What to Do With a Pocketful of Ruined Money

What happens when you forget to take a wad of money out of your pocket and it becomes a clump of paper after going through the wash? How about if you accidentally drop your wallet in the campfire? The money may seem ruined, but the Department of the Treasury has a program to get you your money back at no charge.

The Money Factory

The Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing is responsible for printing new currency (the US Mint is responsible for minting new coins). The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has an office dedicated to fixing your damaged bills.

The department has teams of skilled examiners to piece your burnt or damaged currency back together. If more than 50% of the bill can be put back together, you will receive a check from the government for the value of your bills.

The 18 examiners get cash from floods, fires, and other disasters along with rips and tears from typical every day wear and tear.

What to Do With Damaged Cash

The cash should be carefully boxed up for shipping. More importantly is what not to do with it. Here’s what the government guidelines are for sending in damaged cash:

• Regardless of the condition of the currency, do not disturb the fragments any more than absolutely necessary.
• If the currency is brittle or inclined to fall apart, pack it carefully in plastic and cotton without disturbing the fragments and place the package in a secure container.
• If the currency was mutilated in a purse, box, or other container, if should be left in the container to protect the fragments from further damage.
• If it is absolutely necessary to remove the fragments from the container, send the container along with the currency and any other contents that may have currency fragments attached.
• If the currency was flat when mutilated. Do not roll or fold the notes.
• If the currency was in a roll when mutilated, do not attempt to unroll or straighten it out.
• If coin or any other metal is mixed with the currency, carefully remove it.  Any fused, melted, or otherwise mutilated coins should be sent to the U.S. Mint for evaluation.

Where to Send It

Once your currency is carefully packaged up, you ship it directly to the damaged currency team in Washington, DC. It is highly recommended you use registered mail with a return receipt requested to ensure it is signed for and accepted properly. Here’s the address to send it:

USPS Delivery

Bureau of Engraving & Printing
MCD/OFM, Room 344A
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, DC 20013


Bureau of Engraving & Printing
MCD/OFM, Room 344A
14th and C Streets SW
Washington, DC 20228

What Happens When It Gets There

Each case is carefully examined by an experienced mutilated currency examiner.  The amount of time needed to process each case varies with its complexity and the case workload of the examiner.  Standard claims can take up to 6 months to 24 months to process depending on the condition of the currency. For cases that are expected to take longer than 12 weeks to process, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will issue a written confirmation of receipt.

How Money is Made

For a really cool (maybe I’m a bit of a nerd) video on how money is made, check out this video below. Grab some popcorn and learn about the wonders of our US currency.

If you really love money, you can join me in the art of numismatics, or coin and currency collecting.

Your Money Questions?

Do you have any questions about money, currency, collecting, or damaged money? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer everything you want to know.

Image by Images_of_Money / flickr

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  1. donebyforty says

    What a cool post! I love that there’s a group that is responsible for this sort of thing — what an odd niche.

    Just another cool thing our government does!

    • Eric says

      Our tax dollars hard at work! Ha ha.

      Interesting fact, the US Mint is the only branch of government with a net operating profit… thanks to coin collectors like me.

    • Eric says

      In most cases, the bank will take torn bills if you can tape them back together. When it gets too bad, though, this is a great option. It might be slow, but at least you get your money back!

    • Eric says

      Most people don’t know that service exists. You don’t get the bills back, but who cares! You get to keep your money, that’s the important part.

  2. says

    When I was a kid I remember finding $100 on the beach, the only problem was that it was only half a note. So I threw i buried it in the sand. Anyway, later that day about 2 minutes walk from where I had buried the half a note, I found another half of a $100 note… I spent the better part of the next day digging up the beach looking for the first half, but never found it :(

    • Eric says

      If they are still not totally destroyed, you can just spend them or take them to the bank. If even the bank won’t take them, this is the only way to get your money back.

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