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Where Dollar Bills Come From (npr.org)
69 points by danso 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

Pretty interesting story - basically one company in USA has "monopoly" on providing "paper" for your banknotes and the reason is mostly because they have been in business for centuries.

Funny story from my early days at one of financial corporations in NYC. I had a buddy who loved to collect money. So on his birthday one time I bought him and brought to the office an uncut 50-pieces $1 sheet that you can easily buy from BEP even up to $100s [1]

He loved the gift and many people were impressed you can buy them by uncut sheets. Unfortunately an HR lady was not convinced; next morning I have Secret Service (!!) at my desk with police officers ready to arrest me! Gladly they believed my story but only after I forwarded them an email receipt from BEP to prove I actually bought it from them, not printed at home myself! She never apologized to me but frankly I wasn't looking for one. Good times.

[1] https://catalog.usmint.gov/paper-currency/uncut-currency/

EDIT: thanks for posting Woz story, never seen it before.

Interesting fact about $2 bills (I am collector myself) - never buy them online at premiums, simply ask in bank especially before New Year where Chinese people ask for these (form of good luck) and you may get a freshly printed. BEP continues to print them and they are quite popular, but careful how you use them, you can get arrested if cops don't know they exist!


You might like Woz's story about how he bought uncut $2 bills, and had them cut to 1x3 sheets, perferated between the bills, and glued the top edge and handed the $2 bills like they were novelty items. He also was investigated by the Secret Service.

Previous HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9319034

That is hilarious. I thought I had read all the funny Woz stories but this is new (or forgotten at some point)

It's sad that the Secret Service, who was created for one job -- investigate counterfeiting -- don't understand where money comes from.

I'm not really sure how you reached that conclusion from this:

> they believed my story but only after I forwarded them an email receipt from BEP to prove I actually bought it from them

A month or so ago I discovered the Planet Money podcast and it has become one of my favorites.

Check out The Indicator also, daily 10 minute economic podcasts that is a Plant Money spinoff.

Agreed, I found The Indicator via Planet Money and have really enjoyed that too. Another of my favorites is "Smashing Security", which is computer security focused, but it is more infotainment. It is on the longer side though, where the NPR ones above are much shorter.

I've always found it fascinating that dollar bills are actually made from a kind of cloth, the better to endure a rough life in some schlub's pockets (or the pockets of a succession of schlubs).

I used to wish the USA would switch to an Australian style plastic currency, but in light of recent concerns about plastics in the environment, those wishes have been tempered somewhat.

It’s still paper, not cloth— the fibers aren’t woven in any particular pattern. It is made with the sorts of fibers you’re more likely to find in textiles, though: cotton and linen in place of wood pulp.

Polymer banknotes are perhaps more environmentally friendly compared to its counterpart due to its durability (resulting in fewer banknotes being manufactured). They can also be recycled after its life in circulation. On the other hand, cotton/linen banknotes are typically shredded and landfilled after their circulation life.

What is wrong with landfilling biodegradable material?

It's extremely wasteful to produce them: https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/12/17337602/plastic-tote-bag...

It would be better if they composted it.

You would think that currency would be one of the least likely things to accidentally end up in the environment, though.

I think it's also a case of recognizability. If the Treasury / Bureau of Engraving and Printing switched to a material like plastic, I'd expect there to be a long period where people — particularly in far-flung places in the world — don't trust that the new currency they're given are actually US currency.

In the podcast they said they have a machine that folds it repeatedly. They need 5000 folds before tearing instead of the typical 50 for printer paper.

I also found it a little comical about the denied FOIA request for the profitability of the company.

5000 sounds like a low standard, especially because I fold my money each time I open and close my wallet (billfold style)

Maybe they meant folded as if it was creased. Most wallets do not need bills to be creased to fold.

When you figure that 5000 is equivalent to about 2 folds a week for 50 years, it seems reasonable.

This is why I discovered that my wallet tears my money when I switched to a billfold.

The 1914 $10 Dollar Bill was printed on hemp paper. Today, they're worth like $49.99. IDK how steady that price is over time; relative to the prices of other CPI All goods.

$10 in 1914 → $256.57 in 2019

The article only touches on US currency, but it seems that Crane Currency makes paper for currencies all over the world. I couldn't find an explicit statement, but the homepage[0] carousel photos definitely imply they make at least Swedish and Ukrainian paper as well.

[0] https://www.cranecurrency.com

Worked for Crane Currency a year ago...left after only a year there just after the acquisition by Crane Co.

The company has facilities in Tumba, Sweden as well as their new production facility in Malta.

There are some very talented engineers, scientists, designers and artists on staff there.

Hopefully Crane Co will be good stewards of what they have purchased, because Crane Currency provides an essential service for many countries around the world, but I’ll just say that I was not inspired nor impressed by the new acquirers and I hope the new ownership doesn’t drive too many more people away.

I have listened to Planet Money for over a year now, really enjoy the fast podcasts like the Indicator and Marketplace Tech.

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