Monday, January 24, 2011

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.


At 4:55 PM, Blogger A.C. Dwyer said...

There is one set of overlays that I like and did not want to include in the above article.

They are very straight forward in stating that they are selling you stickers that peel off and they do not charge an arm and a leg to get them.

Plus they benefit charity.

Of course I'm talking about the famous Santa Dollars, Bunny Bucks, and recently added Cupid's Cash.

Ltd. First Editions, Inc. Santa Dollars $1 Bill

Ltd. First Editions, Inc. Cupid's Cash $1 Bill

Ltd. First Editions, Inc. Bunny Bucks $2 Bill

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous proof silver eagles said...

There are plenty of companies out there who appear to be defacing our currency but seem not to be running afoul of this law.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

I didn't know those were stickers on the Santa dollars. Thanks!

I did how ever thought that this law was repealed at some point. You have companies melting the silver coins. I've also seen artist cut out the image in US coins for jewelry.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger A.C. Dwyer said...


The currency defacing law is still in effect and has not been repealed. Which is why all these colorized dollars are nothing more than stickers.

Although you have companies melting silver coins and also using them to make jewelry, there is a federal regulation since December 2006 that prohibits the exporting, melting, and treatment of nickels and pennies. This regulation was made permanent in April 2007.

"Treatment" means to smelt, refine, or otherwise treat by heating, or by a chemical, electrical, or mechanical process.

The regulation also has the following statement:

"The prohibition contained in ยง 82.1 against the treatment of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins shall not apply to the treatment of these coins for educational, amusement, novelty, jewelry, and similar purposes as long as the volumes treated and the nature of the treatment makes it clear that such treatment is not intended as a means by which to profit solely from the value of the metal content of the coins."

So apparently there is no problem with defacing or making jewelry from U.S. coins as long as you are not doing it to benefit from the value of the metal content.


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