About that last featured image

The featured image for my recent post griping about overly marked $20 bills used this image, which I found on an opinion website:

Harriet Tubman Prop Twenty

Notice anything?

It’s prop money.

That picture was taken by the stamp’s creator, Dano Woll, or at least a picture of the same bill with the same ink marks around the edges of the stamp square was credited to Dano Wall by the Washington Post, and it’s unlikely he lent that piece of prop money out for other people to take pictures of.

Why use prop money? I can think of a situation where he’d want to use prop money while designing the stamp, if he had access to a lot of prop money he wasn’t using for anything else (maybe he’s done some acting) and didn’t want to mark up real bills with a design he wasn’t sure of yet. But why use prop money to show off the finished product?

The Washington Post story pointed out:

Wall said he’s been careful not to violate a U.S. law of defacing currency. “The basic gist of it is you can’t render a bill illegible,” Wall said. “You can’t cover any text or numbers or anything on it to serve as an advertisement. … Anything outside of that — if the bill is still fit for circulation is fine. You can write on it and mark in any way.”

He doesn’t seem certain of that, though.

If you do an image search for “Harriet Tubman stamp” or something similar, you’ll find several pictures of Tubman-stamped real twenties in a lot of places. News and opinion sites have found stamped twenties, and people who’ve bought the stamps have taken pictures of their handiwork.

Not Wall.

Maybe it’s because of this:

Under section 475 of the U.S. Criminal Code, “whoever designs, engraves, prints, makes, or executes, or utters, issues, distributes, circulates, or uses any business or professional card, notice, placard, circular, handbill, or advertisement in the likeness or similitude of any obligation or security of the United States issued under or authorized by any Act of Congress or writes, prints, or otherwise impresses upon or attaches to any such instrument, obligation, or security, or any coin of the United States, any business or professional card, notice, or advertisement, or any notice or advertisement whatever, shall be fined under this title.”

I doubt that Wall is really that worried about being prosecuted for this somewhere-between-trivial-and-bullshit crime – that would be an over-the-top amount of amount of paranoia, even for a political activist. He’s probably more worried about being mass-reported off of Etsy by righties – Etsy’s Prohibited Items Policy would give them a vector, and the way it’s worded suggests that Etsy would err on the side of obeying the loudest voices.

(I don’t know that for sure, though, because that’s related to informal enforcement patterns and other unwritten rules, and I’ve spent less time on Etsy in my life than I did today researching this post.)

Wall said he has sold out of the stamps and is hurrying to produce more.

“My goal is to get 5,000 stamps out there,” said Wall.

5,000 multiplied by $20 or more ($10 for replacement stamp heads) is a decent amount of money. Wall says on his individual product pages that he plans to donate any profits to charity, but still, it’s understandable that he’d go to some visible lengths to protect it.

Before I thought it through, though, my initial reaction was “just do what you’re encouraging thousands of other people to do, you coward.”

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