins from corrosion. I had to make sure that the shinny coins didn’t begin to tarnish over time. There were several different ways to protect the coins however the two that seamed the best were epoxy or polyurethane. In the end I chose poly because it was much cheaper and I was less nervous about screwing it up. My wife brushed the polyurethane onto the stripes of the flag avoiding the blue coins. We left the corroded pennies and stars open because the polyurethane was washing out the effect.
So in total what did it cost to make this flag?
Vinegar & salt…………Already had in the house
Polyurethane…………$9 (quart size)
Paint………………………..I already had in house
We also have a plan to hang the entire thing on the wall. Due to the weight, which I believe is around 200 lbs, we are planning on using a tv mounting bracket that can support the weight. That will add another $50-$100.
A couple of cool side additions we put into the flag were special dates that were important to us like births, graduations, marriage date, etc. We also put the Canadian coins in the top right corner as a nod to our northern neighbors. In the middle of the flag I put all the older wheat penny coins in order by date.
In the end after all the hard work we ended up with a great piece of art.