Money Trivia

Choosing of the Faces The Secretary of the Treasury is responsible for making the final decision on who will appear on U.S. bills.

Since U.S. law prohibits portraits of living persons from appearing on Government Securities, the Secretary has to ensure that the portrait is of a deceased person whose place in American history is well known.


Coins’ Serrated Edges Rich King Croesus of Lydians in Asia Minor issued the first money of gold an oblong piece in the 6th century. Soon the Greeks began minting money in the shape of discs, striking them with detailed high relief.

Romans introduced the familiar serrated edges of today’s coins as a way to discourage the practice of shaving off thin slices.


First Bank The First Bank of the United States was needed because the government had a debt from the Revolutionary War, and each state had a different form of currency. It was built while Philadelphia was still the nation’s capital.

Alexander Hamilton conceived of the bank to handle the colossal war debt, and to create a standard form of currency.


First U.S. Silver Coins The first United States silver coins were minted from metal obtained from Martha Washington’s silver service.

She must have had quite a collection of silver!


Heavy Cash 490 $1 bills weigh one pound.

A million one dollar bills would weigh 2,040 pounds.


Highest Denomination Although the highest denomination in circulation today is $100, it has only been about 30 years since much higher denominations were available.

High denomination notes of $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 were last printed in 1945, but continued to be issued for circulation until 1969.

However, the highest denomination notes ever printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing were $100,000 Gold Certificates issued in 1934.

These notes were used for transactions between federal reserve banks and were not circulated among the general public.


How Many Billionaires? There are about 450 billionaires in the world. About 150 of these live in the United States. This is up from less than 100 in 1992.

The combined wealth of the top 10 billionaires is more than the entire gross domestic product of Mexico for an entire year.

The top 25 billionaires could pay off nearly 10% of the entire US national debt (2001).


How Many Millionaires? There are 5 million households in the United States with net worth in excess of $1 million (2001). About 2.7 million of these households have at least $1 million in liquid assets not including homes.

This compares with a net worth of only $35,000 for the average American household.


Its Made Every Day Every day the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces about 38 million new banknotes with an average face value of $541 million. The cost to produce this $541 million is about $1.5 million.

A little under half of the notes printed are $1 notes. About 95% of all new notes printed are to replace notes which have worn out.


Lowest Denomination During the Civil War period, people hoarded coins because of their intrinsic value. This created a drastic shortage of coins for circulation.

To deal with this problem, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced “fractional currency” starting in 1862. The lowest denomination in this series was three cents.

Fractional notes were discontinued in 1876.


The First Coins The first coins, pieces of bronze shaped like cattle, appeared around 2000 BC. But their value was determined by their weight, making their use cumbersome.

Coins as we know them, with their value imprinted on them, were first produced in Lydia in 800 BC. Somewhere in this period the Chinese briefly used paper currency, but the first consistent use of paper money was by the French in the 18th century.


The Invention of Money As early as about 7,000 BC, 8,950 years before plastic credit cards, the idea of money was invented:

Cattle were used as money in the first agricultural civilizations.


The Paper The paper used in bills is made from rags. Cotton or linen fabric is beaten to fibers, then used to create paper.

These rag fibers bond together firmly and are basically unaffected by water.

Cellulose fibers (used in regular writing paper) on the other hand, absorb water and come apart when they get wet.

That’s why paper money is so sturdy when compared to “regular” paper.


Women on Cash Martha Washington in the only women whose portrait has ever appeared on a U.S. currency note.

Her portrait was on the face of the $1 silver certificate issues of 1886 and 1891, and on the back of the $1 silver certificate of 1896.

There have not been any women featured on U.S. paper currency in the entire 20th century.