Ombre Penny Art

fall mantel square


After seeing this picture of ombre pennies arranged by oxidation, I was fixated on creating some ombre penny art of my own.  What did I learn?  Creating ombre penny art isn’t as easy as you might think.



Bob Dinetz created this image for a New York Times piece on the neglected penny.  Isn’t it stunning?


Obviously the first step in creating something similar was to find a mess of pennies in different stages of oxidation.


how to clean pennies


I gathered up all the pennies I could find in the car, junk drawer, dryer, etc.  These pennies didn’t have nearly as much variation in color as I needed.  Most of them were just dirty messes.


An experiment was in order.  I researched several ways to shine pennies and tried a few of them out.


using vinegar and salt to shine pennies


First, I tried just soaking some of them in white vinegar.


using baking soda to shine pennies


While those pennies were pickling, I gave another batch a bath in baking soda and white vinegar (no volcanic eruptions occurred – don’t worry).


using ketchup to shine pennies


Finally, I gave a third batch a rub-down with good-old all-American ketchup.  Ew.


shining pennies experiment results


Here are my oh-so-official findings:

  • The ketchup worked surprisingly well.  Something about the vinegar mixed with the acid of the tomatoes or something.  I don’t know.  Science.
  • Plain vinegar worked, but didn’t give as consistent of a shine.
  • The vinegar and soda method was the least effective, needing two helpings of baking soda and a good rinse to show much change in color.

glue the pennies in place


Once I had my pennies shined, I arranged them by most copper to most patina-ed (that’s not a word) and began gluing them onto some dark teal cardstock, always keeping Honest Abe front and center.


position the matte


You can see that I was able to get a decent variation in shade from the pennies.


glue the matte in place


I glued a simple white mat from Dollar Tree to the cardstock as well to make a focal piece for my fall mantel.


fall mantel


Since my Fall decorating colors are shades of teal, orange, aubergine, and copper, the ombre pennies are an unexpected, but cohesive touch.


I also set out a few copper baking molds which, although they aren’t really Fall décor, fit my color scheme nicely and are vaguely pumpkin-shaped.


crocheted fall swag


I made the autumn colored swag by using some thread/yarn/string that I bought from the Target dollar spot YEARS ago.  I just did some long crocheted starter loops and draped them over the mirror.  I like how it looks like the mirror is wearing a necklace.


The yarn fades from one color to another, so it ties in with the ombre of the penny art.


bakers rack fall


Bonus tip:  Ketchup also shines up the bottoms of copper pots and pans, like the ones I displayed on the top shelf of my baker’s rack.


Are you rocking any of the ombre trend in your house?

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