Paper Money

CBS News asks: What do you know about the $1 note?

While most collectors probably know that Martha Washington’s portrait appears on the face of the Series 1886 $1 silver certificate, it probably isn't that well known to others.

Image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

CBS News Money Watch took paper currency mainstream on April 5 with a feature it called “Twenty things you didn’t know about dollar bills.” Collectors will probably say they know most of those things already. The network referred to them as facts both weird and interesting, and trivia well suited for both cocktail parties and the water cooler. The episode included items like naming the Federal Reserve Districts and the letters identifying each in the serial number, the fact that the paper used is not really paper at all, but a mix of linen and cotton, and a recitation of many of the so-called mysteries and symbols on the back of the $1 note. 

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Among other factoids shared: Martha Washington was once on a silver certificate (Series 1886) and it could be worth more than $1,000! Salmon Chase, not George Washington was on the first $1 note (the legal tender issue of 1862).

Another hectic release for the U.S. MintCollectors crave variety in their coins: Inside Coin World: While 20th and 21st century coin varieties share very few characteristics of older varieties, collectors have a wide range of coins to choose from..

The $1 note will not be redesigned because it is not counterfeited enough (its redesign is also prohibited by a December 2015 act of Congress). At 11.5 billion, almost as many $100 bills are in circulation as the 11.7 billion $1 notes, although CBS did not mention the enormous amount of $100 notes shipped to other countries. 

According to CBS, there are not that many more $10 notes circulating, at 1.9 billion, than $2 notes at 1.2 billion, which seems odd given the amounts in BEP production reports. Also surprising is that the $50 note is said to cost more to print than the $100 note, at 19.4 cents versus 15.5 cents each, though might be the result of the different and amount of anti-counterfeiting technology used on each.

Dollar bill, dollar coinSenate legislation seeks end to $1 bill: Measure would end production of $1 Federal Reserve note, replace it with dollar coins, and put an end to the cent.


Sanitation was another element of interest. The story cited a U.S. Air Force study in 2002 finding that 94 percent of 68 dollar bills that were tested had bacteria that could cause pneumonia and other infections. But there is more than bacteria to worry about; CNN reported in 2009 that 90 percent of paper money in U.S. cities had traces of cocaine, but in Detroit, Boston, Orlando, Miami, and Los Angeles that figure rose to 100 percent.

The full story, with all twenty factoids is here.

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