It would take about 4,000 double folds for a bill to rip or start disintegrating.
2. The typical lifespan of a bill depends on its use.
Of course the bills that are used the most, wear out fastest. According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), here’s the average life expectancy of each denomination:
$1 bill - 22 months
$5 bill - 16 months
$10 bill -18 months
$20 bill - 24 months
$50 bill - 55 months
$100 bill - 89 months
3. Which bills are most common?
The $1 bill is most common of course, but you may be surprised to hear that about 42% of all currency printed every year is $1 bills.
4. Our paper money isn’t paper at all.
There’s actually no paper in our bills but they’re a blend of 75% cotton and 25% linen with silk fibers running through it.
5. Our bills are tainted with a white powder…
95% of the bills in circulation have traces of cocaine on them.
6. In God We Trust.
The text “In God We Trust” first appeared on our currency in 1957, and adorned every paper bill after 1963.
A lot of people wrongly assume that “E Pluribus Unum,” which adorns most of our currency, is a translation of “In God we trust.” But it actually means “One from many” and has an interesting origin. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued a three-dollar bill with the motto, "Exitus in Dubio Est," or "The Outcome Is in Doubt." The war was still greatly in doubt but John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson proposed a more optimistic slogan, E Pluribus Unum. That slogan first appeared on the nation’s Great Seal in 1782 but the Great Seal was included on currency until 1902.
8. Top billing for Martha.
Martha Washington, wife of President George Washington, is the only woman ever to appear on a U.S. currency note, as her portrait was on the $1 silver certificate in 1886, 1891, and on the back in 1896.
9. You may have a money roof.
When dollar bills are removed from circulation, they’re shredded by Federal Reserve banks. The shredded remnants are bundled and sold to recycling companies, who repurpose the shreds to make building materials like roof shingles or insulation.
The largest bill ever in circulation in the United States was a $100,000 printed note gold certificate issued in 1934. The note, bearing President Woodrow Wilsons likeness, wasn’t available to the general public however, but only used for transactions between Federal Reserve banks.
11. Back in the day, they’d take anything.
Before the American Revolution, American colonists would accept and use just about any international currency if it was made of gold or silver, including English, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Portuguese coins. There was such a shortage of precious metals in the new world (well before the Gold Rush) that these coins were in high demand and held value even if they were from other nations.
12. Banks used to print money themselves.
Incredibly, for the first 70 years of America’s existence, private banks were authorized to print their own money, not the federal government. These state-chartered banks issued paper money that could be exchanged for gold or silver. About 8,000 of these banks were authorized, and as you could imagine counterfeiting was rampant. But the National Banking Act centralized money printing control to federally mandated banks only.
If you have at least 51% of the bill intact, it technically still has full value and any bank will take it or exchange it for a better version. If you rip a bill perfectly in half, the bank may let you trade it in if you have both halves, but if you only have 50% or less, you’re out of luck!
14. The Constitution only gives authority to issue coins, not paper money.
In Article One of the Constitution, the federal government is given the power “to coin money” and “regulate the value thereof”, but nowhere does it say anything about paper bills. But paper money was definitely in circulation, as the Continental Congress had printed stacks of paper money to help finance the revolution, which had become almost worthless by the end of the war.
15. The Federal Reserve Act in 1913 was pivotal.
After the financial panics of 1893 and 1907 nearly destroyed our economic system, the Federal Reserve Act was issued in 1913, establishing a central bank to regulate all money and foster economic stability. Federal Reserve Notes were issued as our official currency, and now they make up more than 99 percent of all our currency in circulation.
16. What about that eye on top of the pyramid?
The eye that hovers over the pyramid on each dollar bill was designed to represent “a reflection of divine providence.” But the eye wasn’t the only option; there was also consideration of a depiction of the Children of Israel in the wilderness.
17. Some Confederate money depicted American presidents.
The Confederacy issued about $1 billion of paper money during the Civil War, which depicted Confederate President Jefferson Davis and even images of slaves in cotton fields. But so did Presidents George Washington and Andrew Jackson, both who had been southern-born and slave owners,
18. How much were the first printed bills worth?
The first paper notes were printed in denominations of 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents.
19. How big is counterfeiting?
The US government takes almost $100 million in counterfeit bills out of circulation every year. Amazingly, almost half of that is made on regular home inkjet printers these days!
20. How much money is printed every day?
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing makes about 38 million new bills a day with a value of approximately $541 million. 95% of all notes printed every year are used to replace notes already in circulation, so our monetary supply increases incrementally only.