What is the Stamp Stampede?

The Stamp Stampede is a non-profit organization of over 75,000 Americans legally stamping money to help build the movement to GET BIG MONEY OUT of politics AND VOTERS IN.

Is it legal?

Yes! It’s legal to stamp political messages on US currency. Many people assume that it’s illegal to stamp or write on paper currency at all, but that’s not the case. There’s a provision in the law that states it’s only illegal to deface currency “with the intent to render the bill unfit to be reissued.” Because we want these bills to stay in circulation, it’s legal. We’re lucky because the U.S. is actually one of the only countries with language like that. You can read our lawyer’s legal opinion on the matter here.

How does stamping bills help the movement to amend the constitution?

The Stamp Stampede is a petition on steroids. It is a way for you to raise your voice and make it heard for 2 ½ years per stamped bill. It provides a concrete way for people to take action that will have a lasting and growing impact. The average dollar bill is seen by nearly 1,000 people over the next 2 ½ years. That means If 1,000 People stamped one dollar per day for a year, our message would be seen over 300 million times. If 10,000 people stamped one dollar per day for a year our message would be seen over 3 billion times. All of this results in a constant outcry that Congress and the politicians can’t ignore. And as more and more stamped bills get into circulation the outcry gets louder and louder. And it provides inspiration and support to local and state campaigns to pass resolutions.

How do you come up with 875 impressions per bill?

The Federal Reserve estimates that the average one dollar bill lasts 4.8 years. That is 1,750 days. We figure the typical bill you will be stamping will be halfway through its life, or have 875 days left. We then assume that the typical bill is passed around once a day or 875 more times in its life.

Let’s say you stamp an average of 10 bills a day, that’s 300/month. Even if you take weekends off you’ll end the year stamping about 3000 bills and each will be seen an average of 875 times. That means you’ll get your message out 2,625,000 times!

Can we REALLY win a constitutional amendment?

Yes. In fact, we’re already more than 34% there: 17 states have passed ballot resolutions calling on Congress to propose an amendment and 150 Members of Congress have expressed support. Moreover, recent polling shows that 80% of Americans – Democrats and Republicans – support an amendment. The last time there was this much support for a constitutional amendment was in 1971 when Congress proposed and the states ratified the 26th amendment lowering the voting age to 18. It won’t be easy – it’s a marathon not a sprint – but it’s the only way we can rescue our democracy from the wealthy elite.

Who are the different organizations supporting the amendment?

There are over 140 diverse organizations working together to win a constitutional amendment, including groups like Move to Amend, Free Speech for People, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Represent.Us, Wolf-PAC, NH Rebellion, Sierra Club, Green Peace, the NAACP and many more. To see the full list visit UnitedForThePeople.org and check out our partners.

What is the Stamp Mobile? How do I host an event with the Stamp Mobile?

Learn about the Amend-O-Matic Stamp Mobile here.  This merry contraption is happy to join non-profit organizations, clubs, events, festivals, conventions, national and regional meeting, students, businesses and activists while traveling around the country.

How can my business partner with the Stampede?

Small business owners around the country have set up stamping stations – a small section of counter space with fliers and a stamp for their customers and employees to stamp money. Participants include food co-ops, bars, coffee shops, tattoo parlors, ice cream shops, and bookstores. If you would like to set up a stamping station near you, or click here to download the fliers and the stamping station sign.

If you send us an email, we’ll gladly feature you and your store on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

How can I get more involved?

Click here for more info on how to get started.

If you would like help brainstorming ideas, email us and we’ll be happy to talk. Are you a regular at a bar, restaurant, cafe, or business in your area? Ask them to put up a Stamping Station — they really help give the movement credibility and visibility! There are also dozens of other amazing organizations working on this issue that could use your time and support.

What do you do with the money from stamp sales?

We’re a non-profit, not a business, so 100% of the money from stamp sales goes directly to covering their cost and back into the Stampede operation. We invest in more inventory so that we can get stamps in your hands quicker, and we use any extra to cover other costs related to the Stampede, like this website! Otherwise, the Stampede runs almost entirely on donations, which also helps us pay our wonderful employees a little bit.

Can I stamp any denomination?

Yes, you can stamp every bill and every denomination!

Do all denominations of bills circulate at the same rate?

No, higher denomination bills circulate less frequently, but they stay in circulation for a longer period of time:

$1 4.8 years
$5 3.8 years
$10 3.6 years
$20 6.7 years
$50 9.6 years
$100 19.9 years

What is the best place to stamp on the bill?

