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Defacing Currency
Article © MAIL User: Drax

Defacing Currency

Every once in awhile, somebody posts a picture of some penny-scale maille, or sometimes the ring made out of a hammered-quarter, and the inevitable question is, "isn't that against the law?" People argue that you are defacing governement property, thus are subject to prosecution.

Your first clue comes from Theme Parks. Yes, Theme Parks. Ever been to a "fun land" where you smoosh out a penny into some other shape, usually w/ an impression of some sort of picture on it?

There is no law against writing on bills or anything like that. What IS illegal is trying to change the currency in order to gain a benefit (like trying to add a zero after a 10 to make it a 100).

From the U.S. Treasury website:

Q: What is the definition of mutilated coins? Is it illegal for people to use coins to make jewelry, souveniers or other items?

A: This question is addressed by 331, U.S.C. 18, which provides penalties for the mutilation of our coins. These penalties consist of not more than $2,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both. This section generally applies to anyone who "fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens" any coins circulating in the United States. It also addresses anyone who "fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells . . . or brings into the United States, any such coin." If you believe you know of such fraud, you should contact your local office of the United States Secret Service, which is responsible for investigating such cases.

Although it may sounds like pennymaille violates this law, the word 'fraudulently' means as long as you don't try to use the altered coinage as legal tender, you should be okay. The law attempts to stop people from altering an item to falsely look like another item (usually in an attempt to make it worth more because of rarity or denomination change).

Please be sure to note, this information comes from the United States of America Treasure site, so the laws may hold different in other countries (as you can also see, the official 'answer' is still rather vague and does not directly answer the question of if it's okay to make it into jewelry).
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