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Operation Lioncash is a graffiti practice initiated by the online group Anonymous which involves drawing a lion face emoticon (“ ”) over portraits on banknotes and releasing them back into circulation. According to its mission statement, the purpose of the global operation is to convert all regional currencies into Lioncash.
The earliest usage of “lion face” ( ) as an emoticon stems from the meme “Jesus Christ it’s a lion, get in the car”, which was popularized on 4chan’s /b/ (random) board in 2006. On April 23rd, 2008, a 4chan user posted a photograph of an American dollar banknote with a lion face drawn over George Washington’s portrait, explaining that the user wished to add lion faces to all acquired banknotes.
“From now on I’m going to add lions to my bills… I wonder how long it will take for another b-tard to see one…
Conversely, I wonder how long it would take America to break if every b-tard put lions on bills…”
The day after the original Lioncash thread was created, another thread with the same message was posted to the /b/ board, which included a photograph of several lion face banknotes accompanied by the caption “The lion must flow” (shown below).
The same day, Urban Dictionary user No Picture Available submitted a definition for “lion cash”, describing it as “a bill with >:3 written over the face.” On April 25th, Urban Dictionary user Mykaah submitted another definition for the term, citing the 4chan image board as the source of the meme. On the following day, the original 4chan screenshot was posted on the Internet humor site Ebaumsworld. On June 5th, YouTuber hongkongLC uploaded a video titled “Lioncash Hong Kong”, which included footage of Hong Kong banknotes with lion faces drawn on them (shown below).
On April 14th, 2009, the ComputerAndVideoGames Forums member Iwill submitted a thread titled “Operation Lioncash”, urging other forums members to deface their banknotes with lion faces. On February 18th, 2010, a Facebook page for “Operation: Lioncash” was created, which accumulated over 245 likes within the next three years. On June 4th, 2011, the pop culture blog Eye-Ball published a post chronicling the history of the operation. Photographs of Lioncash banknotes can be found on DeviantArt and Tumblr under the tags “#lioncash” and “#operation lioncash.”
How to make LIONCASH
To be recognized as a valid issue of LIONCASH, it should carry the imprint in its proper form: a diamond bracket and a colon followed by a number 3. Aside from banknotes, lion face imprints have been found on coins, personal checks, play money and even credit/debit cards. On April 26th, 2008, YouTuber letsdoitforthelulz uploaded a video titled “Lion Cash”, which included illustrated instructions on decorating banknotes with the lion face (shown below).
Legality of LIONCASH
According to the United States Bureau of Printing and Engraving, “defacement of currency” is a punishable offense under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service. However, due to the lack of legal specifications and reinforcement, it is unclear if any laws stipulate that writing or stamping on dollar bills is illegal.
Currency defacement is generally defined as follows: Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”
- Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code
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