The Designs of Our Paper Money

First, a bit of background.

I love coins and bills of all kinds, all shapes, from all different countries. When my Honey and I go to the Swap Meet it is for sure I will be at the coin collectors’ stand for at Least half an hour...after that hubby gets a bit nervous!

He doesn't 'get' why anyone wants to spend money to 'get' money...ha no pun intended.

Where's George helped, as well, but I was collecting wheat pennies and silver dollars and such long before that hobby grabbed hold of me. It just feels good to hold a bit of coin or a bill and imagine the people that held it, used it to buy food or clothes or paid their rent with that same bit of metal or paper. What were they like? Were they a little like me? Did they collect something as I do? Did a woman, like me, use this silver dollar to buy cloth to cut and pin back together with other bits of cloth to make a quilt?

Whatever the reason, keeping track of coins and bills is interesting and’s a little slice of history, still being written.

Well, still being written but off the grid for as long as I keep it in my Dragon Box! Who knows? Perhaps I will trade all of it one day for three wishes! That Leprechaun inside the walls of my fireplace has been making a lot of racket lately! I'm always afraid He will try to grab my plunder. Good thing He is afraid of Dragons!

But that is not this story.

This story is just a little bit of insight as to how the US Mint has changed the look of our money over the last few decades. Thanks again to Where’s George for that is where a lot of my information is coming from!

The bills that stay in circulation the longest are the hundred dollar bills and the ones that stay in circulation the shortest amount of time are the ones, naturally. Naturally because we use them more than any other bill. The hundred dollar bill will last approximately 7.4 years whereas the one dollar bill only lasts 1.8 years. Most of the bills that the Bureau of Engraving sends out into circulation are being sent to Replace used bills. 95% to be exact.

Why do we call it paper money if it is made of linen and cotton? Did you know it takes over 4000 folds, forwards, backwards, etc before a bill will tear? This does not count just taking and ripping one in half you understand, but the folding that we do to get it to fit in our pockets. Personally I fold mine in half then half again so it will fit in the right hand watch pocket of my jeans. One more tidbit of interest...this year, 2009, the Bureau of Engraving has produced nearly $907 million dollars worth of different types of bills, twenty-six million notes a day! Just in this fiscal year!

That is a lot for Georger's to stamp!

The Twelve Federal Reserve Districts
The Twelve Federal Reserve Districts
Changes to the $20 bill issued in 2004
Changes to the $20 bill issued in 2004
The US Capitol on the back of the Ulysses S. Grant $50 bill
The US Capitol on the back of the Ulysses S. Grant $50 bill

Our money is produced by the Bureau of Exchanging and Printing in twelve different cities from Boston to San Francisco. When you look at the serial number on the bill you will see there is a letter, sometimes two letters at the start of the number and then it ends with a letter as well. That first letter tells you from which district that bill was printed. There are Federal Reserve Banks within each of t twelve districts. These banks distribute bill to large banks (for a stipend) ad small banks get their bills from the larger banks (for another stipend).

So see Honey? I am not the only one that gives money to get money!

There have been many changes to the bills since 1861 when the first paper money was issued. There have been Gold certificates, Silver Certificates and United States Notes. Most of what we see today is Federal Reserve Notes.

It is a secret wish of mine to get a silver certificate as part of my change from the grocery store! Wouldn't that be a hoot? Course, my luck would be I would stamp Where's George on it with my red inking stamp and then discover it!

The Treasury Seal and the Serial Number is how you can distinguish one type from another. On the Federal Reserve note that seal on the front, right hand side is green and the serial number is green as well. On the Silver Certificate the seal and the number are blue and on the United States Notes they are red.

The Great Seal on our bills is the Great Seal of America established in 1782. It was added to the paper money with the production of the one dollar silver certificates in 1933.

The Federal Reserve notes came out in 1963 and the design of the one dollar bill did not change. The Bureau changes or updates in some way the bills every seven to ten years. This is to decrease counterfeiting, to keep the money as secure as possible. Of course, it is probably to make sure collectors with vivid imaginations such as us keep on looking and buying the old bills at swap meets!

The ten dollar bill was redesigned and distributed in 2006 and the five dollar bill was upgraded in 2008. Of the entire changes five dollar bill is the first bill since the issuing of the two dollar bill to have made such an impact on the collectors market. This is because some people felt the newly designed five dollar bill would become collector’s item and thy squirreled them away (yes, I am one of the squirrels, I have quite a lovely nest of these and two dollar bills as well) People kept them out of circulation in the beginning but they are increasing again. However, the two dollar bill continues to be less visible perhaps because people feel the two dollar bill is bad luck. I have twice as many two's as I have of the new five dollar bills and my luck is actually looking up!

Hmmm...Maybe the Leprechaun is helping? He is a trickster though, He will have his own agenda and will certainly bear watching, that one will!

Of the following, what do you collect?

  • wheat pennies
  • any fifty cent pieces
  • two dollar bills
  • bills of yours or your families birth year
  • silver dollars
  • new presidential dollar coins
  • Silver Certificates
  • teapots
See results without voting

Comments 12 comments

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain

I use to collect water colour paintings but I don't collect money, I save a little when I can and I spend it when I can lol

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 7 years ago from Tucson, Az Author

you are much smarter than I maggs224 :) do you like mary Cassatt?

mel22 profile image

mel22 6 years ago from ,

I collect silver certificates and wheat pennies but the real money is in silver and gold Kruggerands and American Eagles !

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 6 years ago from Tucson, Az Author

I too have the certificates :) I try to get them in the dates of families birthyers :) and I have a very small stash of wheats...keep looking for that one wheat they say is worth more than anything/oh well :) the fun to me is the looking and then, dragon that I am, the going through the box time and again, separating and smiling :)

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Were I to collect "paper" money, it would be England's. Their bills are so much more colorful and prettier than ours. Had I not spent practically every cent I had on my trip there in 2003, I would've loved to have brought back one of the prettiest (I think), the 50 pound note. As it was, I only came back with a few coins.

Thanks for an enlightening history of U.S. currency! ;D

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 4 years ago from Tucson, Az Author

oh boy what fun for you! lucky duck (I typed that with an english accent could you tell?)still, souvenir coins and tons of memories, that's all worth it I say

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

The English accent came through loud and clear. East Midlands, I think. lol! Besides the coins, I bought a souvenir key chain at each landmark. My car and house keys have hung off the one from the Tower of London ever since I got back. The rest are too pretty or too fragile (like the three dimensional crown from Windsor Castle) to get banged around every day. ;D

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 4 years ago from Tucson, Az Author

that was a great way to recall memories from each spot!too neat...I had a bracelet from the Tower that a friend brought me from her trip once/I wore it out :) a 3D coin from Windsor...I have to research that one/see what it looks like!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Not a 3-D COIN from Windsor, a CROWN. Oddly, very similar to the gold crown on commemorative bottles of Crown Royal whiskey. Go figure....

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 4 years ago from Tucson, Az Author

oh I see! that makes it even better dont you think

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I'm a Margarita person myself. Whiskey and I don't get along, but I've gotten a few purple Crown Royal pouches over the years from friends to hold "stuff" like jewelry, etc. They're also the right size for keeping little items together when traveling. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! ;D

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 4 years ago from Tucson, Az Author

you are too funny! well right now my purple crown royal pouch is holdng some beads/stones from last years gem show :) works well you are right!

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