It is my understanding that defacing American currency is a federal crime. This law makes sense for several reasons.
- Defacing could be used on counterfeit bills to mask blemishes and shoddy workmanship.
- National pride is affected by defaced bills and coins. What does it say about us if we voluntarily graffito tag our means of buying and selling? Monetary transactions are professional affairs. You wouldn’t turn in a memo at work that was all marked up in the margins, would you? This may seem like a little thing. Perhaps I’m being ridiculous. Still, if you visit a country and, at the currency exchange booth, do you not look more impressive handing over clean, crisp American dollars? And if, in exchange, you are given bills portraying leaders sporting anachronistic mustaches or devil horns, are you not then negatively biased against the local populace?
I know I said there were several reasons why the law against defacing currency makes sense. I suppose there are really only two. That I can think of anyway. Despite the number of reasons, however, a law is a law. If it isn’t going to be enforced, why have it on the books, so to speak?
“How do you know it isn’t being enforced?” One might ask, should said One have read this blog, encountered me out in public somewhere and somehow recognized me as the author. “Isn’t there an agency responsible for the destruction of worn and defaced bills? It seems to me it is enforced in some fashion.”
And my answer, should this unlikely scenario occur, would be “Good point.”
I would then quickly rebut thusly: “There exist within the confines of legally operating establishments throughout our country dens of iniquity that, while providing quite legal, fun and/or educational experiences, also blatantly promote the defacement and destruction of our currency by individuals unauthorized to do so. And for a profit, no less!”
To which your reply would likely be something like “Go jump in a lake, lunatic! What are you even talking about?”
I’m talking about those Kiosks of Chaos, those Federal Crime Machines, those coin mashing and defacing vending machines that stand in nearly every zoo and tourist attraction lobby that allow you to pay fifty cents to squish a penny into a souvenir.
These are certainly entertaining. They are interactive, usually allowing you to crank the penny to an elongated and otherly engraved state. They are educational, sometimes mushing some historical fact or figure into malleable bits of dollars.
Entertaining. Interactive. Educational…Illegal…
The argument could be made that these machines only deface the least of our currency. Who cares about pennies, anyway? Most of us drop them in the little bowls on store counters just to keep them from cluttering our pockets or purses. I’ve even known people to drop them carelessly onto the sidewalk rather than carry them around. All of this is perfectly fine and legal, but could it be representative of our attitude as Americans? If we have a law about currency, shouldn’t it apply to all currency, even the least valuable? It makes sense to answer “Yes” here. That answer being a positive one, can we now apply the same concept to laws that govern Americans? If there is a law for one American, shouldn’t it apply to all Americans, even the least significant? Of course. But if we, as a society, and the government, as a government, are willing to overlook the blatant defacing of pennies, are we not also likely to overlook the mistreatment of “less significant” citizens?
Perhaps this is all a bit of a stretch. I haven’t even decided for myself yet if I’m all that upset about this issue. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to rant and rave.
I bid you adieu…and a don’t.
Adieu…consider the fair treatment of every American be they “pennies” or “one hundred dollar bills”.
A don’t…deface pennies. I think it’s illegal.