It's okay to deface a penny

As long as it's not counterfeit

Dear Matthew: On vacation recently, I saw a machine that for 50 cents squashed a penny into a thin copper disk with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on it. I remember my dad telling me when I was a kid that it was illegal to deface money. How can this machine be legal? — Bob G., San Diego

Golly, don’t tell me Pops actually told little Bobby something that wasn’t true! Why, this must be the only time ever, ever that a dad has filled his kid’s bean with wrong-headed nonsense! And wrong-headed it is. Unless your intent is to counterfeit, you can mash, bend, staple, cut, fold, file, paint, melt, puncture, etch, or otherwise deface a coin, and you won’t show up one day on America’s Most Wanted. In fact, if you can get a lot of bozo tourists to pay you 50 or 100 times the penny’s face value once it’s smashed and embossed, why, go get ’em, Bob.

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