Artist Ken Sims began collecting coins at an early age. His hobby developed out of his love for traveling. He would return from a trip with currency in his pocket and want to keep the coins, whether shiny or dull, to remember his travels, especially foreign currency.
“I was in awe of some of the designs, “ revealed Sims, who will be a new vendor in the Village of Yesteryear at the 2022 N.C. State Fair. “I did nothing with them for a long time. I just put them in a bin, but it wasn’t until I lived in Argentina in 2005 that I discovered the art of coin-cutting. It was fascinating to me.”
After learning to do the process himself, he started cutting coins and gave his new designs as gifts to friends and family. In 2009, Sims also created a blog detailing the precious metal currency he had picked up on his travels and writing about places he would like to visit. In addition, he would share the coin’s history.
Fast forward to 2022, and Sims, who resides in Iowa, travels across the country to art shows promoting his jewelry and educating the public about this unique and extraordinary art form.
Sims will bring his coins to North Carolina for the first time this fair season.
“I’m so excited to visit North Carolina. I would have come a few years ago, but the COVID pandemic canceled the fair that year,” explained Sims. “I will demonstrate coin-cutting throughout the eleven days. I’ve been working on my N.C. designs ahead of the fair. My sister now lives in Wilmington, so I have special ties to the First in Flight state coin.”
He’s been working on that intricate design with the Wright brother’s plane taking up the entire coin width. According to Sims, the first step in coin-cutting involves finding the right coin to use for the art.
“That can be a process and a big hunt, but that is part of the fun for me,” stated the artist. “The coins are then scrubbed with soap and water for cleaning. Next, I drill holes into the coin to feed the steel blade through whatever coin I use for the jewelry. I then take a jeweler’s saw and cut out and highlight the coin’s original design.”
The first coin that Sims cut was an Argentine peso, which remains his absolute favorite jewelry design. “I love the Argentine peso featuring the national symbol Sol de Mayo. I had always loved the look of this coin and admired it before I started cutting coins,” reminisced Sims. “Coins have a lot of sentimental value for many people. The Argentine peso does for me.”
Sims says he loves working with this medium because it enables him to highlight some of the beautiful, intricate designs in coins that otherwise may escape our attention before being cut. He also enamels coins such as pennies as a colorful backdrop to make his cut-out designs pop on a necklace.
“When I visit other states, I love to hear about other people’s connection to coins,” disclosed Sims. “I just wrapped up the Iowa Fair during Queen Elizabeth’s passing. I spent a long time with two women who reminisced about their travels in England. They were big fans of the late monarch. So they were delighted when I was able to make them custom earrings out of some of the currency they kept from travels.”
Sim’s ever-expanding coin inventory currently consists of all 50 State quarters, a wide variety of other US coins, and over 75 foreign currencies. In addition, he can custom-order jewelry for countries, not in his stock. You can see more of Sim’s designs on his website.
You will find the Village of Yesteryear in the Holshouser building on the N.C. State Fairground. This interactive exhibit encourages the continuation of artisan skills. Vendors also take custom orders.
The Village of Yesteryear operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except on Thursday, Oct. 13, when the exhibit will open at 12 p.m