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Is Promoting on U.S. Currency Legal?

Larry James

Since early 1999 through , I personally have "shamelessly" stamped over $60,800 in U.S. currency with a red stamp in the white border on denominations from $1 to $100 bills with "" I continue to use U.S. Currency to promote my Website with no complaints.

I have had people send me e-mail saying they visited because they received a bill with the Website stamped on it. Twice now, I have received my own bills in parts of the Greater Phoenix area where I had not passed the stamped bills.

Is it legal?

The U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing in a document on their Website says:

  • 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.

  • Defacement of currency in such a way that it is made unfit for circulation comes under the jurisdiction of the United States Secret Service.

For those of you that think this is "defacing" currency and is against the law, be advised. This is ONLY TRUE if your markings alter the useability of the bill, such as altering its serial number or denomination "with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued." So, be careful to only write in the "white space" at the top of the rear of the bill. It turns out that you can doodle all over your money, just don't make the bill "unfit for use."

The U.S. Treasury itself has even issued special pens designed to determine if the newfangled bills are fake. You have most likely experienced a store clerk mark your currency to determine its authenticity when using a $20 or higher denomination bill when making a purchase.

Edward Sheehan, a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, said that while it is legal to write on U.S. currency, "we discourage people from doing that. It is best to have the notes pristine."

Claudia Dickens, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, agreed. "According to the laws as they stand now, the practice is not illegal," she said.

photo of 2 $1 bills

If I ever run out of business cards (which is rare, I might add), I reach for my money-clip and give them a $1 bill.

Trivia: The life span of a $1 Federal Reserve Note is 21 months. Other denominations have different life spans.

•    •    •

If you are interested in "shamelessly" promoting your business, you might want to read, Self-Promote of Disappear and The Buzz on Being a Shameless NetShaker!. Other "self-promotional" ideas can be found in the Articles Menu.

Copyright © - Larry James.


NOTE: This article is available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own website. Click here to obtain permission and for details.

  If you would like to talk one-on-one with Larry James about issues related to this article, you are invited to arrange for a private coaching session by telephone. Go to Author & Speaker Coaching for specific details and fees.

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