"Embellishing" US currency

I recently started a new position at the big box store where I work. Essentially, I balance the books for the store on a daily basis (actually, only a couple days a week - the rest of the time I’m still a cashier - basically, when the main person is off or on vacation). Among other duties, I get to deal with the coins and bills that come into the store as well as setting up all the store tills.

While I’ve long encountered the occasional US bill with additional “artwork”, I’m getting to see more of it in this job. The additions are seldom, if ever, an improvement. A few examples:

  • While nothing says “sorry” quite like penning a request for forgiveness on a $20, and I’m sure “Mickey” was touched, your generous use of a sharpie marker on the reverse has result in a bill that the automated counting machinery no longer recognizes as legal currency. This is annoying enough that I sent the bill off in our regular bank deposit along with the day’s mangled currency bits for replacement.

  • The proselytizing messages, although usually added with what appears to be a stamp pad rather than a sharpie, also can achieve an effect on par with the “I’m so sorry Mickey!” note above. That is, automated machinery no longer recognizing it as a legal tender. So, instead of such religious-themed messages as “John 3:16” circulating for years, the first time these bills are run through the counting machinery they get chucked out and diverted to the bank, where they are first replaced by unmarred bills, then destroyed. So much for spreading the word - you can’t read “Jesus Saves” in Fed Shreds.

-“Where’s George?”, however, does not seem to cause a problem. Maybe it’s because folks involved in this are usually stamping bill margins? The amount covered by the stamp? I don’t know. While defacing US currency is against the law, the US Secret Service pretty much doesn’t worry about this one, having much bigger fish to fry.

  • I don’t know what was on that dollar bill yesterday but it was brown, sticky, and once it got into the bill counting machine it started to spread to other bills. Fortunately, not a lot were affected as unfortunately it completely jammed the machinery. I had to take the bill counting machine apart to clean it, and I felt compelled to wash my hands afterward. Frankly, a shower was starting to sound good. I don’t know what that was (smelled vaguely sweet - someone used a dollar bill as a napkin after eating?) and I’m not sure I want to, but it was disgusting and nasty. Really, in general money is nasty stuff to handle, it’s dirty, it’s grubby, it probably has things on it I don’t want to know about, and it’s why our office has more than one hand sanitizer dispenser.

  • I have seen a wide range of inks/dyes/markers/other colorants on bills that, nonetheless, are still recognized as legitimate currency by the machinery in both the counting office and the automated check out lanes. I’m sort of wondering at what point this stops working. Or maybe it’s a matter of translucency vs. opacity - paint and sharpies seem to be a problem, dyes not so much.

  • Some of the counterfeit bills I’ve seen would be laughably bad if it weren’t for the fact they actually succeeded in passing, at least for awhile. I think we need to add “counterfeiting” to the list of things (horseshoes, hand grenades, nuclear warfare) where close is good enough. Or even “vaguely in the same region is good enough”.

Ah, one of the infamous Putin Poopbills gumming the works of American industry as planned.

You’re probably right in that the Secret Service likely has much better things to do than worry about someone marking up some money, but ‘defacing us currency’ in and of itself isn’t illegal. It has to be done with the intent to make it unusable (or ‘unfit for recirculation’). So sticking your WheresGeorge stamp on it or writing ‘Happy Birthday, Son’ isn’t going to be illegal.
Since the second line is there, I can only assume it’s geared towards counterfeiting, since it’s common to bleach bills and reprint them in a new denomination. The other possibility is that they don’t want people destroying bills just to destroy, but it doesn’t seem like that happens regularly enough to be worth making a law about.

Your machinery may be different from others in this regard. I have found that the Wal-Mart self-service kiosks won’t accept my WG-marked bills, so I never use that line.

I have often thought that the low response rate from my WG-marked bills, and I have marked thousands, is due to bank sorting machines kicking them out for destruction. One teller told me that any such bills she spots automatically go into the discard pile.

Back when I spent more time than I should entering those (about 4000 of them), one of the things people often asked of you was that if you find a marked bill, spend it at a store, don’t deposit it in a bank.
Now, I have gotten plenty of WG bills directly from the bank, usually when I’m buying packs of singles (for my store, not to mark).

Also, I probably have 500 or so ‘naked georges’, ones that aren’t marked. I did that partially so I could enter them faster, but also so that cashiers wouldn’t bury them in the stack, people wouldn’t hesitate to use them, banks wouldn’t discard them. I think of all those a very small handful ever got hits.

Yeah, we get “marked bills”, including “Where’s George?” bills in the ones we get from the bank. Apparently, our bank doesn’t require pristine currency.

According to Wikipedia, the Secret Service says advertising on currency is also illegal, and they consider the Where’s George stamps to be advertising, although it’s not a high priority for them.

I like the Canadian Spocks.

I’ve heard of those, that’s the first one I’ve actually seen. Some of those are really well done.

As an aside, the cash office at work has examples of foreign currency tacked to the walls, including three paper Canandian dollar notes. They must be at least a couple decades old at this point, right?

I once pulled a $5 bill out of my wallet that said, “PUT THIS BACK WHERE YOU GOT IT FROM BITCH!”

Also, living in North Carolina, I would see bills stamped, “Tobacco paid you.” I always crossed out “paid” and wrote in, “kills.” My thrilling little subversions…

Spocking the Canadian five? I don’t think it works nearly as well on the current five-dollar note (even ignoring the “made-out-of-plastic” thing…) I did like the US $1 note in your link that had George Washington turned into a Dalek. :slight_smile:

The current Canadian one-dollar coin was introduced in… (looks it up) …1987. So yeah. :slight_smile:

Thanks to this thread I finally looked up my Santa dollar. https://santadollars.com/