6 Fun Facts About U.S. Currency

 Flickr |

What's in your pocket?

$100 bills are the largest denomination still in print. The $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills were discontinued in 1969 because they were rarely used. Those which remain in circulation are still legal tender, but may be worth a bit more than face value to collectors.

The largest note ever printed is the $100,000 gold certificate, issued only to the Federal Reserve Bank by the Treasurer of the United States. These were printed by the BEP from Dec. 18, 1934 through Jan. 9, 1935. None of these notes, which featured Woodrow Wilson on the front, were circulated among the public.

 Source: U.S. BEP |

The presses keep rolling

In 1862, currency production by the BEP was conducted by a few people using a hand-crank machine in the basement of the Treasury Department. In 2012, the BEP reported producing an average of 38 million notes per day or about $1.5 billion in bills.

The production was spread between its two printing locations in Washington, D.C. and in Fort Worth, TX and used over 11 tons of ink. About 90 percent of production is reported to replace old style or worn out bills.

 Source: Flickr |

Why do they survive the washer when my socks don't?

While U.S. bills are often referred to as “paper money,” they are actually made of a cotton and linen blend. This keeps them from coming apart in the washing machine and allows for the use of counterfeit-checking markers to be easily used.

The liquid in the markers contain iodine, which will turn black if drawn across wood-based paper. The bills also contain a ratio of blue and red fibers to maintain a product that is very distinctive as well as tough, and therefore harder to fake.

 Source: Wikimedia Commons |

Countering the counterfeits

As personal computer technology has advanced, so has counterfeiting. The BEP has introduced several counter-counterfeiting techniques to prevent fraud, including color-shifting ink, an enhanced security thread which glows under ultraviolet light, a watermark only visible when held up to light, and other features.

The newly redesigned $100 bill also includes a 3-D ribbon and raised printing. The first threads were added in 1990 to $50 and $100 bills, and made their way onto $20 bills a few years later.

 Source: Wikipedia/public domain |

Let's see the Benjamins

The first $100 Federal Reserve Note was issued in 1914. Like $100 bills of today, the notes featured a familiar image of Benjamin Franklin on the front (called the obverse side of the bill). The reverse side featured allegorical images representing America, labor, peace, plenty, and commerce.

 Source: Wikimedia Commons |

How many miles per dollar?

There is good reason most of the currency printed by the BEP is to replace worn out or damaged bills. While the bills are tough, they don't last forever.

A single hundred dollar bill is expected to last about eight years on average, while more commonly used twenty dollar bills have a lifespan of around two years on average.

Their more heavily-used cousins, U.S. dollar bills, average a life in circulation of about 18 months since they are subject to much greater wear. In that light, it should come as no surprise that dollar bills account for nearly half the printing production by the BEP.