While digital currency is gaining popularity, nothing will ever compare to cold, hard cash. Bitcoin may come and go, but the bills issued by the Federal Reserve are forever. After all, it’s not like people can go around stuffing their piggy banks full of invisible Internet money!
Though you likely use paper bills practically every day, chances are you’ve never thought about where they actually come from. The real process behind making money is beyond anything you could imagine. Just take a look! You’ll never think about money the same way again…
You use paper money practically every single day. But how often do you ever stop and think about where that money comes from and how it’s made? The truth is much cooler than you’re probably expecting…
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is responsible for the look of American paper money. Each bill features symbols and language that represent the strength of the American economy. Designers even use a stylus like you might on your phone!
These designers have another important responsibility, too: they must include the latest anti-counterfeiting technology in their designs! Each designer must be part artist and part security expert to fulfill these requirements.
The designers are given strict parameters about the bills they create. First, each bill must feature the face of an important figure from American history on the front—like Andrew Jackson, pictured here, who appears on the $20 bill.
Second, they must feature an American landmark or “theme” on the back of every bill. These parameters might seem strict, but the designers don’t seem to find them limiting at all.
The next step is engraving. The designer passes their work along to an engraver who must carefully translate that design into a rendered steel plate. This is an intricate and important part of the process that most people don’t think of!
As if this weren’t challenging enough, the engraver must actually recreate the design backwards so that faces and text are legible when they’re finally printed and prepared for distribution. Just look at how tedious this work is…
The elements that make up the engraving are all done as separate layers. This isn’t just so that it makes the finished product detailed and beautiful; it’s required in order to make the bills virtually impossible to copy.
If you take a second to examine the back of a $1 bill, you’ll find what is called the Great Seal. It features 13 stars, which represent the 13 original colonies of the United States. There are also 13 steps on the pyramid, too.
The engravers hand over their completed sheets to the people responsible for the next step in the process, which is called plate making. The plate-makers first rinse down the plate very carefully using deionized water.
Then, the plate is soaked in a bright yellow mixture of potassium bichromate solution. This step is taken to make sure that the plate does not rust throughout the rest of the process. It’s vital to ensure they get the best pressing possible.
Next, the plates are placed inside a tank, which is filled with a nickel-salt solution for about 22 hours. During this time, the solution causes a chemical reaction, which allows a second nickel plate to form on top of the original plate.
This new plate is peeled away, cleaned, and examined for errors. It needs to be perfect. When it’s ready to go, it will be the width of one-tenth of a strand of human hair. That’s some very thin plating right there!
The next step in the process is when those metal sheets—complete with a carefully engraved design and ink—are finally pressed into the paper money that we all know and love (to spend). Well, not quite…
While we might look at all those green bills and think that they’re actually made of paper, the truth is they’re made with a speciality fabric composed of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen! This blend has been specifically designed to throw off people who might try their hand at faking legal U.S. tender.
Even the ink that is used on money itself isn’t something you could run out to store and buy. It’s got magnetic and color-shifting properties as another measure to stop potential counterfeiters in their tracks!
Once the bills are printed, they are left to dry for 72 hours before they receive a final inspection. Then, the sheets are cut and the bills are sent off to the Federal Reserve for distribution to banks around the country.
While most folks are used to seeing famous men from history on paper money, there aren’t many women pictured on bills… at least not since Martha Washington graced the one silver dollar bill more than a century ago.
However, that’s all about to change very soon because a new bill featuring Harriet Tubman will be released in the year 2020! With so much work to go into each design, it’s easy to understand how the process could take so long.
Now that you understand all of the steps involved in making money, you’ll want to take a look at the process in action! Just check out this video of money being made. It’s truly an engineering marvel…
Who knew that there was so much that went into making money? It really makes you think differently about your dollar bills!
Share this post with your friends below!