December 4, 2010

Obama pardons a man who was convicted of mutilating coins in 1963.

Why? Why does that win the attention of the President of the United States? The pardoned man, Ronald Lee Foster of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, received probation and a $20 fine. This was one of 9 pardons, the first set of pardons by President Obama. The NYT characterized all the pardoned crimes as "small-scale offenses committed many years ago," but 4 of the cases involved cocaine. Maybe the coin-mutilating is in there to make cocaine look small scale.

I wonder what, exactly, Ronald Lee Foster did to coins? From CoinTalk:
I looked but can not find out anything about what he did to coins. I wonder if he is the first person to produce the infamous "Lincoln looks at Kennedy" pennies? There was a guy back in the 1960's who used a machine to shave pennies to the size of dimes and passed them in vending machines. Now what is "mutilation of coins" and what did this guy do?

***

In 1963, he was earning $82 a month as a Marine at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when he says he and 16 others hatched a scheme to cut pennies into dimes so they could use them in vending machines. But the Secret Service caught them....
Hmmm, that reminds me. We used to try to turn quarters — back when they were silver — into rings. Step 1 was banging on the edge with a spoon to flatten and broaden it. No one ever got to step 2, which would have required some drilling.

36 comments:

Legal said...

It seems odd that mutilating a penny is illegal, when every tourist destination in the world has a machine designed to do exactly that. http://www.anythreewords.com/pennies/other.php

alan markus said...

I'm sure that back in 1963 I was putting my share of pennies on railroad tracks.

MrBuddwing said...

I was under the distinct impression that there's nothing illegal about mutilating coins, only in mutilating coins and trying to pass them off as legal currency.

Word verification: witusifi.

edutcher said...

Maybe next time, he'll pardon Charlie Rangel and he wants to be able to say he took care of the little guys first.

Lem said...

You mean a $20 fine..

Lem said...

Manufacturing is a crime ;)

TenMile said...

When Ronald Lee Foster, 66, of Beaver Falls, tried to apply for a gun permit about two years ago, he was shocked when he was denied because he was a felon.


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10338/1108265-84.stm#ixzz17AS6e0nP

john said...

Good for Obama! Not a Puerto Rican terrorist, off-shore tax evader/arms dealer, Weather Undergroud murderer, or half-brother among them!

Been on a roll ever since the T'Day turkey-pardon, you the man, Barry.

WAmom said...

As a joke in 1962 & 63, many people took red nail polish and drew a Pope's hat onto George Washington's head on the quarter coin. This played off their fears that the first Catholic President, JFK, would take orders from Rome. This seems unbelievable today, doesn't it?

john said...

Discretion counts, however. Obama needs to keep some of the big-money guys on the hook until he can extract enough from them for his presidential library. Let the little ones go now because they don't have much to bargain with; keep the big ones thinking about what it will cost for those big pardons in a couple years.

Roadkill said...

Bank in the 1960's, when I was making maybe $2.00 a week peddling papers, me and a few buddies "hatched a scheme" to use old bolt washers in vending machines.

And we successfully evaded the Secret Service.

bagoh20 said...

O.T. Has anyone seen our nation's leaders. I feel like we are now set adrift, on our own, and leaderless.

It takes the quality and world view of our current administration to make that a good thing.

wv: wateduck

Rockport Conservative said...

Probably a matter of voting and other rights. It is a common thing in Louisiana to see classified ads for pardons after a sentence has been served.

MamaM said...

What kind of spoon holds up to banging on a silver quarter?

We used silverplate and all the large spoons in our house were dented in the center from being used to crack ice cubes. The technique involved holding the cube cupped in the hand and whacking it sharply with a serving spoon. Coke with ice chips was the cure for whatever sickness befell us. To this day I don't enjoy Coke, but buy ice in bags because I like the chips.

Richard Dolan said...

It's odd that the crime is described as "mutilating" a penny when the description makes it clear that the offense was counterfeiting a dime.

In the late '50s, a friend of mine made a few quarters from solder, by making a mold and then melting the solder into it. He used a couple in a vending machine, and his parents received a visit from the Secret Service as a result. No prosecution -- he was only about 8. Pranks and childish pranksters were dealt with (by cops and parents) differently back then.

It's odd that a young Marine was prosecuted for something like that in 1963. It would be less surprising today.

Ann asks why a crime like this would merit a presidential pardon. The reality is that most pardons are issued for long-ago and not-too-serious indiscretions of one's youth that nevertheless turned into a felony. Cocaine possession, if that's what 4 of the others were, fits that pattern -- certainly Obama (who admitted to a few related indiscretions of his own) would see it that way.

In contrast, it's very rare to see a Marc Rich receive a pardon -- unrepentant fugitive is as unlikely a pardon case as you can get -- and when that happens, you know there's quite a story behind it. Not so much something like this.

