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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 36, September 3, 2006, Article 25

U.S. COIN MUTILATION LAWS

Regarding the question on U.S. coin mutilation laws, Katie Jaeger
writes: "I researched the topic recently - and came up with the
following quotation from Title 18 at the website straightdope.com:

 Title 18, Section 331 states, “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, shall be fined
under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
This law enacted in 1909 was strictly enforced at first, bringing an
abrupt end to countermarking, elongating, carving, cutting away blank
fields, and pushing out reliefs on coins.

The Treasury Department, however, has come to view the decree as
hinging on its second word: fraudulently. Examples of fraudulent
tampering are the ancient practice of shaving metal off the edges
of solid gold coins, or the 1883 practice of making “racketeer
nickels.” (When the Mint issued a nickel design which did not bear
the words FIVE CENTS on the reverse, but instead employed a Roman
numeral V just like the one on the $5 gold piece, some miscreants
plated gold on their nickels and passed them as $5 pieces.)

Section 331 takes aim at these types of deceptions, but not at the
creation of coin novelties. The law was probably responsible for
the practice of stickering and capping coins, which enabled
advertising on coins without altering them.  Elongated roller
machines did disappear for a while, but the law never stopped
kids from putting pennies on the railroad tracks!"

John and Nancy Wilson write: "Here is information from the
Wikipedia on the legality of making elongated coins in the U.S.
and Great Britain:

"The process of creating elongated coins is legal in the United
States, Japan, South Africa and parts of Europe. In the United
States, U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331 prohibits
"the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States
coinage." The foregoing statute, however, does not prohibit the
mutilation of coins if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently,
i.e., with the intention of creating counterfeit coinage. Because
elongated coins are made mainly as souvenirs, mutilation for this
purpose is legal.

It is no longer illegal in Great Britain to mutilate the image
of the Queen, It is still illegal in Canada and blank planchets,
slugs or U.S. pennies are occasionally used, though this law is
often ignored both by the users of the machine and law enforcement.
Full Story

Kerry Rodgers writes: "I have an article on elongated coins in
the September issue of Coin News. (That's the UK fella).  I have
specific quotes from the Royal Mint and UK Treasury folk as to its
legality.  These quotes came from bureaucrats and lawyers - need
I say more?  They neatly avoid saying making stretchies is illegal
- in so many words - but make it clear they don't approve. They
have never prosecuted for it and thereby tested the law as they
understand it.

In the EU it is a whole different ball game and even though
stretched EU cents are offered on eBay and elsewhere, it is a
no-no.  As the UK is part of the EU it could be illegal to squish
EU cents in the UK, where they have no currency, whereas doing it
to UK money itself may not be illegal if you have a smart lawyer.
What was that about the law being an ass?

The elongation issue in the US has been discussed at length in
several places and I defer to my North American colleagues. It is
not illegal from what I can gather. Nor is it in New Zealand since
a change in the law sometime back overlooked deforming coins although
it has some harsh things to say about melting them.  A similar
situation exists in Australia."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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