Not illegal? Who knew?!

Isn’t that illegal?

Probably one of the most popular questions we’re asked is “isn’t it illegal to deface U.S. currency?”

In a word, no.

It is illegal to deface currency to turn it into other currency, with the intent to defraud.  So we can’t take a dime and make it a quarter because we would be defrauding the recipient of fifteen cents.  We could turn a quarter into a penny.  But why would you want to?

If you, dear reader, are one of those who wants to read the law, here you go:

Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or

Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened –

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

And found on the website:

Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who “fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States.” This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.

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