Here are some fun facts and history about U.S. currency, a.k.a. "paper money" or "bills," that can help you become a better collector. The more you know, the easier it'll be to create an investment that grows with you over time.
Bills (a.k.a. paper money) of the lowest value change hands more often than bills of higher value. Here's how long the typical bill lasts before wearing out:
- $1 = 22 months
- $5 = 16 months
- $10 = 1.5 years
- $20 = 2 years
- $50 = 5 years
- $100 = 8.5 years
Since lower denominations wear out faster and cost less to collect, you'll find they are much more collectible. There are MANY more $1, $5 and $10 bills at coin shows than $100 bills. As a result, $100 bills do not increase in value as much over time. Many studies have shown that smaller denominations of bills increase much faster in value. Basically, invest your hundred dollars in twenty $5 bills instead of one $100 bill and you'll be a much happier collector 20-30 years down the road.
Know Your Bill
Here are the features of U.S. legal tender. If your money doesn't have all of these on it, cry counterfeit!
- serial number
- number of the Federal Reserve Bank that issued the bill
- seal of the U.S. Treasury Department
- year the bill was designed
- printing plate ID
- seal and letter of the Federal Reserve Bank that issued the bill
- Signature of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
- Great Seal of the United States
- the eagle, representing America's great strength
- the olive branch, standing for peace
- the arrows, showing the U.S. will fight to defend itself
Expecting big bills in your future? Then you'll want to know how to tell them apart. Here's who you'll find on U.S. currency:
- $1 = George Washington
- $2 = Thomas Jefferson
- $5 = Abraham Lincoln
- $10 = Alexander Hamilton
- $20 = Andrew Jackson
- $50 = Ulysses S. Grant
- $100 = Benjamin Franklin
The Story of the $ Sign
There are two common theories about the origin of the American dollar symbol ($). One says it comes from a coin known as the Spanish 8 Reales. For many years - over a century - the silver Spanish 8 Reales coin was the standard in silver currency. Not only in Europe, but in the New World (read: North, Central and South America). Another common name for this coin is the "pillar dollar" because its design includes two pillars. On each pillar, are snakes wrapped around. These snakes cause the pillars to resemble $ and so the theory was born.
Another theory is that long ago, people in Mexico and Spain wrote capital P with a baby "s" as an abbreviation for "pesos." If you were writing this quickly, you might join the P and "s" to look like $.
Regardless of its origin, facts tell us that the $ symbol first appeared in the 1770s in documents of British Americans who did business with Spanish Americans. It appeared in print after 1800.
Money Through The Years
- 9000-6000 B.C.E.
- People trade cows, sheep and camels for goods and services. Money includes shells, tea leaves, feathers, animal teeth, blankets and crops.
- 1200 B.C.E.
- People use cowrie shells as money (these are a type of sea animal)
- 1000 B.C.E.
- Chinese make round coins out of bronze, copper and other metals. Some use bars of valuable metals, weapons and tools as money.
- 500 B.C.E.
- Greek, Turkish, Persian and Macedonian people make coins out of silver, bronze and gold
- 806 A.D.
- Chinese print the world's first paper money!!!!!!!
- 1535 A.D.
- In North America, early European settlers and Native Americans trade wampum, strings of beads made from shells
- 1700 A.D.
- Early European settlers in North America brought their own money to the colonies. Some Virginia and Maryland farmers trade tobacco to buy things.
- 1787 A.D.
- The first U.S. coin was made out of silver
- 1792 A.D.
- the first U.S. mint opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 1861 A.D.
- the U.S. government issues its first paper money, called "legal tender notes"
- 1996 A.D.
- the United States began issuing newly designed paper money, starting with the $100 bill