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A Complete Guide to Mutilated Currency

by Nick Dunin on March 22, 2013

If you’ve heard the term mutilated currency and are wondering what it means then you’ve come to the right place. Mutilated currency is something that many people will have interacted with unknowingly. It describes a range of damaged notes and coins. In this article we will go over precisely what is ‘mutilated currency’, and all the ins and outs of how to make sure you get the full value wherever you are located. By the end, you should be able to identify mutilated currency and be in a position to preserve and exchange it.

What is Mutilated Currency?

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First of all then, what is mutilated currency? Well put simply it’s currency that has been ‘mutilated’ in some way or other; whether that’s from burning, water damage, ripping or aging. In order to classify as ‘mutilated’ however this damage must be enough to obscure more than half of the original note or it must be in such a condition that the value becomes questionable. In short it’s ‘zombie currency’.

So what is not Mutilated Currency?

Mutilated Currency is not currency where 50% or more of the note is in good condition and where you can easily identify the value – that’s legal tender and you are free to spend it as you would any other note (though you may want to exchange it at the bank to avoid difficult transactions with checkout assistants). Meanwhile, mutilated currency is also not a portion of a note less than 51% if you are in the UK or US – this has no value otherwise you could tear a note in half and get it repaired in order to double its value. This is handled a little differently if you’re in Australia, but we’ll come to that later.

If you have a note that has been buried, burned, charred or water damaged though to the point where the value is obscured or only a small portion of the image is still visible, this will most likely count as mutilated currency. You may find it isn’t accepted in stores, but you should still be able to get the value of the cash back if you take the right steps.

Preserving Mutilated Currency

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So the real question is what you should do with your mutilated currency, and the first port of call here is to prevent any further damage. Make sure not to disturb any fragments more than absolutely necessary – so handle it as little as possible and don’t attempt to ‘repair’ it on your own in case you make matters worse. That includes trying to ‘flatten’, ‘separate’ or ‘unroll’ the cash yourself.

In fact, if your mutilated currency is currently in a wallet or purse, then you should not even attempt to remove it – leave that to the experts. And if you have to remove the currency from its current holder then keep hold of it so that you can send it along with the cash – there may be tiny fragments of the notes still attached.

If the currency is very brittle or delicate then you should pack it into a secure and air-tight plastic container (such as a Tupperware) and pad this out with cotton to prevent it from moving around too much.

What to do With Your Mutilated Currency?

The Oldest Post Box in England?  Dorset 1985
Once you have secured your mutilated currency you should wrap it in a parcel or envelope so that it can be delivered to the appropriate authorities. This will differ depending on where you are situated.

US Citizens

If you are situated in the US then you should deliver your mutilated notes to:

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
MCD/OFM, BEPA
Room 344A
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, D.C. 20013

And any mutilated coins to:

Superintendent
U.S. Mint
Attn: Mutilated Coins
Post Office Box 400
Philadelphia, PA. 19105
Tel: 1-866057502361

Normally it should take under 8 weeks before your money is processed, but if it is going to take longer you will receive a confirmation of receipt.

UK Cases

In the UK, mutilated currency should be dealt with by the Bank of England at:

The Manager, Dept MN,
Bank of England,
King Street,
Leeds,
LS1 1HT
Tel: 0113 244 1711

However you will first have to fill out a ‘Mutilated Notes Claim Form’ which can be obtained from the website: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/Pages/damaged_banknotes.aspx The process will normally only take a few days and the money should be reimbursed via direct bank transfer.

Australia

In Australia damaged banknotes can be redeemed by The Reserve Bank of Australia where the notes may be classified as ‘unfit’, ‘incomplete’ or ‘badly damaged/contaminated’. Generally the same approach applies, but with a significant difference for incomplete banknotes: where 20-80% of the banknote remains, the bank will respond by paying out the proportional percentage. In other words 50% of a $100 would be worth $50. If you have ‘contaminated’ currency (such as burned notes) then the same process will be applied for the ‘visible portion’ of the note – if 30% of your $50 note is visible then you get $15.

To redeem your mutilated currency in Australia the Reserve Bank recommend taking the damaged tender to your local bank or ‘authorised deposit-taking institution’ (ADI). These should accept all claims and use provided grids to calculate the value. They will forward any ‘complicated’ cases to the Reserve Bank’s National Process and Distribution Centre of NNPDC. Alternatively you may present the notes yourself to the Reserve Bank’s head office in Sydney (65 Martin Place) or the Canberra Branch (20-22 London Circuit) so that they can be delivered directly to the NNPDC.

Finally if there is ‘no other option’ you can send your cash to:

Manager, Processing,
National Note Processing and Distribution Centre,
Note Printing Australia Ltd,
PO Box 2100,
CRAIGIEBURN VIC 3064

All cases require a form to be filled out which you can find here: http://banknotes.rba.gov.au/redeemdamagednotes.html

Note that in the US and UK you may also opt to take your tender to your local bank where they may or may not be able to help. Often they will offer to send the currency on your behalf, but may charge a fee for the service.

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