See Be a Better Stamper and consult our magnificent Handy Dandy Guide to Stamping. It is best to stamp a bill on the front and the back so there’s a greater chance of more people seeing it. When stamping on the front, avoid stamping over the serial numbers and the two round “seals” on the left and right (that would set off the scanners at federal reserve banks and increase the chances that the bill will be rejected by their machine and sent back to the federal reserve to be taken out of circulation. On the back of a one dollar bill, the best place to stamp is on an angle in the center over the word “one”. On the back of higher denomination bills, there’s more flexibility — just find any suitable white space. For the front of bills the best stamp is the pocket stamp because its smaller. The acrylic speech bubble stamp is also good because the words come right out of the dead presidents’ mouth (and you can see where you’re placing the stamp!)

What can you tell me about stamping $2 bills?

A loyal Stamper wrote us with his experience. Here are the two main takeaways:

  1. Most banks will not order them unless you order a 1,000 bill “block”. You have to go to the bank and ask the tellers if they have any on hand.
  2. There are no slots in cash registers for $2s; they are told by supervisors to put them under the checks or higher denomination bills in the register — this essentially takes the bills (and our message) out of circulation since they are not handed back as change.

What laws are applicable to stamping money?

Defacement of U.S. currency is regulated by 18 USC 333, which states:

[w]hoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

There’s also a law prohibiting the use of paper money as advertising, 18 USC 475, which states:

[w]hoever . . . writes, prints, or otherwise impresses upon . . . any [coin or currency] of the United States, any business or professional card, notice, or advertisement, or any notice or advertisement whatever, shall be fined under this title.

18 USC 333 is written to prohibit the malicious destruction of currency, and 18 USC 475 is written to prevent currency from becoming a vehicle for commercial advertising, like for Burger King. Because we want stamped money to stay in circulation and we’re stamping to express our opinions about a political issue, not to make a profit, we’re good to go.

You can read our lawyer’s legal opinion on the matter here.

Has anyone gotten in trouble for stamping?

Our head stamper Ben Cohen has been stamping on national television – CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc. – since 2012, and he has shown stamped bills to politicians and government officials as high up as the President. Many other celebrities, politicians, and public figures have also stamped their money, but Ben has yet to be reprimanded for his stamping and no other stamper has faced legal issues for stamping either. One stamper even took the issue of stamping straight to his local police department to ask them about it, and they politely informed him that it seemed legal and harmless and therefore wasn’t something they’d even consider pursuing. Ultimately the Secret Service is the federal agency tasked with enforcing the laws relevant to stamping money, not the police, and if the Secret Service is watching your behavior then stamping should be the least of your concerns.

Can businesses refuse stamped currency?

31 USC 5103 states: “United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.” As the U.S. Treasury Department has noted, however, there is no Federal law requiring a business to accept cash as payment:

Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy. (Source)

It’s worth noting that this discusses denominations of currency and cash generally. With that in mind it seems unlikely that stamped bills, which are legal tender, should not be treated any differently than unstamped bills. We occasionally hear about local businesses that have policies not to accept any marked currency, usually as a precaution against counterfeiting, but It’s not clear whether or not such a policy is legal. They do appear to be well-intentioned and do not discriminate against stamped bills in particular.

I stamped a big wad of bills, then went to deposit them at my bank. They said they would report/destroy them. What do I do?

Find a friendlier bank.

Some banks accept large quantities of stamped bills with no problem and keep the money in circulation. Other banks segregate all marked currency and send them in to the Federal Reserve to be scanned. If a bank says your stamped bills will be sent in to be destroyed, that’s misleading. Banks are not empowered to determine which bills are fit to stay in circulation — the Fed’s scanners determine that, and bills stamped according to the Handy Dandy Guide stand the best chance of not being flagged as being unfit to be reissued. We’ve done our homework!

If you slip in some stamped bills each time you make a deposit, it’s not usually a problem. Your task, as a conscientious stamper, is to determine the maximum percentage of stamped cash you can deposit at your local bank without raising too many eyebrows. That is part of the art of Stampeding.

But the best way to get stamped bills into circulation is to spend them to buy stuff (or for tip money!) — Enough with all this plastic. Walking around with a big wad of cash is cool and retro and very impressive when out on a date.

The bank says my stamped money is defaced/mutilated/altered. Is it?

