What Do I Do With Damaged Money?

aaron_image1The other day I found a coin on the ground and it was defaced so bad that I couldn't make out what its value was. I'm sure you've come across a coin or bill that has been pretty damaged as well (be it cut, missing parts, water damaged, burnt, etc). So, what can you do with it?

What is considered damaged currency?

damaged money
Via the Bureau of Engraving

With most of us carrying plastic as our means of payment today – coming across damaged money is becoming less and less of an issue. And yet, this still happens to us. Perhaps we accidentally have a $5 bill sitting in with some papers that need shredding and then right as we see the papers entering the shredder, notice ‘ol Lincoln's mug getting torn into pieces.

Or more tragically, we have money stashed away in a drawer then our house goes up in flames and we come across it during clean-up.

According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, damaged or mutilated money is

NOT CLEARLY more than one-half of the original note and/or, in such condition that the value is questionable and special examination is required to determine its value.  

So, let's say that coin I found was instead frayed at the edges and I could make out most of Washington's head and the size of it matched a quarter. This wouldn't be considered “mutilated” currency. Or take those bills that are missing a third of its body BUT you can still make out the value.  With currency like this, all you need to do is take it to a bank and they can give you a replacement note.

Where to send mutilated currency

In the Office of Financial Management (located in the Bureau of Engraving) experts handle some 30,000 claims and redeems mutilated currency valued at over $30 million every year.

Here's a fun look at this office that the Today show did a few years back:

So, if you've come across such currency like this, all you need to do is send a letter to the Office of Financial Management stating what you believe the value of the money is and how it got mutilated. Also, to be reimbursed via electronic funds transfer, (EFT) provide banking information. For checks, provide payee and mailing address.

The BOE has these recommendations for packaging:

  • Regardless of the condition of the currency, do not disturb the fragments any more than absolutely necessary.
  • If the currency is brittle or inclined to fall apart, pack it carefully in plastic and cotton without disturbing the fragments and place the package in a secure container.
  • If the currency was mutilated in a purse, box, or other container, if should be left in the container to protect the fragments from further damage.
  • If it is absolutely necessary to remove the fragments from the container, send the container along with the currency and any other contents that may have currency fragments attached.
  • If the currency was flat when mutilated. Do not roll or fold the notes.
  • If the currency was in a roll when mutilated, do not attempt to unroll or straighten it out.
  • If coin or any other metal is mixed with the currency, carefully remove it.  Any fused, melted, or otherwise mutilated coins should be sent to the U.S. Mint for evaluation.

Send your letter and money to:

Bureau of Engraving & Printing
MCD/OFM, Room 344A
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, DC 20013

To follow-up with your claim, you may email: MCDSTATUS@bep.gov

Have you ever had to send in money that was unrecognizable for redemption?

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  1. I love seeing/finding this type of money and usually keep it all for myself :) Then again, I’m a nerdy coin collector and we like this stuff!

    • And you are J.Money!

  2. Interesting, Aaron! I had no idea! I’ve never come across much in the way of mutilated money. Now I know what to do if that happens – thanks! :-)

    • I know.. it’s pretty rare these days

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