Mutilated Currency

By Rachel Stewart | March 7, 2019 |

In the course of your restoration work, either as a contractor or as a carrier, you have probably had cases in which currency has been lost or badly damaged in the course of an accident or disaster.  Whether the damage has occurred because of a flood, fire, severe storm, mudslide, or even an earthquake, currency can become severely mutilated or damaged so that it is no longer usable.

Other damage includes cases involving chemicals or explosives, damage by animals, insects or rodents, and deterioration that occurs from burying money.   You might have seen the news story last fall, when a two-year-old boy in Utah put $1,060 dollars through the family paper shredder. Regardless of the type of damage, there is a way to restore this mutilated currency.

In these cases, it can be helpful for your clients to know about a program that is administered by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which is part of the United States Treasury Department.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, also known as the BEP, redeems and replaces mutilated currency as a free public service.  The bureau has a series of requirements to be aware of in order to redeem mutilated currency at full value:

1. When currency is so damaged that its value is questionable because it is missing the security features, it needs to be forwarded directly to the bureau for examination by experts before redemption can be made.

Experts recommend disturbing the fragments as little as possible during this process.

Carefully wrap the mutilated currency in plastic and cotton and put it in a secure container.  If you found the money in a container, like a wallet, purse, box or something else, just leave it in the container to protect the fragments and disturb them as little as possible.  Send the entire container to the bureau, as it might have currency fragments attached to it.

Also, always leave the currency exactly as you found it.  If the currency was flat, don’t roll, tape, fold it or try to preserve it.  Just send it in as it is. If it was in a roll, don’t unroll. Bottom line: handle the mutilated currency as little as possible.

If there are coins mixed in with the currency, carefully remove them.  They will damage the currency in shipment. Any damaged coins need to be sent to the U.S. Mint not the BEP for evaluation.

2. If at least 50% of a note can be identified as United States currency along with enough fragments that have a security feature on them, then they can be redeemed at full value.

Alternately, currency can also be redeemed if 50% of the identifiable note is there with enough supporting evidence that the bureau can conclude that the missing portions have been completely destroyed.  

3. When your client submits a claim, the damaged currency needs to be delivered by mail or in person to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, along with a letter that explains the estimated value, exactly how the currency got damaged, and your client’s contact information.  

Your client can also include a bank account and routing information for reimbursement or they can provide an address to which a reimbursement check will be sent to.

4. Each currency case is carefully examined by a mutilated currency expert and the Director of the BEP has the final decision on any claims submitted.   

The experts at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing process nearly 30,000 claims every year and it reports redeeming currency valued at over $30 million.  It is a process that require patience, however. Because of the sheer volume of the claims and the intricate nature of the examinations that must be done, it can take a long time to resolve a claim.  Your clients can expect lengthy wait times that can range anywhere from 6 months to three years, depending on the complexity of the case.

However, whether your client has experienced the devastation of a house fire or the frustrations of living with a toddler, it’s nice to know that all is not lost and that, eventually, they can get their money back.