No. There is no lawful or practical reason for a bank to refuse stamped currency.

Stamped bills are not defaced. According to the U.S. Treasury Department:

Currency defacement is generally defined as follows: “Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.” (Source)

An argument could certainly be made that stamping ‘disfigures’ currency, but stamping still passes the most important test to not be considered defacement – the intent. Even if a bank still insists stamped money is defaced, the U.S. Federal Reserve guidelines for banks instruct them to include “torn, dirty, limp, worn, or defaced” bills in their regular deposits. (Source)

Stamped bills are also self-evidently not mutilated. Think of cash damaged in a fire or rust-encrusted coins, or see the source below for pictured examples. If it’s in good condition and you can tell what denomination it is, you’re good to go. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, mutilated currency is:

Currency that has been damaged to the extent that one-half or less of the note remains, or its condition is such that its value is questionable and special examination by trained experts at the Department of the Treasury or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is required. (Source)

Some banks may also say that stamped bills are ‘unlawfully altered’, but this is a confusion between the common definition of altered and the legal definition, which refers to currency whose value has been fraudulently changed, such as changing a $10 bill to a $100 bill. According to the Federal Reserve, if they detect “counterfeit or unlawfully altered currency in an institution’s deposit, it is forwarded to the Secret Service, and the institution is charged for the difference” (Source). Stamped bills do not fit the definition of altered currency, so your bank will not be penalized for depositing them and they should accept them without complaint.

Will vending machines accept stamped dollar bills?

Yes, stamped currency can still be processed by vending machines – as long as the bill is in suitable condition. We’ve even had people write in saying that they received a stamped bill from self-checkout machines and ATMs. But as is often the case with non-stamped money, sometimes machines just don’t want to cooperate and will spit the bill back out. The experiences of stampers vary wildly on this front, and it appears to depend more on the machine than how and where you stamp your money. We’re working on figuring out what works best, though, because we know how inconvenient the situation can be. If you can, pay through a cashier. This guarantees that it will be quickly seen by more people once it’s handed back out as change.

A vending/checkout machine wouldn’t accept my stamped money. Does that mean it is defaced?

No, and given how frequently these machines reject even unstamped bills we don’t place much stock in their ability to tell good from bad. The stamping guidelines in the Handy Dandy Guide are designed to ensure bills clear the much more sophisticated scanners at Federal Reserve Banks, and rejection by a differently designed commercial scanner does not mean stamped money will be taken out of circulation by the Federal Reserve. It also does not mean the way you stamped your money was illegal – your intent is still the most important part.

How do I replace the ink pad or re-ink my stamp?

For instructions on how to re-ink a self-inking desk stamp or replace its ink pad, watch this video. Use 3 drops of Trodaf Ideal ink and allow the ink to sink in for at least 1 minute before replacing the ink pad in the stamp.

For instructions on how to re-ink a pre-inked desk stamp, watch this video. Use two drops of iStamp ink in each ink well.

What is Citizens United?

Citizens United is a conservative lobbying organization. In 2008, they made a feature length film titled “Hillary” critical of Hillary Clinton and wanted to advertise the film during television broadcasts in apparent violation of Federal Election Commission rules. Citizens United filed a lawsuit that went up to the Supreme Court — Citizens United vs FEC. In the ruling, the United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations. Learn More.

How can I customize the number of email notifications I get about stamped bill sightings?

You may want to stop getting all email notifications about these reported stamped bill sightings, or reduce the amount of notifications to just the ones about your own stamped bills, or you may want to get ALL the stamped bill sighting notifications you can get. All of this is customizable. Here is what you do: Go to “My Account” on the right of the top menu bar –> Login to your account –> Go to the menu bar again and click “Edit my Profile” –> You’ll see the “Notification Email Settings” on that page where you can click or un-click from the various options for what notifications you can receive.

I want to gift stamps. How do I order multiple stamps with their own tracking code?

The way the system is setup is that each unique 4-letter ID (that you pick for a stamp) is connected to ONE email address. So if you would like to gift other people a stamp with their own code, you can do one of two options: (1) Log out of your account, then go to the Stamp Stampede store, and make a purchase as though you are the person you are gifting a stamp to–with their email account in the field…for each new person you want to gift a stamp to, you must logout and proceed with another purchase as a new customer; (2) You can make the order with a staff member by emailing info@stampstampede.org. Option 2 is best for people who do not want to pay multiple shipping fees and have all the stamps they want to gift delivered to one address.