What exactly is a Penny Portrait?

A Penny Portrait is a fun-filled way to use those pennies you’ve been collecting over the years to make a unique work of art.

Each kit includes an 18 x 24 poster of Abe Lincoln made from images of actual pennies.

The poster is suitable for framing as is, but can also be used as a template to glue on your own pennies creating a visually stunning copper masterpiece.  Seriously, it’s an eye-catching conversation piece.

You simply match your pennies to one of the four shades on the poster and glue them on. It is really that simple.

How many pennies does it take to complete a penny portrait?

A: There are 846 pennies in the 18×24 Penny Portrait.

349 – Shiny new pennies
112 – Lightly used pennies
97   – Well used pennies
288 – Old as dirt pennies

On the plus side, you know your finished work of art will be worth at least $8.46.

That is a lot of pennies! How much will this thing weigh?

That’s a great math question for the kids! A modern penny weighs exactly 2.5 grams, so 846 pennies will weigh a total of 2,115 grams.

One thousand grams = one kilogram, and one kilogram just happens to be the weight of 1 liter of water. (Those metric folks are pretty clever!) With that in mind, the penny portrait weighs about the same as a very full 2 liter of soda. In English units, that equals a little more than 4.5 pounds.

Keep in mind, if you want to frame your penny portrait behind glass, that will add some additional weight, but overall, it shouldn’t be too heavy. (Part of the reason we didn’t make a 36″ x 24″ poster!)

What are the age recommendations for completing a Penny Portrait?

If your kids can work with Elmer’s Glue and pennies, (and you trust them not to eat either…) then they are old enough to complete a Penny Portrait! A little bit of hand-eye coordination is involved, but no more so than doing a jigsaw puzzle.

If you decide to frame your Penny Portrait, they might want a little help from an adult. It would take some pretty strong magnets to put a penny portrait on the fridge.

How long will this take to complete?

Once you have your pennies sorted into four shades, it will take one person 5 to 8 hours to glue all the pennies to the poster. The more people involved, the faster it will go!

What's the story with this steel penny?

In 1943, for one year only, the U.S. Mint produced pennies out of steel to save copper for the war effort. You get your own little unique piece of U.S. history included with each Penny Portrait!

Why are some pennies darker than others?

As pennies age and are exposed to elements like oxygen, they get a thin coating called a “patina” that is darker than the original color. Unlike rust, which actually destroys the metal underneath, this tarnish actually serves as a protective coating.

Oxidized pennies and dirty pennies aren’t the same thing. You can wash away dirt, but an oxidized penny will remain that way unless a chemical reaction takes place. (To see an example, combine a tarnished penny with ketchup or vinegar.)

Are there really four shades of pennies?

Actually, there are many, many different shades of pennies. We chose to use four shades because we felt it gave a significant amount of detail to the picture without the need to spend all your time sorting pennies.

To sort pennies, simply split them into two piles (light and dark) and then take each of those piles and do the same thing again.  Don’t stress this part.  As long as you’re close the illusion will still work out.

Will the shades of the pennies I have exactly match the poster?

We made every effort to select colors for the poster that are as close to the pennies you will find in circulation. That said, it is not important that the shades of pennies you own exactly match the colors printed on the poster.

In fact, if you can only sort pennies into dark and light you will still get a very effective illusion.

Will the poster look as good as the pics on this site?

It will look even better! A completed penny portrait will shimmer and reflect light making the illusion even more pronounced. A photograph really doesn’t do it justice. One neat quality of a finished portrait is that in a dark room with just a little bit of light, the shiny new pennies will make the picture appear to glow!

What is the best place to get pennies?

Grandparents! – If that doesn’t work, your neighborhood bank will be happy to sell you some. Pennies can be bought in 50 cent rolls.

Are there any tips or tricks to finishing a penny portrait?

Start collecting those dark pennies when you find them. You need quite a few and while you can always make pennies shinier with a little chemistry (explained in the included materials) making dark pennies is best done by Mother Nature and time.

The Penny Portrait Kit includes a two-page handout with a number of tips and tricks for sorting pennies as well as putting the final poster together. Don’t worry though. At the end of the day, it is as simple as 1. Put glue on penny 2. Put penny on poster.

I'm lazy, do I need to glue pennies to this thing?

Not at all, the poster is a unique work of art as is! Penny Portraits are printed on extremely high-quality poster material and are suitable for framing right out of the tube.

How did you create the Penny Portrait?

The Penny Portrait image was painstakingly created using historical photos of Abraham Lincoln and countless hours of tinkering at the computer. The final image itself is made up of 846 individual pennies, all of which are the exact same size as pennies from the U.S. mint.

Numerous versions were created including a much larger poster, posters with various shades of pennies, pennies lined up in a straight grid and pennies aligned vertically instead of horizontally. We worked hard to create an image that is both easy to assemble and a convincing optical illusion.

Who is this product for?

This product is for people who love money and who love America. If you meet either of these qualifications, you should probably buy two just so people don’t suspect you of being a communist.