Did you know that The Philadelphia Mint had a bald eagle mascot named Peter in the 1830s? He flew around inside during the day and was let out at night. The first mint also had a watchdog instead of armed guards when it opened in the 1790s.
The saga of US money is full of interesting tidbits. We listed some last August; here are a dozen more:
- US bills used to be 50% larger, measuring 7⅜ x 3⅛ inches. Called horse blankets due to their size, they were issued in several series and denominations between 1862 and 1928. All current U.S. paper money is 6 ⅛ inches long and has been the same size and weight since 1928.
- Stephen Crane sold paper to Paul Revere to print colonial money before the Revolutionary War. When paper money was reintroduced after the Civil War, Crane’s descendants got a contract to make the paper and have been the exclusive paper supplier for US currency for over 100 years.
- US paper money is made of cotton and linen with silk fibers embedded. Linen is used because it’s naturally resistant to bacteria and actually gets stronger when it’s wet.
- Despite appearing for decades on the $20 bill, Andrew Jackson mistrusted paper money and demanded that payment for western lands be made in gold or silver. He was also the only president to completely pay off the national debt.
- Alexander Hamilton’s is the only portrait on contemporary paper money that faces right (to the viewer’s left). Current coins are evenly divided. Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Sacagawea look to our right; Roosevelt, Washington, and JFK face to our left.
- Produced from 1918 to 1934, it’s estimated that there are still about 300 $10,000 bills in circulation. A mint condition example can bring as much as $140,000 at auction.
- Four tons of scrap paper money is mulched for compost every day.
- Five-cent coins were originally called half-dimes and were made of silver. It’s rumored that some of the silver used to make them came from George and Martha Washington’s own silverware. The copper-nickel coin of today was introduced shortly after the Civil War.
- Many coins have ridges on their edges. They were originally added to prevent shaving bits of gold and silver from the coins. Today’s quarters have 119 ridges while dimes have 118. And no silver.
- The motto “In God We Trust” first appeared on the two-cent coin in 1864. It wasn’t just religious; it also implied God was on the Union side of the Civil War. It has appeared on all coins since 1938, but didn’t become an official US motto until 1956 and has been mandatory on paper currency ever since.
- Issued as a bullion coin in 1997, the $100 nominal face value 1oz. Platinum Eagle is the highest denomination US coin ever made.
- According to a 2009 University of Massachusetts study, 90% of US dollar bills contain traces of cocaine.
So you see that the lore of coins is full of fun, fascinating facts that only add to its enjoyment as a hobby.