Replacing Damaged & Jacked Up Currency

Did you have a few brews and decide it’d be funny to light cigars by burning $100 bills? If you have at least half of it left, you can get it replaced. Here’s how.

Money can get damaged for a variety of reasons and paper bills have a very short lifetime, compared to coins. The banking system routinely cycles out paper currency as it gets dirty, worn, ripped, or damaged. If you just have an old bill, take it to your bank and they can exchange it.

If the money is considered “mutilated,” then you’ll have to send it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to get it replaced. It’s considered mutilated if you have less than half of the original bill or you need a special test to figure out how much it’s worth. It’s actually quite common for money to be damaged by fire, flood, animals, and/or insects so the process is pretty well documented.

Just mail, or hand deliver, the money to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing with a letter estimating the value of the currency and how it became mutilated. They recommend that you try to keep it in the same condition that you found it in. If it was inside a container, keep it in the container. If it was flat, keep it flat (don’t roll it).

They examine it, determine it’s value, and send you back new currency.

Mailing address for mutilated paper currency (send by Registered Mail with Return Receipt Requested):
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Office of Currency Standards
P. O. Box 37048 Washington, D. C. 20013

Mailing address for mutilated coins:
U. S. Mint Post Office Box 400
Philadelphia, PA. 19105

Finally, remember that according to Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code, it’s illegal to mutilate, cut, disfigure, perforate, unite or cement together a bank bill, draft, note, or evidence of debt. The fine is up to $100 and imprisonment of up to six months, or both. If you’re curious, it’s the Secret Service that will come after you.

Oh, and stop drinking.

Jim writes about personal finance at

(photo: origomi)

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