Good for Obama in using his powers that way.

MamaM said...

Interesting lead picture on Drudge with the shadow hand falling across the face of the man in black, as he stands in darkness.

lemondog said...

re: coins, he whittled them for use in a vending machine:

In an interview Friday, Ronald Lee Foster of Beaver Falls, Pa., said he got into trouble nearly a half-century ago when as a young Marine he whittled coins to use in vending machines.

"Well, we were only making only $82 a month," he said. "We were using them in the washing machines, the dryers, the cigarette machines and the pop machines on the base in our barracks."

Foster, now 66, said he wasn't aware that he even had a felony conviction on his record until he applied for a gun permit in Pennsylvania five years ago and was denied. After getting out of the Marines in 1966, Foster returned to Pennsylvania and spent 27 years as a supervisor at a ceiling plant and also served on the local zoning board. He also spent 35 years as a volunteer firefighter.

He was told about the pardon earlier Friday by his lawyer, who applied for it on his behalf about 18 months ago.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

In the meantime, the crooks in the Fed and their co-dependent thieves in Congress and the big commercial banks can continue to mutilate the value of an entire nation's monetary system ... with impunity.

It takes 8 cents today to buy what a penny bought in 1963. With Trillions in new deficits, "quantitative easing" and the lot, it will get worse.

lemondog said...

Washington can whittle with the best of 'em.

John Burgess said...

We, as kids, used to rub mercury onto pennies--with our fingers!--to make them look like dimes. They only worked with blind shopkeepers who wore gloves, though, because the surfaces ended up very soapy-feeling.

We made rings of quarters, too.

AJ Lynch said...

If he is from Beaver Falls, I wonder if he knows Joe Willie Namath?

Kirby Olson said...

Diogenes the Cynic was thrown out of his home town of Sinope for debasing the currency in about 350 BC. He went to Athens and embraced poverty, living outside of town in an old bathtub, in an apparent attempt to make fun of how the Athenians thought they needed so much wealth, when of course it should be redistributed to the poor.

Obama should pardon Diogenes the Cynic, while he's at it!

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

At a French language immersion summer camp, some of the other kids discovered that francs would work like quarters in most vending machines. At the time the exchange was five francs to one US dollar.

Lincolntf said...

I know half a dozen family restaurants/bars where you can get a penny stamped into some sort of shamrock, smiley-face, whatever, so the defacement/altering charge seems particularly weak.
Still, turning pennies into dimes is a no-no, wherever you're from.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"It seems odd that mutilating a penny is illegal ..."

Not when you're mutilating them to turn them into dimes. That's counterfeiting currency.

The larger issue is why is the President of the United States pardoning cocaine dealers.

Who gives a fuck about some penny-ante counterfeiter stealing Coca-Cola when Barack Obama is freeing coke dealers?

David said...

Other Obama achievements this very week:

Failure to check weather report before "secret" visit to Afganistan, thus again dissing the Afgan President.

Pointless, fake Federal "pay freeze."

Improving American standing in the world results in World Cup award to Quatar.

Attorney General Holder overseas failing to secure World Cup while human mushroom Julian Assange plasters American secrets on the web.

Split in his hand picked deficit commission illuminates fact that Obama himself has no deficit plan.

And the cherry on the sundae: 9.8% unemployment.

Another week in the life of Barack Obama.

Paul Brinkley said...

Call me new, but I can't think of a way to flatten and shave the rim off of a penny that costs more than 9 cents per penny...

Rialby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ambrose said...

At least he did not kill JFK. All other crimes in 1963 seem forgivable.

Rialby said...

That link sucked.

Point stands.

Fred4Pres said...

Okay, that should not be a crime, but why pardon him now? 1963? Talk about shutting the barn door after the cows all left. Seriously, nothing worth pardoning since then?

Penny said...

"Call me new, but I can't think of a way to flatten and shave the rim off of a penny that costs more than 9 cents per penny..."

Come again, Paul?

You are most certainly new to this Penny. And don't you know...it's ALWAYS about the hidden costs.

Pleased to meet your acquaintance, by the way.

LakeLevel said...

Back when I was thirteen years old, this guy I know would pound pennies on pavement with a rock until they were the size of a quarter. They worked great in pinball machines. How could you ever get caught? The guy who owned the pinball machine emptied the coin box and stuck around to see who was putting slugs into his machine. Open the coin box and only a slug was in there. Damn.

Sigivald said...

Legal: It's not illegal to mutilate a penny.

It's illegal to alter them fraudulently (ie to impersonate a rare coin).

It's also illegal to "mutilate" paper money with "intent to render [it] ... unfit to be reissued" (18 USC 333).

Methadras said...

Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Erkle, the over-privileged oreo should know.