Money has been a part of human history for at least 5,000 years. In fact, the world’s oldest coin dates back to 600 BC in China, which then moved to paper money around 700 AD. Parts of Europe switched from metal coins to paper money in the 16th century. From hidden messages to veiled security features, here are 17 strange facts you never knew about money.
2. Damaged currency is still valuable.
If you have money that’s badly damaged, don’t be too quick to throw it out. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing might redeem it at full value.
To qualify for the redemption, you must have more than half of the original note, including any relevant security feature. Or, you can qualify if you have less than half but are able to prove how the note was mutilated and that the missing portions were destroyed.
3. People were initially against putting famous faces on coins.
Early coins produced by the United States used images of Lady Liberty and the bald eagle rather than the faces of prominent figures. That’s because the British used pictures of the monarchs on their currency, and having just won their independence, Americans didn’t want to be reminded of that.
4. The $1 bill hasn’t been redesigned in over 50 years.
In 1996, the government redesigned the $100 bill, as well as other notes in the following years, to help protect against counterfeiting. This was the first major change in 67 years. The $1 bill, on the other hand, is so rarely counterfeited that there are no plans to redesign it. In fact, it the 2015 omnibus spending bill makes it illegal—as the vending machine industry would require a costly overhaul if the $1 bill is redesigned.
5. Bills have hidden faces.
Hold up your bill to the light, and you’ll see a second image of the portrait. For example, with a $100 bill, you can see Benjamin Franklin from both sides of the bill in the blank space located on the right side of the portrait.
6. Security threads glow in different colors depending on the bill.
Embedded security threads in paper money are used to protect against counterfeiting. If you have a UV light, hold it up to your bill to see the thread glow. On the $5 bill, the thread glows blue; $10 bills glow orange; $20 bills glow green; $50 bills glow yellow; and $100 bills glow pink.
7. You can talk to the Secret Service if you think your money is counterfeit.
Strange but true. If you suspect someone is using a counterfeit note, you are asked to report it and hand it over to the Secret Service.
8. Paper money is not made out of paper.
We commonly refer to bills as “paper” money, but they actually aren’t made from paper. Instead, each bill is a combination of 75% cotton and 25% linen.
9. U.S. bills are printed in only two places around the world.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing prints money, and it has facilities in both Washington, D.C., and Fort Worth, Texas. The Fort Worth facility was opened in 1990 and helps serve the Western United States, providing a backup in case something happens to the D.C. facility.
10. There once was a money shortage problem in the U.S.
Under English rule, the colonies were banned from making their own currency and instead were forced to either use their existing coins or creatively barter with each other, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
In 1652, Massachusetts started making its own coins against the British directive. In an attempt to mitigate any punishment they would receive if the British ever found out, they dated all of the coins with the year “1652”—even though they continued produce them for many years.
11. The states almost had their own currencies.
Early America’s Articles of Confederation gave both the U.S. Congress and the states the right to coin money. However, once they realized how much of a hassle it would be to get new money every time you crossed a state line, they decided there should be only one national currency.
12. Money has some odd names around the world.
Under the Coinage Act of 1792, gold coins had different values, including $2.50 (quarter eagle), $5 (half eagle) and $10 (eagle).
The names get even stranger in different parts of the world. Some of the terms used to describe money include cheddar (U.S.), toad (Denmark), pasta (Spain), lobster (Australia) and mosquito (Germany).
13. Two new forms of currency launched in the 21st Century.
Mobile payment technology and virtual currency launched in the 21st Century. Mobile payments pay for products and services through a smartphone or tablet, while virtual currency is a digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange. It is not controlled or regulated by a central bank.
14. It costs more than a cent to make a cent.
In the U.S., it costs roughly two cents to make a penny. For a nickel (5 cents), it’s 7.5 cents. These extra costs quickly add up. In 2018, (when the most recent figures were available), it’s estimated that cent production cost the U.S. taxpayers an extra $85.4 million and nickel production an extra $33.5 million.
15. The Civil War sparked paper money circulation.
The colonies issued paper money prior to winning their independence, however the federal government didn’t start circulating paper money until 1861. The reason for this is that the government needed to finance the Civil War—which was expensive—and needed the “Demand Notes” issued by the Treasury to secure loans from Northeastern banks.
16. The government used to accept postage stamps as payment.
There was a shortage of coins during the Civil War. At the time, coins were made of silver and gold, so people were holding on to them because the metals were valuable. To address this, the government started accepting postage stamps as payment for debts.
Ironically, this also caused a shortage of stamps. So, in 1863 the government authorized printing “fractional currency,” which were bills with denominations under $1.
17. “Special currency” has been used during wartime.
War has been a motivating factor for making changes to currency for many reasons. During World War II, the U.S. government created “special currency,” which had distinctive markings.
For example, Hawaii notes had a “HAWAII” overprint on the face and back. If the enemy acquired large amounts of this “special currency,” it could be easily identified and considered nonlegal tender.
Resources: Yahoo Finance. TransferGo, UberFacts