Is It Really Illegal to Write on Money? Ask Ben, of Ben & Jerry’s!

Dear Stamp Stampede :

This is an open letter to you, which will be simultaneously published in other media, including on our blog at

Since we first heard about it, your proposed money-stamping campaign has interested us because prima facie, it would seem to be an extreme form of “defacement” of U.S. currency and we maintain a website that features thousands of examples of such “mutilated money.” We understand that you are stamping  and encouraging other citizens to stamp U.S. banknotes with a variety of messages that look like this.

In June, 2012, when our blog began to track your progress, we invited comments from interested readers. Now, as a follow-up, we invite you to provide us with your own comments and any answers that we may publish to several questions related to the legality of your campaign.

How extensively have you explored the legal ramifications of encouraging people to imprint political messages on their money? Did you consult with any pertinent federal entities such as the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the U.S. Secret Service and/or the U.S. Department of Justice? If so, which ones, and is there any written correspondence between you that we may quote?

Equally important,  have you done any research to prove that the bills that you ink so heavily will function in vending machines? Or, have you inquired of any banks whether or not they would reject such seriously “maimed” banknotes? If these bills are unusable in any everyday situations this would characterize them as unfit for circulation and therefore call into serious question the legality of your well-meaning protest. 

We recognize that the issue your campaign addresses is one of vital importance to every American and we are sympathetic to that underlying goal. However, we do have strong misgivings about your tactics as regards imprinting money. For one, even if there were a legitimate legal basis for your decision to use currency as a medium of communication, the nearly universal public perception that “it’s illegal to write on money” will, in our opinion, prove detrimental to your cause and spark a negative backlash that paints it as merely “lunatic fringe” vandalism and radicalism.

Anything you can share with us to give a clearer perspective on the merits of your money-stamping project will be appreciated.


Richard Anthony

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Yes, Money Talks — Talk Back!

Greetings, and welcome to a series of commentaries devoted to those who are aware of, interested in, intrigued by or otherwise hip to the pop culture phenomenon of writing on, drawing on or marking up money in any way.  If ever you have  doodled on a dollar (or higher denominations) for whatever reason, don’t be surprised to come across your handiwork held up to the public eye here–or featured on our website,

Money Graffiti in the Headlines

In June, 2012,  we reported on a veritable media storm brewing over a campaign allegedly initiated by one of the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, whose group has decided to push for legislative reform by stamping messages on dollar bills.

Whoa,  you say,  isn’t this illegal? Evidently their lawyers don’t think so. Not only do these folks plan to do a heap of stamping themselves, by hauling a “stamping machine” from town to town nationwide, they invite donations from citizens who support their cause, in exchange for which, for every donation over $100., they will send the donor 3 rubber stamps with various messages that espouse their cause, which include,  “Not to be used for bribing politicians.”

So keep an eye out. Soon, your money may be coming to you with special instructions from–if reports are true–a founder of Ben & Jerry’s.

Cash Rewards Right Now!

In our own ongoing project, check your cash on hand to see if you have any of these specially marked banknotes, which are worth 100 times face value:

Plus, we’ll up the ante.  In the unlikely event that these activists stamp  over one of our own special specimens, if you find it and return it to us, we’ll pay you 200 times face value. (Offer still valid as of 07-04-13.) Bottom line: it pays to pay close attention to your money!

What’s your opinion on this use of graffiti on money for political purposes? Cool or crass? No doubt there will be much dialogue about the issue, and we’d love to hear what you think. To add your comment, click here.

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