Martha Washington Has Appeared on It
Martha Washington, America’s original first lady, once graced the $1 silver certificate. These days, the collectible bill could be worth a nice chunk of change — even more than $1,000, depending on its quality.
George Washington Wasn’t on the Original
The first legal tender $1 note, which was issued during the Civil War, did not feature George Washington. Instead, it featured Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury at the time.
The $1 Bill Design Hasn’t Changed Since 1969
Although there have been talks to change the current $5, $10 and $20 bills — the $1 bill’s design has remained unchanged since 1963. The main reason is that the $1 bill is infrequently counterfeited. In addition to counterfeiting, there’s also a legislative reason. Section 116 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act prohibits redesigning the $1 note.
It’s Not the Most Common Bill
In 2017, there were 12.1 billion $1 bills in circulation, according to the Federal Reserve. Surprisingly, there are more $100 bills than $1 bills floating around the country. Here’s a breakdown:
- 12.5 billion $100 bills
- 9.2 billion $20 bills
- 2.0 billion $10 bills
- 3.0 billion $5 bills
- 1.2 billion $2 bills
It Only Costs 5.6 Cents to Make
The dollar bill is also the least expensive to produce, costing only 5.6 cents per note — the same cost to produce a $2 bill, according to the Federal Reserve. The $100 bill is the most expensive at 13.2 cents per bill.
It’s Not Made of Paper
We might call it paper money, but it’s not actually paper. In fact, currency paper in the U.S. is 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
It Has a Short Lifespan
$1 bills fall out of circulation, on average, after 5.8 years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank. That’s compared to the $10 bill’s low 4.5-year lifespan and a high of 15 years for the $100 bill.
In 2002, a study by the U.S. Air Force found that 94 percent of 68 dollar bills that were tested had bacteria on them. The bacteria included some that could cause pneumonia and other infections, as reported Scientific American magazine.
Most Bucks Have Drugs on Them
Germs are not the only thing residing on your dollar. Almost 80 percent of dollar bills hold traces of cocaine, reported CNN in 2017. Beyond cocaine, researchers found traces of multiple other types of drugs, from methamphetamines to heroin.
75 Percent Still Equals $1
Think twice if you consider a mutilated, torn or even incomplete dollar bill as worthless. The U.S. Treasury considers notes to be legal currency if you have at least 50 percent of the bill remaining. Even if you have less than 50 percent, you might still be in luck — you still have valid currency if you can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Treasury Department that the rest of the bill has been destroyed.
You Can Track $1 Bills
It could be possible to learn where your dollar bill has been, thanks to a site called Where’s George? You enter the serial number of your bill and the site tracks it. To date, there have been more than 279 million bills entered.
It Took Years to Approve the Great Seal
According to the U.S. State Department, it took six years for Congress to agree on and approve the design of the Great Seal of the U.S., which is featured prominently on the back of the dollar bill.
War and Peace Are Represented
Look at the eagle on the back of your $1 bill. The arrows in the eagle’s left talon represent war, while the olive branch in the proud bird’s right talon represents peace, according to the State Department.
The Latin Around the Pyramid Speaks to American Exceptionalism
“Annuit Coeptis,” which is written above the pyramid, means “God Has Favored Our Undertaking.” Below the pyramid, the words “Novus ordo seclorum” mean “A New Order Has Begun,” which refers to our historic form of government.
‘13’ Is Everywhere
Check out the arrows in the eagle’s left talon: There are 13 of them. On the Great Seal, 13 stripes and 13 stars are present to denote the original 13 colonies. And there are also 13 “steps” on the pyramid.
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The Eagle Almost Didn’t Make It
Benjamin Franklin fought against the bald eagle as the national bird, finding it to be “a bird of bad moral character,” since the bird was “lazy” and didn’t fish for itself. The story that Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird is a myth. However, Franklin and Thomas Jefferson did want the seal to include Moses and an Egyptian pharaoh, too.
MDCCLXXVI Is the Symbol for 1776
At the base of the pyramid on the back of every dollar bill are the Roman numerals MDCCLXXVI. That is the symbol for 1776, which is the year that the Declaration of Independence was signed.
You Can Tell Which Federal Reserve Bank Issued It
On your dollar bill, there are serial numbers with two letters and eight numbers. The first letter — which will be between A and L — indicates which bank issued the bill. The letters stand for:
- A = Boston
- B = New York
- C = Philadelphia
- D = Cleveland
- E = Richmond, Va.
- F = Atlanta
- G = Chicago
- H = St. Louis
- I = Minneapolis
- J= Kansas City, Mo.
- K = Dallas
- L = San Francisco
There’s a Spider (or Is That an Owl?)
Grab a magnifying glass, and check out the top right corner of your dollar bill. Just to the left of the top of the “1”, there is what appears to be either a tiny spider or owl in the “webbing” pattern.
You Might See a Ghost
Look very closely at the fourth row of the pyramid on the back of the dollar. You’ll see what appears to be a smiling face, somewhat ghostlike. Was it purposely designed? We might never know.
It might be easy to rip a $1 bill in half, but simply wearing them out is difficult. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing states that you would have to fold a bill back and forth 4,000 times before it would tear.
Some Have Stars on Them
If the BEP notices a mistake with a bill after it is printed, the bill is reissued with an asterisk or star after the serial number. This indicates that the bill is a replacement and is dubbed a “star note.”
Senators Tried to Eliminate It
In 2012, a group of senators led by John McCain and Mike Enzi proposed to eliminate the $1 bill entirely, replacing it with a $1 coin.
The Top of the Pyramid Is Incomplete
On the back of the $1 bill, the top of the pyramid is incomplete. This represents that the United States is an ongoing project. The western side of the pyramid is dark, representing the unexplored West at the time the Seal was created.
It Has Masonic Symbols
The 13 stars above the eagle in the Great Seal are a masonic symbol — as are the number of feathers in the eagle’s left wing, right wing and tail.
It Also Has Hidden Security Features
In addition to the red and blue fibers woven into the bill, printing is raised on all Federal Reserve Notes, including the $1 bill.
You Can Buy Uncut Sheets of $1 Bills
Ever since 1981, the general public has been allowed to buy uncut sheets of currency from the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. You can order by phone or on the bureau’s website.
You Can Buy Shredded Currency
The BEP destroys currency notes that are found to be imperfect after being printed, and the Federal Reserve shreds any that are worn out. You can get these souvenirs at the BEP’s visitor centers in Washington, D.C., and Fort Worth, Texas.
One Pound of Dollars Equals $454
Every Federal Reserve Note weighs approximately one gram. As there are 454 grams in an avoirdupois pound, you’ll need 454 notes — of any denomination — to equal one pound.
Defacement of the $1 Bill Is a Crime
When you mutilate, cut, disfigure, perforate or otherwise deface a Federal Reserve Note, you just committed a crime. You can be fined or imprisoned up to six months.
It Was the First Note to Have ‘In God We Trust’
As the result of a 1955 law requiring “In God We Trust” to appear on all currency, $1 silver certificates issued in 1957 were the first to bear the slogan. Federal Reserve Notes began carrying the phrase starting in 1963.
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