Lending Club Blog

The US Dollar Bill: 50 Fascinating Facts


Paper currency was first introduced into the Americas in 1690 by The Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here are some interesting factoids about the US dollar bill (a.k.a. “Greenback”) to keep in mind as you borrow, invest and lend money:

    1. Larger bills ($50, $100) can last in circulation up to 8 years
    2. The average life of a dollar bill is just 18 months
    3. 97% of all paper money contains traces of cocaine
    4. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, is said to use $2 notes from sheets of bills purchased from the U.S. Treasury – he apparently has them bound into book form with the bills as tear-off “pages”
    5. The number 172 can be seen on the back of the U.S. $5 dollar bill in the bushes at the base of the Lincoln Memorial
    6. $20 bills last in circulation for approximately 2 years
    7. $5 bills last in circulation for around 15 months
    8. In 1960, the Federal Reserve had $177.41 in cash circulating for every person living in the US. In 1990, that amount increased to $1,062.86 per capita
    9. The security thread and micro printing found in most currency today were first used in 1990 in the $50 and $100 bills
    10. In 1865, the Department of the Treasury issued Gold Certificates, which were backed by gold and bullion deposits. These certificates stayed in circulation until 1933
    11. On the $1 bill the Latin above the pyramid, ANNUIT COEPTIS, means “God has favored our undertaking”
    12. The Latin below the pyramid on the $1 bill, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, means “a new order for the ages”
    13. At the base of the pyramid on the $1 bill you will find “1776” in Roman Numerals
    14. On the $1 bill, you can see an owl in the upper left-hand corner of the “1” encased in the “shield,” while a spider is hidden in the front upper right-hand corner
    15. On the new $100 bill, the clock tower of Independence Hall in Philadelphia is shown with the time set at 4:10. According to the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, “there are no records explaining why that particular time was chosen”
    16. In 1929, US currency was standardized to include portraits on the front and emblems and monuments on the back of all bills.
    17. The first paper notes were printed in denominations of 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents. The government first issued paper currency in 1862 to finance the Civil War and to make up for a shortage of coins stemming from the fact that people hoarded gold and silver coins to achieve a sense of financial security
    18. Almost half, 48 percent, of the notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are $1 notes
    19. Present currency measures 2.61 inches wide by 6.14 inches long, and the thickness is 0.0043 inches. Larger sized notes in circulation before 1929 measured 3.125 inches by 7.4218 inches
    20. Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. It appeared on the face of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891, along with the back of the $1 Silver Certificate issued in 1896
    21. If you had $10 billion and spent $1 every second of every day, it would take 317 years for you to go broke
    22. The $20 bill is sometimes called a “double-sawbuck”
    23. The elm tree on back of the $20 bill near the White House represents a real tree in this same location. However, the tree is no longer on the White House grounds because it succumbed to rain-softened ground in 2006
    24. While he appears on the $20 bill, Andrew Jackson actually preferred coins to paper currency
    25. There are no pictures of African-Americans printed on US currency, though five African Americans have had their signatures on currency (as Registers of the Treasury and Treasurer of the United States)
    26. In 1963, the $2 bill and the Federal Reserve Note were changed by adding the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” to the reverse and removing “WILL PAY TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND” from the front. Also, the obligation on the Federal Reserve Note was changed to its current wording: “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE”
    27. The $2 bill was last issued in 2003
    28. You’d need to fold a bill of any denomination about 8,000 times (first forward and then backwards) before it will tear
    29. Most people save $2 bills, thinking they are rare and therefore valuable; they’re actually worth… $2
    30. Apparently, enough people go to banks and other businesses to find $2 bills that there’s a name for it: Tom Crawl
    31. The number 13 (corresponding to the 13 colonies) figures prominently on the $1 bill. The number of letters/digits in 1776 (4) and its Roman Numeral equivalent MDCCLXXVI (9) adds up to 13
    32. The dollar has 13 stars above the eagle
    33. There are 13 steps on the Pyramid
    34. There are 13 letters in ANNUIT COEPTIS
    35. E PLURIBUS UNUM contains 13 letters
    36. There are 13 vertical bars on the shield
    37. The top of the shield has 13 horizontal stripes
    38. You can count 13 leaves on the olive branch
    39. There are 13 berries on the olive branch
    40. The dollar bill also features 13 arrows and 13 hats
    41. The Secretary of the Treasury usually selects the designs shown on US currency, unless otherwise specified by an Act of Congress
    42. A world record of $2,255,000 was paid in December 2006 for an 1890 $1000 United States Treasury note. The note features a portrait of Civil War-era General George Gordon Meade, who commanded Union Army troops at the Battle of Gettysburg
    43. Pocahontas appeared on the back of the $20 bill in 1875
    44. Money isn’t made out of paper, it’s actually made out of linen
    45. A fifty dollar bill is often called a Grant because it features a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant
    46. A $100 bill has many nicknames: C-note, Hundo, Hunksy, Franklin, Ben, Benjy, Benny, Big one, and my favorite: 100 bones
    47. High-denomination bills ($500-$100,000 notes) are technically legal tender, but were last printed in 1945 and officially discontinued on Jul 14, 1969 by the Federal Reserve System
    48. President Richard Nixon halted the circulation of these high-denomination bills in 1969 by Executive Order, in an effort to fight organized crime
    49. The security thread in bills $5 and higher will turn blue if they are held under ultraviolet light
    50. The $1 bill’s famous nickname of “Greenback” derives from the Demand Note dollars created by Abraham Lincoln in the late 1800s to finance the Civil War. These notes were printed in black and green on the back side

