Few sights are as terrifying as a pile of damaged money bills. As you helplessly sift through the paper scraps—which may have been inexplicably torn, chewed off by rodents, or submerged in a body of water—you may be thinking to yourself, “What a waste!”
Not so fast. Apparently, there is a way for you to redeem some value from your utterly damaged money.
After shaking off your initial shock at seeing the damaged bills, go look up the Mutilated Currency Division (MCD), an office under the supervision of the U.S. Treasury Department. According to a 2019 piece by NPR’s Josh Axelrod, the MCD reviews around 24,000 claims and facilitates the redemption of about $30 million every year. Now who says those scraps are worthless?
Restoring Hope, Restoring Value
Here’s a crucial point for every American to understand: these bills merely represent the value of the financial credit that they own. As such, if your bills accidentally sustain damage, you can send a request to the MCD so that you can get back their full value. You’ll have to sit tight, though: depending on the extent of the damage, the processing of a request can last anywhere between six months and 36 months.
The process is no joke. The MCD uses just about every tool in the arsenal to assess the value of mutilated bills: manual instruments like scissors, scalpels, and tweezers, along with more advanced equipment like microscopes, drying ovens, and UV lights. While some claims are dropped off by submitters in person, the majority of the claims are mailed to the MCD from all across the globe.
What could have caused such intense damage, you may ask? The FAQs page of the official MCD website cites the following common culprits: “fire, water, chemicals, and explosives; animal, insect, or rodent damage; and petrification or deterioration by burying.”
How Much a Dollar Costs
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Of course, you can just go back to work, bring home some more hard-earned dollars, and just leave these damaged bills in the past. The thing is, in the big picture of this country’s currency, every dollar counts—down to the last mutilated scrap.
This is because there is so much riding on the U.S. dollar. Ever since the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, the U.S. dollar has reigned supreme as the international reserve currency. Translation: the value of other countries’ currencies is defined by their relation to the dollar. (This was accentuated in 1971, when President Richard Nixon decided to sever the dollar’s ties to gold. Because of this act, the dollar went on to become the lone standard for currencies worldwide.)
Given the tremendous importance of the dollar’s value, the Government essentially guarantees the worth of every note issued by the Treasury. Unless there is evidence of a criminal scheme, or the serial number can no longer be clearly identified, the MCD generally re-issues the value of the mutilated bill.
So the next time you find your dollar notes in a disfigured state, take a deep breath and remember that a solution is at hand. For the sake of your sanity—as well as the strength of the United States economy—the Mutilated Currency Division is there to help.