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Bureau of Engraving and Printing
U.S. Department of the Treasury

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FAQ Library 

U.S. CURRENCY FAQs

What is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing doing to help blind and visually impaired Americans with banknote identification?

BEP has worked closely with the public to study ways to improve paper currency, including ways to help the public more readily identify currency denominations. These efforts have already resulted in design changes in 1996 and 2004 to improve security and to feature larger, high-contrast numerals with distinct background colors, and for Series 1999 to include a machine-readable feature.

 

BEP continues to explore and develop solutions for those who are blind and visually impaired:

 

  • BEP has been working with the private sector since 2004 to help develop an even lower cost, hand-held currency reading device to supplement hand-held readers that are already commercially available.
  • In late 2006, BEP issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking updated information about currency readers.
  • In June 2007, BEP issued another RFI specifically to gather information regarding cell phone technology that can be used to allow people who are blind or visually impaired to use camera cell phones as currency readers.
  • Recently, the BEP issued a series of RFIs to open communication and provide an avenue for updated information about technologies or materials with potential application to assist those who are blind and visually impaired to easily identify the denomination of U.S. paper currency. The results of these RFIs are currently being reviewed.

 

To maintain this avenue of communication, the BEP has renewed the latest RFI, which can be located on the Federal Business Opportunities website ( www.fbo.gov ) under RFI-09-0005.

 

The BEP commissioned a study to examine various aspects of the use of U.S. currency by the blind and visually impaired population of the United States. The study will be used in support of the BEP's efforts to identify and recommend method(s) to improve the ability of those who are blind or visually impaired to denominate U.S. paper currency.

 

When will the next currency redesign be unveiled and issued?

The new $20 note entered circulation on October 9, 2003, the new $50 note entered circulation on September 28, 2004, and the new $10 note entered circulation on March 2, 2006. The redesigned $5 note was issued on March 13, 2008, and the $100 note entered circulation on October 8, 2013. For more information about the new currency designs, go to newmoney.gov.

 

Will there be a recall or devaluation of the older-series notes?

There will be no recall or devaluation of the older-series notes, which will be removed from circulation as they wear out. Older worn notes will be replaced with the new notes.

 

What's the largest sheet of uncut currency I can buy?

The 32-note sheet of uncut currency is the largest size available. The largest denomination sheets that are available are the 16-note $100 sheets. We also sell $1, $2, $5, $10, $20 and $50 denomination sheets.

 

What is currency paper made of?

Currency paper is composed of 75% cotton and 25% linen.

 

How durable is paper currency?

It would take about 4,000 double folds (first forward and then backwards) before a note will tear.

 

What is the weight of a note?

The approximate weight of a note, regardless of denomination is (1) one gram. There are 454 grams in one (1) U.S. pound, therefore, there are 454 notes in (1) one pound (Avoirdupois system). Using the troy system, there are (12) twelve ounces in (1) one pound; therefore, if one note weighs approximately (1) one gram, then (1) troy pound contains approximately 375 notes.

 

What was the highest denomination note ever printed?

The largest note ever printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was the $100,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934. These notes were printed from December 18, 1934, through January 9, 1935, and were issued by the Treasurer of the United States to Federal Reserve Banks only against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Treasury. The notes were used for transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and were not circulated among the general public.

 

Why were certain individuals chosen to be pictured on our paper currency?

The Secretary of the Treasury is responsible for the selection of the designs, including the portraits, which appear on paper currency. The July 11, 1862 Act of Congress provided:

"That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and is hereby authorized, in case he shall think it expedient to procure said notes, or any part thereof, to be engraved, printed, and executed, in such form as he shall prescribe, at the Treasury Department in Washington, and under his direction; and he is hereby empowered to purchase and provide all machinery and materials, and to employ such persons and appoint such officers as may be necessary for this purpose."

 

The portraits currently appearing on the various denominations of paper currency were adopted in 1929 when the size of the notes was reduced. Prior to the adoption of this smaller sized currency, a special committee was appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury to study this aspect of the design. It was determined that portraits of Presidents of the United States have a more permanent familiarity in the minds of the public than any others. This decision was somewhat altered by the Secretary of the Treasury to include Alexander Hamilton, who was the first Secretary of the Treasury; Salmon P. Chase, who was Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War and is credited with promoting our National Banking System; and Benjamin Franklin, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. All three of these statesmen were well known to the American public.

Treasury Department records do not reveal the reason that portraits of these particular statesmen were chosen in preference to those of other persons of equal importance and prominence. By law, only the portrait of a deceased individual may appear on U.S. currency and securities. Specifics concerning this law may be found under United States Code, Title 31, Section 5114(b).

 

Who is featured in the portraits on U.S. paper currency?

