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You want handcuffs with that?

We coin collectors have had many laughs over the years over incidents where clerks don’t recognize real cash.

The incidents usually involve paper money.

It can be a current $2 bill. It might be an old Silver Certificate with blue seals.

But laughing is not something I wanted to do when I saw this story.

A man went to jail because a clerk called a $10 bill that he had tried to spend counterfeit.

How could something get so out of hand?

I can understand a clerk making a mistake.

Some clerks I encounter act like they can hardly count.

But there is a huge difference between refusing to accept a $10 bill and arresting the person who tenders it.

What kind of compensation is warranted for such a thing?

Note that the Secret Service was called in.

It took them three months, if the story is correct, to determine the $10 was genuine.

We in the numismatic community can’t get the Secret Service to crack down on millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit coins flooding the country.

Now we know why.

They are busy making the country safe by examining a single example of a genuine $10 bill.

If coin dealers have a de minimis rule for reporting cash transactions, shouldn’t the Secret Service have a de minimis rule, too?

Perhaps they shouldn’t be called in unless the suspected perpetrator has multiple examples on his person, or a wad of them in his car, or a suitcase of them stashed somewhere?

Or perhaps the local police should have to show that they have multiple passing incidents of identical fake bills.

How many?

Well, I would think more than one should be required.

You pick a number.

Two cases? Three? A half dozen in the same area?

Naturally, as a collector, I would love to see a photograph of the note that set off this whole unfortunate chain of events.

It also reminded me of a time some years ago when I was trying to spend a $1 Silver Certificate at the Miami Airport.

I had time to kill. I thought it would be amusing.

Well, the clerk called the manager. I had to wait.

Fortunately for me, the manager was experienced and knew what genuine but old money looked like.

Reading a story like this one about the $10 makes me realize that I could have been held up long enough at the airport that I could have missed my next flight.

If that had happened, trying to spend a $1 Silver Certificate wouldn’t have been funny at all.

Fortunately for me, the hassle was small.

Incidents like the one with the $10 bill will speed up our society’s migration to cashlessness.

As clerks lose what little familiarity they have with cash, who wants to be on the receiving end of a comment:

“You want handcuffs with that?”

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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