Why Was There a Freemason Symbol Stamped on My Penny?

Some time back, I received an interesting penny in change. It had a symbol associated with Freemasons on it. The symbol looked like this. (Here and here are some more examples of it.) The U.S. Mint obviously didn’t stamp it on it, some private individual did. But why? Does anyone know what the significance of this symbol on a penny would be? (BTW I have since lost or spent the penny.)


It’s a “novelty” cent. Back in the 70s, they were pretty popular, I s’pose. There were various things done to them, such as etching a pipe beside Lincoln’s mouth, so that it sorta looked as though he were smoking. Another showed a drawing of JFK’s head looking at Lincoln, and there were probably a ton more. They were sold at something like a buck a piece. Littleton Coin Company in Littleton, NH, was always pushing them back then. Trust me.


Mjollnir: Doesn’t that break some U.S. law against defacing U.S. currency? I seem to remember hearing of such a law somewhere.

From the US Treasury department website, the law on currency:

Defacement of currency is a violation of Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code. Under this provision, currency defacement is generally defined as follows: Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

IANAL, but I think the key word here is “unusable”

And, the law on coin:

This question is addressed by 331, U.S.C. 18, which provides penalties for the mutilation of our coins. These penalties consist of not more than $2,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both. This section generally applies to anyone who “fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens” any coins circulating in the United States. It also addresses anyone who “fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells . . . or brings into the United States, any such coin.” If you believe you know of such fraud, you should contact your local office of the United States Secret Service, which is responsible for investigating such cases.

I think the key word here is “fraudulent.” There’s some scratching on it, but not any fraudulent intent. Those “penny machines” that turn your Lincoln cent into a flat ellipse with some design imprinted on it are (IMO) probably not doing anything “fraudulent.”

That’s always been the belief in the collectibles world.

As long as you don’t try to pass a squished penny off as money you’re OK.