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Money Mystery: The case of the frayed funds

August 9, 2019
Jaime Ochs
Jaime Ochs

Imagine this scenario:  You pull out cash to pay for the soon-to-arrive pizza delivery. You gingerly place the pizza funds on the coffee table for easy access. When you return a few minutes later to answer the door, your nicely laid bills are in frayed pieces on the floor. Did Fido get hungry for a crisp green snack, or did your toddler make currency confetti?

Regardless of whodunit, the crime’s bigger mystery remains – is this mangled money worth anything?


In most cases, yes, damaged cash is salvageable even without the help of a private investigator or a forensics team.

Face value exchange

If you find yourself in this unfortunate predicament, check first with your local financial institution. Typically, soiled, disintegrated and torn bills can be exchanged; however, every bank follows different procedures for accepting and exchanging damaged dough.

Here at Hancock Whitney, we’ll exchange mutilated currency at face value if more than 50 percent of the note is present. Our team suggests collecting all retrievable pieces of your damaged bills and storing in a secure container.

If your cash has further damage caused by fire, explosives, water, chemicals or animals/insects, our team can assist in mailing the money to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). Their dedicated division for Mutilated Currency reviews damaged bills.

In order to reissue bills with less than 50 percent remaining, the BEP looks for clear remnants of a note with strong supporting evidence that demonstrate the missing portions have bene totally destroyed.

Each year, the currency experts at BEP handle approximately 30,000 claims and redeem upward of $30 million as a free public service. Due to the number of claims, the BEP cautions that standard claims can take from six months to 36 months to process depending on the condition of the currency.

Sturdy bucks

For the curious bloodhounds on the case, U.S. paper currency—composed of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen—is built for durability. The Federal Reserve indicates that U.S. paper money has a lifespan of nearly 4,000 folds which is equivalent to approximately 5.8 years for one dollar bills and up to 15 years for $100 notes.

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