Facts That Figure: Dollar Bills

Facts That Figure: Dollar Bills

By: C.G. Hoffman

Many today claim that we are entering a new, “paperless” society, and that credit cards are far superior to carrying around cash. But let’s face it, nothing makes you feel quite as rich as having a fat wad of dollar bills in your pocket.

The first U.S. dollar was made by the U.S. Mint in 1794. It was made of silver and featured an eagle on one side, with Lady Liberty on the other. The word dollar comes from the German word “Thaler”, which was a large silver coin (and the word is still used by Yiddish speakers today!).

The paper dollar as we know it today, was first designed and printed in 1862.

The U.S. dollar’s design is heavy with symbolism. The great seal was designed with an eagle, representing majesty, although Benjamin Franklin thought a turkey should be used as he felt it was more “respectable.” The eagle holds olive branches and arrows, symbolizing the fledgling nation’s desire for peace, but its willingness to fight for its freedom.

Some say the stars above the eagle’s head are designed in the shape of a Star of David. Although there is no direct proof, the legend is that this is in tribute to Chaim Solomon, the Jewish financier of the American Revolution.

The pyramid on the left hand side is incomplete, showing that the U.S. is ever growing and is always aiming to improve. The “eye” on top of the pyramid is to show that the Creator watches over humanity.

The average life span of a $1 dollar bill is a little less than six years. For comparison, the average $100 bill lasts for about 15 years before it is taken out of circulation. However, if you have a dolllar bill that’s torn in half, you can tape it together and most banks will honor it. As long as you have 3/4 of the bill intact, you can exchange it at any bank.

It costs the Federal Reserve 5.4 cents to produce every dollar bill, making it the cheapest bill to produce. That’s a much better deal than the 2.06 cents it costs to produce every penny! As a matter of fact, some in Congress feel that the U.S. should switch to a $1 coin, as it could potentially save billions. This was blocked by many powerful lobbying groups, most notably the vending machine lobby.

U.S. dollar bills are produced from a special blend of approximately 75% cotton and  25% linen. This makes each bill much stronger than regular paper, and able to withstand being folded many times over.

The $1 dollar bill has not been redesigned since 1963, unlike the $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 bills. The reason is simple: the $1 bill is the least likely to be counterfeited!

Did your mother tell you to wash your hands after you handled money? She was right: dollar bills are full of bacteria, but that’s not the only nasty stuff hitching a ride on your money. 90% of paper money in the U.S. contain traces of dangerous street drugs. In fact, it shows up 100% of the time in the following cities: Detroit, Boston, Orlando, Miami and Los Angeles.

2004 saw many changes to U.S. currency. Bills of larger denominations were completely redesigned, with many extra features to enhance security and foil counterfeiters. Some of the new features include: Bills from $10 and above have color shifting ink that changes from copper to green. Besides for $1 and $2 dollar bills, all bills are embedded with clear thread that runs vertically through the paper and which glows a different color when held to a UV light.

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