You might not think twice about the coins and bills you use on a daily basis — but you should. There are some facts that might fascinate you. Do you know what bills are made out of (hint: it’s not paper)? Do you even know how to tell if your money is fake?
From the history of money and its evolution to the hidden messages and security features you never noticed, click through to discover some interesting facts about money.
$2 bills are often considered unlucky.
The $2 bill was first printed in 1862. Interestingly, $2 notes were considered unlucky and unpopular throughout most of history. No one really knows why. It could be because it’s somewhat awkward to exchange cash with a $2 bill.
There are also some people who believe in the sinister money superstitions and myths surrounding the $2 bill. In fact, some believe the $2 bill is cursed and has hidden Illuminati symbols, according to The Two Dollar Bill Documentary.
A majority of U.S. bills have traces of drugs on them.
CNN reported in 2009 that 90 percent of paper money in circulation contains traces of cocaine. In Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston and a few other major cities, bills showed traces of cocaine 100 percent of the time. Compare that to Tokyo and Beijing, where the percentage was much lower at only 20 percent.
A bill’s life expectancy is no longer than 15 years.
After being used on a regular basis, bills wear out and are taken out of circulation. The $1 bill gets the most use and typically only lasts about 5.8 years. However, it’s not the shortest life expectancy for a bill — that title belongs to the $10 bill, which surprising only lasts about 4.5 years.
The $5 bill also has a shorter life span than the $1 bill, coming in at 5.5 years. The longest lifespan belongs to the $100 bill, which lasts an average of 15 years.
Your damaged currency can still be valuable.
If you have money that’s been badly damaged by fire, water or chemicals, explosives, etc., don’t be too quick to throw it out. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing might redeem it at full value.
To qualify for the redemption, you must have more than half of the original note, including any relevant security feature. Or, you can qualify if you have less than half, but can prove how the note was mutilated and that the missing portions were destroyed.
It takes about 10 years to become a banknote engraver.
The responsibility for approving all U.S. currency designs belongs to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. However, banknote engravers are the ones who handle the complex and intricate job of engraving the U.S. currency.
If this sounds like your dream job, you better get started: It takes a 10-year apprenticeship to become a banknote engraver. But if that sounds like too much time, check out these high-paying finance jobs.
Commemorative coins help raise money for various causes.
From time to time, Congress authorizes the U.S. Mint to make a limited production run of special commemorative coins. These coins are still legal currency, but they’re generally not intended for general circulation.
But by selling commemorative coins to collectors, the U.S. Mint has raised over $500 million to fund various museums, monuments and other programs. Not to mention, some coins are considered extremely valuable.
People have sued over the ‘In God We Trust’ motto on currency.
The motto, “In God We Trust,” hasn’t always been a staple on U.S. currency. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it became a requirement for the motto to be printed on money.
However, the motto isn’t appreciated by all. For example, a lawsuit was filed in 2016 requesting the motto be removed from U.S. currency. It was argued that the motto is unconstitutional, reported Fox News.
Harriet Tubman will appear on the new $20 bill.
In case you missed it, the government has announced plans to reveal new designs for the $20 bill, $10 bill and $5 bill. Harriet Tubman will grace the front of the $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson, who will appear on the back.
It’s expected that we’ll see the design concepts in the year 2020. According to the U.S. Treasury, the last time a new portrait image was added to U.S. currency was between 1914 and 1928.
The new $10 will celebrate the women’s suffrage movement.
When it was first announced that the $10 bill would feature a new design, some predicted Tubman would appear on the bill (instead of the $20 bill).
However, the back of the $10 bill will actually honor Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott — they were all heroes and leaders during the women’s suffrage movement and the passage of the 19th Amendment. Alexander Hamilton will still appear on the front of the $10 bill.
And the new $5 bill will celebrate other historic U.S. events.
In addition to the $10 and $20 bills, the $5 bill will also get a makeover to celebrate history at the Lincoln Memorial. The reverse of the bill will include images of Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson, who were all involved in pivotal moments at the landmark. Abraham Lincoln’s portrait will remain on the front of the bill.
People were initially against putting famous faces on coins.
We’re so used to seeing portraits and faces on our currency today. But early coins produced by the United States used images of Liberty and the bald eagle rather than the images of prominent figures, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. That’s because the British used pictures of the monarchs on their currency, and having just won their independence, the public didn’t want to be reminded of that.
The $1 bill hasn’t been redesigned in more than 50 years.
In 1996, the government began redesigning the $100 note (as well as other notes in the following years) to better protect it against counterfeiting — the first major change in 67 years, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The $1 bill, on the other hand, is so rarely counterfeited that there are no plans to redesign it.
Hold your bills up to the light to see hidden faces.
Hold up your bill to the light and you’ll see a second image of the portrait. For example, with a $100 bill, you can see Benjamin Franklin from both sides of the bill in the blank space located on the right side of the portrait.
Check Out: Quirky Money Facts About U.S. Presidents
Security threads on bills glow in different colors.
Want to learn how to spot counterfeit money? Embedded security threads are also used to protect against counterfeiting. If you have a UV light, hold it up to your bill to see the thread glow:
- On the $5 bill, the thread glows blue.
- On the $10 bill, it glows orange.
- On the $20 bill, it glows green.
