Guitar picks made from coins

Etsy seller GuitarPickCollection sells handmade guitar (mandolin, banjo, etc) picks made from coins and slugs that have been formed to suit. I was never much of a guitar player and so I can't guess whether this would be good news for your favorite axe, but if you do fancy a coin-pick, this maker's stuff is rather beautiful.

(via OhGizmo)


  1. I’ve played with a normal quarter, and it feels terrible. The metal on metal is nearly nails-on-chalkboard irritating. Not all convinced it has any effect on tone either.

    But there are some musicians out there that seem to like it.. it does provide some certainty that you’ll always be able to play because random folks are much more likely to have a quarter in their pocket than a guitar pick and everyone knows how easy it is to lose a pick.

    1. Normal quarters are awful for playing with but I’ve used metal picks before and they’re not too bad. I generally prefer to use plastic picks either way. I’d be interested to see if the feel of these is closer to coins or actual metal picks, because I’m honestly not sure if it’s the edge of a coin, the thickness, or both that make them so unpleasant to use.

        1. I don’t think so. My plastic picks get pretty worn down and rounded by the time I throw them out. It’s obviously not ideal but not the end of the world. But as Benjamin Terry notes below, quarters have rough edges on them and I notice it makes contact with the string in a weird way. Canadian nickels have a smooth edge, but a bit of a “rim” that I find catches on wound guitar strings. So the edge is part of it, but even with metal picks, thick picks are quite a bit thinner than a coin so that changes the feel as well. I have played with super thick (2-3mm) plastic and felt picks and found them uncomfortable, 1mm is my ideal. So I’m curious about these but skeptical.

      1. Yeah, quarters I don’t like because of their rough edges. Sometimes a nickle can be OK though.  The wide smooth edge means you can use it as an impromptu 1 or 2 string slide.  My dream pick would be a nylon pick with a nickle top, just so you’d have that slide/tap option with the nickle bit.

        1. Using the edge of a quarter intrigues me. I could easily running the edge parallel down a string for a shredding effect. I played with Jon Dee Graham way, way back and he could do that shred with a normal pick. But then, he was one of those guys that you just assumed actually played in his sleep and in the toilet, the shower…. He’s very good.

  2. These are quite beautiful, but, as a numismatist, such abuse of coins still makes me cringe. I greatly prefer Heywood Banks’s system of making his guitar picks out of his plastic hotel key cards. Admittedly they’re not as beautiful, and, because he says he’s always losing picks, he has to spend a lot of time going back to the front desk to get new key cards.

  3. One of the greatest guitarists ever plays with a sixpence from the farewell proof set of 1970. Brian May.

    1.  I was about to mention Brian playing with a sixpence. He says he prefers it because of the sharpness of the attack.

    1. It is said that Brian May also winds his own pickups, which is obviously part of his signature sound.

      Bonus trivia: Brian May also has a PhD in Astrophysics from Imperial College

      1. May was working on his PhD when Queen took off. So he just dropped that and went with ‘fame n fortune’ :-) ‘Course, he afterwards he went back and finished the degree. There’s just not very many people at ALL who could do that. The only equivalent that comes to mind is Isaac Newton becoming the head of the Royal Mint, feared by all counterfeiters (a crime considered at the time to be far worse than murder, which was why drawing and quartering was used; mere hanging was to good for ’em). Finally, I am certain that May winds his own pickups. After all, he built the Red Special from scratch as a teen.
        Finally, while I’m here, YouTube actually has the full Tribute to Freddy concert, which is a total blast:  [Would recommend actually getting a better version, but this works in a pinch]
        Cue this back to back to back with Eric Clapton’s Tribute to George and by God, you’ve got more talent surprises than you can shake decades worth of telethons at ;-)

          1. Speaking of myth, I’ve read that the Moving Sidewalks are doing a reunion!!!! [er, Billy Gibbons’ garage band from back in the day when psychedelic was still a Texas (Houston, of all things) phenomenon, before they all moved to San Fran] Listen to them tear apart a classic Beatles here:

          2. Had a friend who was Ratt’s guitar tech, and backstage, the Ratt guitarists were freaking over Gibbons playing fast, double-picked lines with a 50 cent piece. Later I tried a big fat unbendable steel pick, and I liked the sound and feel, but my new strings would sound dead in an hour, so…always tortex for me.

    1. Enthusiastic strumming/shredding will break a string long before you damage the string enough to alter tone.

  4. Countdown to indictment from Justice Department for defacing money. The below says bill, draft or note, but I’m guessing it applies to coins.

    From the U.S. Treasury:

    “..Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

    Defacement of currency in such a way that it is made unfit for circulation comes under the jurisdiction of the United States Secret Service….”

        1.  Even then I was told that it was illegal (we’re talking mid 60’s or so here). But then that was also the time of the ‘Do not remove under penalty of law’ tags on mattresses, so who knows. Other than The Shadow, of course.

    1. It’s a matter of judgement and enforcement. The law in question is meant to be used against people smelting currency for its metal value, hoarders attempting to destabilise the economy / DoS the economy / exhaust the Mint, and so forth. There’s personal property rights and free speech rights to be considered before the consideration of “Dude made a handful of craft items out of coins, in contravention of this law.”

      The key word here is “intent”, and proving intent is notoriously difficult.

  5. It might work for some people though I need a certain amount of flex in the picks for my tenor banjo. I do like that pickpunch where you can punch out your own out of plastic cards.

    1. My nephew got one for Christmas.  First pick he made was out of last year’s school ID card.

  6. I use both quarters and nickles on electric guitars, but never on an acoustic. I don’t file them down either, just simply pick away on whatever I have in my pocket.
    I first learned the benefits of using coins from Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets back in the early 1980s. I think he picked it up from seeing Billy Gibbons a couple of times.
    Not only does it hone your skills as it’s extra important without a picks ability to flex to hit the correct string as needed, but the amplified metal pick on metal string is especially attractive in hard rock.

    1. It’s true that picking with a hard pick (like metal, stone or thick plastic) makes it extra important to hit the strings at the correct angle. Otherwise you get this kind of ugly resonant sound. That also makes it very difficult to strum, since strumming involves hitting each string with a slightly different angle. Therefore, hard picks are best for solo playing and they really may produce a different tone, even on acoustics.

  7. I remember that Mark Knopfler was specifically trying to achieve a Billy Gibbonseque tone when he recorded “Money For Nothing,” and though he actually succeeded pretty well, right down to the gnarly pinch harmonics, he didn’t use a coin, or even a pick.  According to engineer Neil Dorfsman, though the amp miking turned out to be a perfect happy accident that he couldn’t reproduce later, as far as playing went it was just Mark fingerpicking a Les Paul Junior through a Laney amp.

  8. This is the reason to mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin. Make it in the shape of a guitar pick, then deposit it in a special vault/studio at the Federal Reserve. Guitar legends would have the opportunity to play using it, in exchange for performing on a weekly C-SPAN live music show.

    1. 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. 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. As a matter of policy, the Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.

    2. It is a little known fact that it is also illegal to make a comment on bOING bOING without first reading every single comment already made. The penalty is a short sentence of looking foolish in public.

  9. I don’t know if this would work with modern quarters. I had a quarter separate into two halves that were press fit together. Maybe you could solder it so you had a solid piece of metal to work with.

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