Bonus: In 75% of American households, women manage the money and pay the bills.

Want to earn a higher return on your paper money? See what happens when you start to lend money at Lending Club!

You can learn even more interesting facts about money by visiting these great websites:


Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 at 4:58 am

Comments (7)

  1. Cool post DebtKid. LC, don’t you think the spam protection question
    is a little excessive? How about 2 + 3?

    January 23rd, 2008 at 1:48 pm

  2. Nick:

    #49 is incorrect. While a $5 bill’s security strip WILL turn blue
    under UV light, that is not true for all bills. The $10 bill will
    turn orange, $20=green, $50=yellow, $100=pink. Maybe the author of
    this article should do a little more research.

    September 10th, 2008 at 5:12 pm

  3. Steve:

    In number 20 you say Martha Washington was the only woman to have
    her portait appear on US currency and then in 43 you say Pocahontas
    appears on the back of the 20 in 1875. Do we not consider
    Pocahontas a woman? Someone should have told John Rolfe before he
    married her.

    September 24th, 2008 at 9:29 am

  4. Jerry:

    I’m looking for some help identifying some markings on paper money
    – of any denomination. I’ll use a $1 bill as an example. with the
    number eleven (11) appearing in each corner of the portrait side.
    If you looked at the first “11” in the upper left corner and asked
    “What month of the year is that”, it’d be November. Now, if you
    added the “11” in the upper left corner, and added the “11” in the
    lower left corner, you’d get “22”. Q – What happened on November
    22nd? A – John F. Kennedy was assassinated. If you looked at the
    alphabet you’d see that the 11th letter is “K” (for Kennedy).
    Looking closer you’d see the letter “K” appears in the Federal
    Reserve seal. Next, look even closer at the seal. You’ll see
    “Dallas Texas”. (That’s where he was assassinated). So here’s what
    I’ve forgetten. . . 1. If you add three corners together, what does
    “33” mean? 2. Likewise, four corners, for “44”. They all have an
    association with J.F.K.’s assassination and I’m beating myself up
    because I forgot what they are. Any help would be most appreciated.

    November 18th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

  5. Thomas Hoffmann:

    Killed on 11/22 of 1963 Age 44 33rd president

    July 10th, 2010 at 9:58 am

  6. Jerry S.:

    Tom, Thanks for your reply, however, JFK was our 35th president and
    his age (at death) was 46, not 44. The “33” and “44” on the bill
    continues to elude me and it’s driving me nuts !!!

    September 14th, 2010 at 8:15 am

  7. […] where the spider is… SEE FACT NO. […]

    October 29th, 2010 at 11:59 am


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