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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Nothing up my sleeve... » » Is it counterfeiting? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Magicbarry
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I'm sure this topic has been covered before, but I can't find it, and I'm insanely curious.

Basically, I'm wondering how counterfeiting laws apply to the production of gimmicked coins. These coins are, of course made to look real, and are exact copies of real coins.

But ...

If it's illegal to produce exact copies of coins and bills, how is it that manufacturers are able to do just this?

Is there an agreement they sign, or a fee they pay? Obviously, these companies aren't about to break the law, so there must be something that makes everything legal.
Chad Sanborn
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You are mistaken to some degree. Gaffed coins ARE real coins. All the components of gaffed coins come from real coins. Thats why they look so realistic, They Are! That said, I am not sure how the laws apply to the manufacturing of gimmicked coins. But the manufacturing of gimmicked coins is counterproductive to the purpose of conterfeiting. In otherwords it cost more to make a gimmick thatn what the actual circulated coin is worth. For example the gimmick in a scotch and soda set costs about $20 for a coin that is only worth 50 cents. This is the same reason you will never see a counterfiet $1. Whether or not it may be illegal, it is not worth the time and effort to crack down on what is a 'victimless crime'. You can probably email one of the US mints or the Secret Service who handle counterfeit claims.

Chad
sethbek
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I agree with Chad- on the Flip Side- it IS illegal to DESTROY money.
Gaffed coins are made by DETROYING real coins, thus being illegal.
I think. Can anyone back me up on this?
Smile Smile Smile
*poof*
Magicbarry
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Quote:
On 2002-11-06 14:01, chadmagic wrote:
You are mistaken to some degree. Gaffed coins ARE real coins. All the components of gaffed coins come from real coins. Thats why they look so realistic, They Are!


AH! I didn't know that -- thanks!

Quote:
That said, I am not sure how the laws apply to the manufacturing of gimmicked coins. But the manufacturing of gimmicked coins is counterproductive to the purpose of conterfeiting. In otherwords it cost more to make a gimmick thatn what the actual circulated coin is worth. For example the gimmick in a scotch and soda set costs about $20 for a coin that is only worth 50 cents. This is the same reason you will never see a counterfiet $1.

Yeah, that had occurred to me, though I wonder if the manufacturing cost of the gimmicked coin would be lower than that of a real coin. (They sell it for $20, but it might only cost 25 cents to make.)

Regardless, you're quite right. But while it may be impractical, the legality is what has me curious.
Quote:
Whether or not it may be illegal, it is not worth the time and effort to crack down on what is a 'victimless crime'.

Again, you're right.

In the back of my head, though, I'm wondering what a lawyer defending a true counterfeiter would do if some counterfeits were legal and not others. If, for example, there were a case deep in legal archives where a manufacturer of scotch and soda sets was given the okay to produce "fake" coins, that might set a precedent that could be used in cases of actual counterfeit.

This means nothing, of course, if the gimmicked coins are made from real coins, as you say. As far as I know, defacing a coin is not illegal.
Quote:
You can probably email one of the US mints or the Secret Service who handle counterfeit claims.

Egad, I suppose I could, but what if it turned out that all the manufacturers were, unknowingly, actually breaking the law! The government would come in, shut them down, and deprive us all of our scotch and sodas, cig-through-quarters, hopping halfs -- it would be horrible!

Just kidding, of course.

Thanks for your thoughts, Chad.

Quote:
On 2002-11-06 15:00, sethbek wrote:
I agree with Chad- on the Flip Side- it IS illegal to DESTROY money.
Gaffed coins are made by DETROYING real coins, thus being illegal.
I think. Can anyone back me up on this?
Smile Smile Smile


Hey, Seth. Your post crossed with mine, so I didn't get a chance to read it before submitting. Actually, I didn't know it was illegal to destroy or deface currency. That's interesting. (I'm in Canada, so I don't know the U.S. laws on such things.)

Oh well, if the feds ever catch on, I suppose we can all just vanish the evidence!
Paul Chosse
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The counterfeiting laws were enacted to keep people from profiting by defrauding other people, destabalizing the economy, etc. In other words, obviously criminal intent. I believe that you are safe from prosecution as long as there is no intent to defraud. Maybe one of the lawyers on board could address this? Also, I'm pretty sure the laws covering this are publc record and available without directly contacting the treasury!
Maybe Harvey Rosenthal could shed some light...

Best, PSC
"You can't steal a gift..." Dizzy Gillespie
Tony
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Without going into details, it is not illegal to deface a coin (imagine how much it costs to deface a penny, nickel, dime, etc.). While I cannot immediately provide any facts that it is not illegal, a lot of you must have seen those penny machines that turn your penny into a souvenir (by dropping 50 cents for the process)--I believe that they are a citing a law as to why it is not against the law to deface coins.

Regards,
Tony
Magicbarry
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As I said, I don't know what the laws are like in the U.S., though I'm fairly certain you can do any damage you want to currency in Canada.

