Macro photography (G11) of a scam $2 bill?

A relative of mine called and asked me to take a look at an “investment” in some “rare currency” that he obtained by calling a number from an advertisement (the type made to look like a legitimate new article) in our local paper. There it is was, in all it’s glory. He handed me a crisp, presumably uncirculated 2003 (since when is new issue currency rare?) US $2 bill encased in a cheap acrylic case – they type you could buy at a craft store for about $0.50. Upon some preliminary internet research on the iPhone, it was very clear this was PROBABLY just a scam.

click to see the larger version

The bills are offered by the World Reserve Monetary Exchange. A truly official and trust worthy sounding name. So who is this Exchange? They are an Ohio based company that sells collectible coins, currency and other items of “value” to customers. The have NO affiliation with the Federal Reserve, US Treasury, the US Mint of any other government agency.

Typically, they advertise via large newspaper or magazine advertisements targeted at the senior citizen population. That internet search netted about 50 complaints to every neutral or positive comment about the Exchange. Complaints included non-delivery of product, inability to return product, auto-drafting of funds from a customers checking account (who pays this way over the phone? seriously! You gave them access to your bank!?!), non-authorized credit card charges and to top it off one consumer claimed they sell a “Cross made with grains of sacred sand from Christ’s tomb.” Wow. You have to believe that one, don’t you?

This outfit is well known across the country and, although they technically don’t’ break any laws, they usually are thought of as deceitful in the advertising and have product of little or no value above the actual face value of the currency. Here is a good article from the Roanoke Times. Here is another article from the Arizona Daily Star in which the Better Business Bureau was getting ready to release a consumer warning about the World Reserve Monetary Exchange.

How much do these $2 bills cost when you buy them from the exchange? The $2 bills of the 50 states? The paper work I looked at noted that the first two $2 bills are “free”, just pay shipping and handling. Then they will ship two more $2 bills each month until you have collected all 50 states. Wait, $2 bills of the 50 states? Really? They are just capitalizing on the success of the state quarters program from the US Mint. There have NEVER been any paper currency, much less $2 bills, of the 50 states.

They offered a rather standard program of “2 free now”, 2 shipped every month kind of deal and pay only for what you keep. Sounds like the old CD clubs back in the 1990’s. The offer things like a presentation case, wood cases, etc. Of course, they all come with the obligatory shipping charge of around $7 for a $2 bill PLUS a processing fee. Here is an example directly from their website (the one my relative received is from Oregon and is the bill shown in the images:

The first $2 bill honoring the state of Colorado!

The Colorado State Overlaid $2 Bill elegantly displays the Rocky Mountains and the Denver skyline! Nicknamed the “Mile-High City,” Denver’s elevation is exactly 1 mile above sea-level. It is also the most populous city in the state of Colorado. With each purchase you will receive a gorgeous Colorado State Overlaid $2 Bill in its own protective estate wallet. Brought to you by the World Reserve Monetary Exchange. $19.00

click to see the larger version

Yes, $19 to buy a $2 bill. But wait! There’s more! The ad does states it’s “overlaid”. Just what does that mean? They put a very nice sticker on the bill. That’s right, it’s just a plain $2 bill with a fancy sticker. Nothing is printed, it’s just a $2 bill. They may as well be honest and state something accurate like the following: Pay us $19 for a $2 bill, we’ll toss in a cheap case to make it look nice and like we actually care. Next we over charge you for shipping, at least double what is should be.

You can get a “deal”, the one my relative was looking at, if you buy the 50 state program as a “set”. This one comes with a box (aka. “treasure chest”) and all the bills in acrylic cases as shown here. They sell this set for a mere $588. Okay, a little better. What’s your return on investment for this one? $588 – $100 (face value of the bills) – $25 (maybe for the “treasure chest”) and possibly – $5 for the acrylic + $350 S&H (2 bills at a time, once per month at $7/each shipment) = a NEGATIVE $808 value. Wow.

If someone was to order one $2 bill from each state individually, they would receive $50 in actual $2 bills, 50 cheap “estate wallets” and lose about $1,200 in the process. If that’s not a scam preying on the public, I don’t know what is.

To be fair, they do state that the bills are “overlaid”. But how many people will know what that actually means? Overlaid with what? Gold? Yes, they offer that too (check out their website). They also state what their shipping is and other associated charges. Based on that information, they are giving the info needed to make an “informed decision”, but most people wouldn’t see it that way. There is no law that I am aware of that would prohibit someone from adding a sticker, that can be removed, from the currency. It doesn’t damage or permanently alter the currency and it does appear to be real US currency. What they are selling is an “enhancement” of currency. Whether or not that holds any value, they will say yes, it does. Whether or not it will in the real world…probably not. You will just end up paying a lot for some $2 bills that you could get for $2 at the bank. Is it a scam? In the way it preys on the gullible, I have to think that most consumers would agree that it probably isn’t a good deal. Are they breaking any laws / doing anything illegal, most likely not. However, I am not an attorney.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Get your $2 bills at a bank for $2. You don’t need to pay someone for a sticker and a box. If you choose to ignore this advice, go for it. I hope you like stickers. BUYER BEWARE.

NOW THE PHOTOGRAPHY, after all, this is a photography site. The images were done quickly just to get the post up to help warn others about this company. All images were taken with the Canon G11, macro, no flash, ISO 200, aperture priority and with little regard to anything else. Yes, I like the G11 for macro work.

Close up of the serial number. click to see the larger version

Close up of Jefferson. click to see the larger version

Close up of seal and skyline. click to see the larger version

The STICKER REVEALED! click to see the larger version

More peeling off the sticker. click to see the larger version

click to see the larger version

click to see the larger version

The real $2 bill next to the sticker. Is that really worth $19? click to see the larger version


One response to “Macro photography (G11) of a scam $2 bill?

  1. Although I always suspected it was some sort of sticker being applied to these bills, I just couldn’t envision one that would do it. Your photos are great! I wish everyone purchasing these bills would take a look at your photos first.

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