Penguin Pick of the Month: Little Known Money Facts

by | Jul 30, 2019

Your favorite money-saving penguin, Charlie, loves to help you manage your finances and live your best life. Just last week, he found a unique old coin, and his inner geek was unleashed. Wanting to know anything and everything about our currency, he took to the interwebs and found this article.

If you’re looking for the cliffnotes version, here are Charlie’s favorite factoids:

  • The $100 bill hasn’t always been the largest denomination of paper money: Before 1969, the government printed notes up to $10,000.
  • Paper money has a short shelf life: The $10 bill lasts the least amount of time and gets taken out of commission after just 4.5 years. Relatedly, 70% of all notes are printed to replace those no longer in circulation.
  • Our currency periodically gets a makeover: There are plans to update the $5, $10, and $20 notes with images honoring major players in the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements. Interestingly, the $1 bill has remained unchanged for 50 years and there are no plans for a redesign.
  • At one point, each state had its own currency: Additionally, the federal government didn’t disburse paper money for public use until 1861. However, the $2 bill was originally printed in 1776 to fund the Revolutionary War effort.
  • Postage stamps were once legal tender: A coin shortage during the Civil War caused the government to accept the stamps as payment on debt.
  • Torn or damaged money is still worth something: If you have at least half of the bill, you can likely still redeem it for face value at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
  • Money is dirty — and covered in drugs: A study found that up to 100% of paper notes from major cities contain traces of cocaine.
  • Paper money is cheap to produce: Where the United States takes a loss for every penny it mints, it only spends 13.2 cents printing a $100 bill.
  • Paper notes aren’t really paper: They’re actually comprised of 75% cotton and 25% linen.

Thirsting for more money trivia? 

Check out this brief history of United States currency.

Tell Charlie: What’s the most interesting fact you’ve ever heard about money?

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