- On the $50 bill, it glows yellow.
- On the $100 bill, it glows pink.
You can talk to the Secret Service if you think your money is counterfeit.
Think the Secret Service’s only job is to protect the president? Think again. If you suspect someone is using a counterfeit note, you are asked to report it and hand it over to the Secret Service.
70% of new bills replace worn-out bills.
As money flows into the Federal Reserve, it is checked to make sure it is fit to return to circulation. Unfit bills are removed and replaced, and more than 70 percent of the new bills printed are used to replace worn out currency. Here’s how many banknotes are ordered for print for each bill:
- $1 bills: 2.4 billion print orders
- $2 bills: 179 million print orders
- $5 bills: 819 million print orders
- $10 bills: 480 million print orders
- $20 bills: 1.9 billion print orders
- $50 bills: 224 million print orders
- $100 bills: 1.5 billion print orders
Bills cost less than 20 cents to produce.
The cost to print bills depends on the denomination, according to the Federal Reserve Board. The $1 and $2 bills come in at the cheapest at 5.4 cents each.
At the other end of the spectrum, the $50 bill costs more to produce than $100 bills — 19.4 cents to produce vs. 15.5 cents per bill, respectively. The same is true for $5 and $10 bills — $5 bills cost 11.5 cents per note, and $10 bills cost only 10.9 cents per note.
Paper money is not made out of paper.
Though people commonly refer to bills as “paper” money, they actually aren’t made from paper. Instead, each bill is a combination of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.
U.S. bills are printed in only two places around the world.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing prints money, and it has facilities in Washington, D.C., and Fort Worth, Texas. The Fort Worth facility was opened in 1990 and helps serve the Western United States, as well as providing a back-up in case something happens to the DC facility.
Coins are minted in only a handful of cities.
There are six mint facilities in the U.S. The Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point, N.Y., locations are production facilities. There’s also a bullion depository in Fort Knox, Ky., and the headquarters is in Washington, D.C.
There used to be a money shortage problem in the U.S.
After being settled by England, the colonies were banned from making their own currency and were forced to use the limited coins brought over with them — or to creatively barter with each other, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
But in 1652, Massachusetts started making its own coins against the British directive. In an attempt to mitigate any punishment they would receive if the British ever found the currency illegal, they dated all of the coins with the year “1652” — even though they continued to be produced for many years.
States almost had their own currencies.
The initial Articles of Confederation (the predecessor to the Constitution) gave both Congress and the states the right to coin money. Can you imagine the hassle of having to get new currency every time you crossed a state line? Ultimately, it was decided there should be only one national coinage.
There have been weird nicknames for money throughout time — and around the world.
Under the Coinage Act of 1792, gold coins had different values, including $2.50 (called a quarter eagle), $5 (half eagle) and $10 (eagle).
If you think those names are weird, wait until you find out what they call money in different parts of the world. Some of the terms used to describe money include toad (Denmark), pasta (Spain), lobster (Australia) and mosquito (Germany), reports Business Insider. The U.S. is also known for giving money weird names, like cheddar and dough.
At one point, the only way you could tell a coin’s value was by its size.
Early silver coins didn’t even have denominations marked on them and were all identical — except for their size. So, the only way you would know how much they were worth was by their size. It wasn’t until 1804 that quarters started bearing “25c” on them to show how much they were worth.
The Civil War sparked paper money circulation.
Though the colonies issued paper money prior to winning independence, the federal government didn’t start circulating paper money (greenbacks) until 1861. That’s because the government needed to finance the Civil War — which was expensive — and U.S. banks didn’t have the money to lend to the government, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The government once accepted postage stamps as payment.
During the Civil War, there was a shortage in the supply of coins — people were holding onto them because the precious metals were valuable, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. To address this, the government accepted postage stamps as payment for debts.
Ironically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, this caused a shortage of stamps. So, the government authorized printing “fractional currency,” which were bills with denominations under $1.
Other ‘special currency’ has been used during wartime.
War has been a motivating factor for making changes to currency for many reasons. During World War II, the U.S. government created “special currency,” which had distinctive markings, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Hawaii notes, for example, had a “HAWAII” overprint on the face and back. If the enemy acquired large amounts of this “special currency,” it could be easily identified and considered non-legal tender.
Today’s bills are small change.
Since 1969, the $100 bill has been the largest bill issued by the government. However, it’s far from the largest denomination ever printed. From 1934 and 1935, the government printed a $100,000 Gold Certificate that was only used for transactions among Federal Reserve Banks.
Prior to 1969, the government issued $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 notes. Though they are still considered legal tender, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing expects that most are in the hands of private collectors.
Two-thirds of all U.S. currency is held abroad.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing estimates that between half and two-thirds of the value of U.S. currency in circulation is held abroad.
There are a number countries and territories that use the U.S. dollar as their official currency, including Ecuador and Guam. So depending on where you’re traveling, you might not need to exchange your currency.
There’s nearly $1.5 trillion worth of U.S. currency in circulation.
As of April 2017, there was an estimated $1.54 trillion in circulation, including $1.49 trillion worth of Federal Reserve notes.
Yep, that’s a lot of money. In fact, that’s only slightly more than the estimated student loan debt in America, which is approximately $1.31 trillion.