10 Surprising Money Facts
We use money every day, unfurling folded bills and digging for change. But beyond the occasional glance at a new quarter, how much do you really know about money?
Do you know which city has its own currency? Do you know how much a $2 bill is worth? And what does the Secret Service have to do with money?
Make sure no one is following you and click ahead to find out 10 things you probably don’t know about money!
By Cindy PermanPosted Feb 1 2011
Why Ben Franklin is on the $100 bill
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson – most of our paper currency features U.S. presidents. There are only two exceptions: Alexander Hamilton is on the $10 bill and Benjamin Franklin is on the $100.
You can understand the choice of Hamilton, he was the first Secretary of the Treasury. But why was Franklin, a newspaper editor and inventor of the lightning rod, chosen for the $100 bill?
Several reasons, actually. First, he is one of America’s Founding Fathers and his signature is on the Declaration of Independence. One of his core values was that hard work was the way to true wealth, a notion that would become the foundation of the American Dream. To top it all off, he used his printing skills to help print the first US currency.
Why there is a pyramid on the back of the $1 bill
George Washington, the seal of the U.S. Treasury an eagle – all of these things represent America and what it stands for, so it makes sense that they’re all on the $1 bill.
But why is there an Egyptian pyramid on the back of the $1 bill?
It’s actually part of the official seal of the U.S. – the eagle design is the front and the pyramid is the back. The pyramid is said to represent strength and the thirteen steps represent the first 13 states. The fact that the top isn’t finished represents that there is still work to be done.
Some cities have their own local currency
Local currencies were popular during the Great Depression but in the past few decades, several U.S. cities have started their own local currencies as a way to help small businesses and keep currency circulating in the local economy.
The recent trend is thought to have started in Ithaca, NY. In 1991, then-resident Paul Glover and a group of fellow residents created Ithaca Hours.One Ithaca Hour is worth $10 and there are also smaller and larger denominations. It’s called an hour to remind people that currency represents someone’s labor. Today, there are over $100,000 worth of Ithaca Hours in circulation.
Madison, Wis., Corvallis, Ore. and Traverse City, Mich., are among the other cities that have implemented local currencies.
More monopoly money is printed than real money
This one seems like an Internet myth but it’s true: There is more “Monopoly”money than real money printed in the U.S. every year.
Parker Brothers, the maker of the board game, says it prints $30 billion in Monopoly money every year.
Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed $974 million in real money. About 95 percent of that money printed in the U.S. is to replace old, worn-out bills.
You can bet your little, old shoe that money fact is true!
How many times a bill can be folded before it wears out
When you reach in your wallet and wind up with a ragtag or torn bill, you always kind of hold your breath – exhaling only after you know the cashier has accepted this on-its-last-leg money, knowing that it’s now someone else’s problem.
Well, eventually, that last leg arrives – and the money has to be taken out of circulation and replaced with new currency. A bill can be folded forward and back 4,000 times before it reaches the end of its lifespan.
The Federal Reserve reports that the average lifespan of a $1 bill is about 22 months; for the $5 bill it’s two years; for the $10 bill it’s three years; for the $20 bill it’s four years; and for the $50 and $100 bills it’s 9 years. Coins are more durable and can last for about 30 years.
How money gets created – and killed
The Federal Reserve decides how much money needs to be printed each year and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does the actual printing.
So how do they swap in the new money?
When the Fed gets a cash deposit from banks, it reviews all the currency using special currency processing and authentication machines. Generally, those reviews result in the conclusion that one-third of the currency is unfit for future circulation. The currency that’s deemed unfit is shredded and the bills are replaced with freshly-printed currency. The shredded bills are sent to landfills or packaged as souvenirs sold during tours of the Federal Reserve Banks.
What the U.S. Secret Service has to do with money
The Secret Service, which is widely known for its role in protecting the president, was actually created as an organization to combat counterfeit money.
That was back in 1865 when counterfeiting was rampant and an estimated one-third of the currency in circulation was thought to be counterfeit.
Today, about $250,000 of counterfeit money turns up every day.
Here are some tips from the Secret Serviceon how to spot a fake. Catch ‘em if you can!
Why some coins have ridges
Back in the day when coins were made of precious metals like silver or gold, some crafty thieves made quite a living off of selling shavings off the edge of coins without being detected.
So, they started putting ridges or “reeds,” as they’re known, on the side. The dime has 118 reeds, the quarter has 119 and the half-dollar has 150, according to the U.S. Mint.
Reeds remain on coins today, even though the coins are no longer made of precious metals, because it helps the visually impaired identify certain coins.
Before 1965, the quarter was made out of silver. Today, it’s made out of an alloy (a mix) which is more than 91 percent copper, and the rest nickel. Speaking of the nickel — the penny and nickel never had reeds because they were never made of precious metals.
There is such a thing as a $10,000 bill
The $100 bill is the largest denomination being printed today.
There used to be $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 notes but they were discontinued in 1969 “due to lack of use,” according to the Federal Reserve. The last printing of these bills was in 1945.
The bills featured William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, James Madison and Salmon P. Chase, respectively, all former U.S. presidents except for Chase, who was Abraham Lincoln's Treasury Secretary.
Some of these bills are still out there and are legal tender, but good luck getting a cashier to make change for $10,000!
Most of them are in the hands of collectors anyway. But, just for fun, the next time you get to the register ask: Do you have change for a $500?!
How much a $2 bill is worth.
Two-dollar bills always feel like funny money but in fact, they are legal tender.
The $2 bill was introduced in 1862 but then discontinued in 1966, which may have added to the confusion. But it was reintroduced 10 years later as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration.
Some people mark them “not a rare bill” to try to get people to spend them, and the gift shop at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, whose picture appears on the bill, gives them out as change to encourage their circulation.
There aren't that many: Less than 1 percent of all paper currency in circulation is $2 bills. But contrary to popular belief, they haven’t appreciated in value — the two-dollar bill is still worth … two dollars!