Defacing Pennies

I have a follow-up question concerning a response given by SDSTAFF Mac on whether or not it is legal to put a hole in a quarter and sell it. After providing the legal citation, SDSTAFF Mac stresses that “And the critical feature is someone trying to make money off the coins at the expense of the government.”
Now my question is about machines I’ve seen (mostly at tourist attractions) which, for a fee of 0.50, will squash, mutilate, and otherwise deface a penny and impress upon it some image. Clearly this is being done for a profit and the pennies are so thoroughly defaced that they are no longer look like pennies and are no longer even circular (they’re ovals). I understand that the coin’s face value is greater than the value of the metal used to make it, but someone is turning a profit by destroying government property, doesn’t that count for anything?

Welcome, Southpaw. I’ve wondered this same thing.

Here’s the link to the column for whoever’s interested.

I’ve always wondered if my money is actually considered government property. This strikes me as kind of odd, and rather suspicious. Can the government simply decide to take their property back from me?

These types of things are OK. What is not Ok is to deface a coin for the purpose of passing it off as a different coin, or 'clipping" coins of precious metal. You may destroy all the pennies you want.

Daniel got it right, although, since 1969, it’s getting pretty hard to clip coins made out of precious metal.

A fine distinction: As I understand it, your money is yours, and not the government’s. However, the currency you carry is the government’s, and they just let you use it to keep track of how much money you have.

In other words, I own a dollar, but I do not own a dollar bill.

Obviously nobody here has ever had to deal with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency beyond the simplest of tax situations. Their attitude seem to be that everything you earn belongs to them, except what you can prove is yours, according to rules they get to make up. No kidding, I’ve seen a document from those guys in which they call money they don’t tax away from you a ‘tax expenditure’ on their part. We’re heading for a 2-sentence tax return:

  1. How much did you make last year?
  2. Send it in, plus a 10% handling fee.

The machines at the Museum of Science here in Boston actually have the legal citation on the side that shows that you can deface pennies for novelties without any fear of legal penalty (I suppose too many people didn’t want to use the machines, which take $0.50 plus the penny, for fear that they would become part of an interactive “How the Justice System Works” exhibit).

When I was a kid I worried that using pennies in chemistry experiments and machining pennies for magic tricks would get me in trouble with The Law. That Catholic School upbringing can induce a lot of guilt.

PENalty for defacing PENnies? Hah, tell me that’s a coincidence.

Anyway, you know that you can’t deface a penny using a common sabre or rapier, because the penny is mightier than the sword.

That was bad. Really bad. You should lose your admin privelages that was so bad. groan

Hmmm…I once found a quarter with a whole drilled into it-had to be, it was too smooth otherwise.
BTW, what DOES happen when one puts a penny on a rail road track?

Nanook of the North Shore: If you think that was one of CKDextHavn’s bad ones, you obviously haven’t been reading the SDMB enough. CKDextHavn is a “master” :rolleyes: of the pun.

Guinastasia: People have told me that when you put a penny on a railroad tie, after the train runs over it it’s extremely flat. I’ve always found that hard to believe, I would think that it would go spinning off in the air. But I’ve never tried it myself.

First off, Arnold, you have to place it on a railroad track that has trains that are going REAL fast. Preferably, place the penny down BEFORE the train comes along.

Secondly, CK, at least he didn’t say “Punalty for defacing punnies.”

Oh, great. Just set that ball in motion.

By this time next week I’ll probably have been forwarded at least a dozen times some email containing the interesting and obscure story about where the term “Penalty” really comes from.

Are you getting some sort of kickback from Snopes? :wink:

Guin When you put a cent on a railroad track(or any other coin for that matter), no matter how slow/fast the train is going, the weight of the train flattens the coin. You can still see the impression of the coin on the now-flat and elongated metal.

Side note: I once had a sweet little old lady bring me in an obviously train-flattened cent, which was rather too far gone to identify by year. She said her grandmother had put it on the tracks of McKinley’s funeral train(I’m in Ohio).

I couldn’t resist–I said, “no m’am” “This one was run over by Garfield’s funeral train.” Always regretted doing that, but not at the time.

No - that wasn’t bad, it was just cents-less. (D&R)

Ugh. Thats it I’m leavin this thread and not coming back. Its getting worse and worse.

I used to work with an old guy who says when he was a kid, they’d take about seven pennies and place them on a railroad track, each one overlapping the previous one by a little bit. The train would run over them, mash them flat, and kind of meld them together. Then they’d bend them into a “C”, and wear them as bracelets.

Must have been a pretty boring childhood, IMHO…

Quoth samclem:

Not quite true, sam. If you put a penny each directly in front of and directly behind a stopped locomotive’s drive wheels, wedged in between the wheel and the track, the loco won’t be able to start moving and pull its weight up over the penny; it’ll just spin in place. My uncle did this a couple of times as a kid. There would have to be some sort of minimum speed for it to work, but I imagine it’d be pretty slow.
The real difficulty with train-flattening pennies isn’t that the wheel flips it off, but that vibrations often shake it off before the train reaches it.

Regarding putting pennies on the railroad tracks, I used to do that when I was a kid, and yes, they go flying all over the place. Our technique was to put half a dozen or so on there, watch 'em go flying, and then try to find them. You’d usually find two or three. They ended up a little smaller than a half dollar, but with the edges smashed down so they were almost sharp. The surface was smooth, but you could usually still see the imprint due to discoloration of the metal.