Defacing Our Nation's Currency: Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code
"Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or 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, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both." - Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code
In the United States, the above law makes it illegal to deface U.S. currency in such a way as to make it unfit for circulation and it falls upon the Secret Service to enforce this law.
But what does this actually mean? There are plenty of companies out there who appear to be defacing our currency but seem not to be running afoul of this law. It apparently must come down to whether or not they are making the bills unfit for circulation. In the eyes of the government, they must not be.
Overlaid Bills Still Fit for Circulation
At first I found it hard to believe that these "overlaid" or "enhanced" bills would actually be reissued if they fell into the hands of the Department of the Treasury. Or maybe our Secret Service doesn't take the defacing of our currency seriously enough.
Below are links to some of those bills that supposedly "Americans from all over the country are rushing to obtain."
The New England Mint's National Parks Overlaid $2 Bills
World Reserve Monetary Exchange State Overlaid $2 Bills
World Reserve Monetary Exchange "22KT Gold Overlaid" $2 Bills
World Reserve Monetary Exchange .925 Pure Silver Enhanced $2 Bill
The Truth is a Sticky Business
The truth is that they are not running afoul of the Secret Service because they are not really defacing any currency. These overlays and enhancements apparently are nothing more than stickers that you can peel off without hurting the underlying bill.
Don't believe me? Then check out these photos revealing the truth about the "state overlaid" $2 bills.
So the next time you pay $19 for an enhanced or overlaid $2 bill, remember that $17 of your money is paying for nothing more than a sticker. The $2 bill you could always get from your bank for . . . $2.