American money and its history have many surprises. Continuing our series on the amazing, unanticipated facts about U.S. currency, here’s Part 2! (if you need to catch up, check out Part 1 here).
You May Be Living in a House Made of Money
About 7,000 tons of worn-out currency is shredded by the Federal Reserve each year. But it isn’t wasted. Some ends up in novelty items, but a bunch is sold to be reused in roof shingles and home insulation products.
You Can Have Over a Dollar’s Worth of Coins and Still Not Change a Dollar Bill
Three quarters, four dimes, and four pennies add up to $1.19, but you still won’t be able to give exact change for a dollar.
The Two-Dollar Bill is Still in Circulation
Some people believe the $2 bill has been discontinued, but it has been around since 1862 and is still in use. In 1976, the Jefferson-faced bill was redesigned with a new back portraying the signing of the Declaration of Independence 200 years earlier. Nearly 600,000 Series 1976 $2 bills were printed for release. Since then, more than 750 million have been printed and over $1.5 billion worth remain in circulation worldwide.
Not All U.S. Money Is Meant to Be Spent
While most money is intended for circulation, some isn’t. The Treasury issued high-denomination bills in values of $500 up to $100,000 as far back as 1862 for use by governments, banks and businesses in transferring large amounts of money without the need for massive amounts of gold and silver to be handled. The last of these was printed in 1945 and all were withdrawn from circulation in 1969. Most of the bills had been destroyed by the Federal Reserve or disappeared by then, but as recently as 2009, an estimated 342 $10,000, 346 $5,000 bills and over 165,000 $1,000 bills still existed, many in foreign countries and museums.
All Dollar Bills Aren’t “Dead Presidents”
U.S. law prohibits dollar bills from portraying living persons, but that doesn’t mean they all have to be former presidents. Of today’s bills, the $10 portrays Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first Treasury Secretary. Noted wit and kite flyer Benjamin Franklin adorns the $100 bill. The large denomination bills had pictures of everyone from Treasury secretaries to obscure cabinet members like Secretary of State William L. Marcy and inventor Dewitt Clinton. Honest Abe didn’t show up on the fiver until 1914, replacing a Winged Liberty design. And even if you’re a dead president, your spot isn’t guaranteed. Hamilton replaced Jackson on the ten, but Jackson reappeared on the twenty in 1928, kicking Grover Cleveland to the curb. And Jackson’s spot may be up for grabs these days.
Confederate Money Honored Two “Yankee” Presidents
OK, Yankee is a term with several different meanings, but the Confederacy evidently held “Northern” presidents George Washington and Andrew Jackson in high enough esteem to put them on their money. Washington appeared on $50 and $100 Confederate bills and Jackson on $1,000 bills. Wonder if Jefferson, Madison, and the other eight slave-holding presidents felt left out.
More Quick Facts
- There are 293 different ways to make change for a dollar
- About $58 million in coins are left on airplanes around the world each year, according to one estimate
- You can fold a dollar back and forth 4,000 times before it will tear
- 37 million notes are printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing each day. Nearly half are $1 bills.
- Roughly 95% of the money printed each year is to replace worn out currency already in circulation
- Bacteria is present on 18% of U.S. coins and 7% of bills, according to one survey.