A few years ago, Canada introduced the $2 coin, which consists of an penny-sized copper centre, and a silver outer ring. The introduction of the "twoonie" ignited a craze with people gleefully attempting to pop the centres out of the coins. Various defacing methods were passed back and forth as we tried to discover the best way to get the centre out. (If your curious, apparently putting it in the freezer for an hour and then throwing it against a hard surface is the easiest method that doesn't involve tools.)

Rather silly, we were. But I don't recall any government official coming out and saying "Hey, that's illegal".
Craig Matsuoka
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The US Mint posted an answer to the coin damage/defacement question. Do a search on "deface":

http://usmint.gov/faqs/

Essentially, with coins, there must be fraudulent intent.

Currency is slightly different -

Bureau of Engraving and Printing:

http://www.bep.treas.gov/document.cfm/18/104

http://www.bep.treas.gov/document.cfm/5/44/98

In the case of bills, there must be intent to render them unfit to be reissued.

So, for now at least, magicians appear safe from prosecution. IMHO, there are much better reasons to put us in jail. Smile

Almost forgot. The US Code also covers replicas and counterfeits of US and other coinage:

Click Here!

Click Here!

The "Hobby Protection Act" is also of interest:

Click Here!
Mike Powers
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I am fairly certain that the law allows for the "defacing" of money when the result is a value-added situation. For example it's ok to cut out much of the interior of a Mercury dime to make a necklace or ear ring etc. You can mount silver dollars on belt buckles etc since you are creating something of value from the money. You can stamp your intitials onto a Penny etc.

Perhaps a lawyer can comment on this...

Mike
Dan Watkins
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I am sure Johnson Products and SASCO etc. would have been put out of business years ago if it was illegal.

I am sure that those machines that turn Pennies into souveniers at FEDERAL landmarks etc. would never go there if they broke the law as well.
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Dominic Reyes
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Well here in the UK things are a lot simpler

IT'S ILLEGAL! FULL STOP!
1)It's defacing the queen's image , which is Treason, and the only crime which still holds a capital punishment in England (Although nobodys been hung since the 1960's)

2)It's against the Coinage Act 1984 and can lead to a prison sentence. (Although it's never been enforced)

So English 'Gaffers' tend to be a little more low key Smile
erik
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Related, but slightly different thought:

I once went in my local bank, and they had very large hundred dollar bills on the wall, advertising a loan sale or some such. It was clear that they were photocopied.

So, I asked: "isn't that illegal?" The nice manager told me that she had asked the same thing, and US law allows copying of currency to less anything than 50% of the actual size or greater than 150% (I might have the numbers wrong, but you get the idea)


-erik
WilliamWHolcomb
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Just wanted to throw my 2-cents in. I used to work with members of the US Secret Service (those who are charged with investigating counterfeits)and can tell you it is not illegal to deface or mutilate US coinage or currency except if, by doing so, you intend to defraud.

Intent to defraud is the real measure of a true conterfeit. One bizzare instance of American justice (non-magic related) involved a man who cut off the corners of several $20 bill and glued then onto lesser denominations such as a $5 bill. He passed them off to several unsuspecting store clerks until he was caught. He's now serving a 30-year prison term- 5 years for each of six counts!

Since all US currency is a bearer instrument that is non-surrenderable, you can do whatever you want with it - as long as you don't defraud someone else. Incidently, according to the USC, it is considered illegal to pass Canadian currency in the US unless the exchange rate is adjusted. Think about that the next time you use some pocket-change to buy a candy bar!
Smile
William Holcomb
Joedy
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A good explaination of this is on those souviner Penny machines. These are those machines that for about a dollar will accept a regular Penny and will mash it flat to an oblong oval shape and then stamp what ever logo is being sponsored at the time. Amusement parks put them up and will usually sponser logos of the parks, or certain statements such as, "I survived the ___ roller coaster!"

If you happen to see one of these machines, stop and read the US Federal Statues that are explained on the top. I'm sure that the makers of the machine expected people to believe that it was "illegal" to deface money.

Here in the US, unlike property "ownership", individuals truly DO own their money. If you want to burn, bury, eat, give it away... it's your right, but (everything has a but, huh) if by defacing your money you intend to defraud with it, then you win an all expense trip pre-paid by the tax payers for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time at one of the US' luxury retaining facilities. Three meals a day, TeeVee, weights, and you get PLENTY of time to practice your magic sleights. (smile)
Blumanfry
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As I've understood it, defacing US currency is illegal unless the purpose is to make jewelry or a novelty (gaffed coin/bill). My wife's grandfather is a jewelry maker and that's probably where I have heard/read that information.
DonB
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So, would it be fair to say that as long as you don't try to spend your magical coins/bills, you're not going to be bothered by law enforcement?

DonB
Larry Barnowsky
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US coins are used commonly in jewelry, including having holes drilled in them. There is even a vending device that engraves Pennies as souvenirs. These actions are all permitted. There is no intent to defraud.
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