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Chances are slim that this will actually come into play, but the fact that a 19th century law could affect the crypto currency shows just how far the world of U.S. financial regulation is from the fast-moving revolution that is Bitcoin.
The Stamp Act was written during the dark days of the Civil War, when inflation had pushed the value of the metal in coins above their official denomination. That put a serious pinch on the change supply in the United States, one that began to be filled by companies that issued their own paper versions of dimes and nickels, called “shinplasters.”
The government wanted to take back control of the change game. Its solution: a mailroom-inspired “postage currency” (not to be confused with postage stamps). But to stamp out competitors, it also introduced 18 U.S.C. §336, the Stamp Payments Act of 1862, which is still in effect. Violators face fines and up to six months in jail.
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