  • $1 Note (Face) - George Washington (1st U.S. President) (Back) - The Great Seal of the United States
  • $2 Note (Face) - Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. President) (Back) - The Declaration of Independence
  • $5 Note (Face) - Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President) (Back) - Lincoln Memorial
  • $10 Note (Face) - Alexander Hamilton (1st Secretary of the Treasury) (Back) - U.S. Treasury Building
  • $20 Note (Face) - Andrew Jackson (7th U.S. President) (Back) - White House
  • $50 Note (Face) - Ulysses Grant (18th U.S. President) (Back) - U.S. Capitol
  • $100 Note (Face) - Ben Franklin (Statesman) (Back) - Independence Hall
  • $500 Note* (Face) - William McKinley (25th U.S. President) (Back) - Numeral 500 and the ornamental phrase "Five Hundred Dollars"
  • $1000 Note* (Face) - Grover Cleveland (22nd & 24th U.S. President) (Back) - Numeral 1000 and the ornamental phrase "One Thousand Dollars"
  • $5000 Note* (Face) - James Madison (4th U.S. President) (Back) - Numeral 5000 and the ornamental phrase "Five Thousand Dollars"
  • $10,000 Note* (Face) - Salmon Chase (U.S. Treasury Secretary under Lincoln) (Back) - Numeral 10,000 and the ornamental phrase "Ten Thousand Dollars"
  • $100,000 Note* (Face) - Woodrow Wilson (28th U.S. President) (Back) - Numeral 100,000 and the ornamental phrase "One Hundred Thousand Dollars". This note never appeared in general circulation, and was only used in transactions between Federal Reserve Banks

* = Notes no longer in print or circulation

 

Have any African Americans been pictured on U.S. currency?

There are no African Americans pictured on U.S. currency. There were four African American Registers of the Treasury, however, whose signatures appeared on the currency. They were Blanche K. Bruce, Judson W. Lyons, William T. Vernon and James C. Napier. Until the series 1923 currency, the two signatures on almost all currency (except Fractional Currency and Demand Notes) were of the Treasurer and the Register. During this period four of the 17 registers were African American. The fifth African American whose signature appeared on currency was Azie Taylor Morton. Ms. Morton was the 36th Treasurer of the United States. She served from September 12, 1977, to January 20, 1981.

 

What is the average life span of a Federal Reserve Note?

Please go to the Federal Reserve Board website for Federal Reserve Note life span information.

 

Why is green ink used to print U.S. currency?

The reason for the selection of green as the color for the backs of U.S. currency has long been among the more popular questions put to the BEP. No definite explanation can be made for the original choice; however, it is known that at the time of the introduction of small-sized notes in 1929, the use of green was continued because pigment of that color was readily available in large quantities, the color was relatively high in its resistance to chemical and physical changes, and green was psychologically identified with the strong and stable credit of the Government. In the course of preparing this history, much attention was given to the matter. Extensive research developed evidence in support of the following explanation:

 

With the growing popularity of U.S. currency and the development of photography in the mid-1800s, it was customary to print the notes in black combined with colored tints as a deterrent to counterfeiting. The early camera saw everything in black. Features that were distinguishable on a note by color variant lost their individuality when reproduced photographically. However, the counterfeiter soon discovered that the colored inks then in use could easily be removed from a note without disturbing the black ink. He could eradicate the colored portion, photograph the remainder, and then make a desired number of copies to be overprinted with an imitation of the colored parts. The solution to the problem lay in the development of an ink that could not be erased without adversely affecting the black coloring. Such an ink was developed and the patent rights were purchased by Tracy R. Edson, who later was one of the founders of the American Bank Note Company. This is one of the same firms that produced the first paper money issued by the United States. The faces of these and other early notes produced under contract were printed with a green tint, presumably of the protective ink.

 

It is not unusual in printing with oil-base-type inks, such as was the "patent green," for the color to strike through to the opposite side of a sheet. It might, therefore, be conjectured that the backs of the early notes were printed in a darker shade of ordinary green to make the tint "strike through" less obvious.

 

Since the transition of printing money exclusively at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was gradual, it is logical to assume that the backs of the notes produced there during the intervening period were printed in green for the sake of uniformity. Once the BEP was on full-scale production, there was no reason to change the traditional color and so the practice was continued.

 

What is the origin of the $ sign?

The origin of the "$" sign has been variously accounted for, however, the most widely accepted explanation is that the symbol is the result of evolution, independently in different places, of the Mexican or Spanish "P's" for pesos, or piastres, or pieces of eight. The theory, derived from a study of old manuscripts, is that the "S" gradually came to be written over the "P," developing a close equivalent of the "$" mark. It was widely used before the adoption of the United States dollar in 1785.

 

What is legal tender?

31 USC 5103. Legal Tender United States coins and currency (including Federal Reserve Notes and circulating notes of Federal Reserve Banks and National banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.

 

However, there is no Federal statute which mandates that private businesses must accept cash as a form of payment. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a state law which says otherwise.

 

What is a Celebrity Note?

A celebrity note is a note upon which the portraits of well-known personalities (such as Santa Claus and movie stars) are temporarily affixed.  They, for the most part, are found to be genuine United States currency. Private businesses produce these novelty items by purchasing new currency notes from banks and subsequently apply the picture of a well-known personality over the engraved portrait on the note by means of a pressure-sensitive adhesive. These businesses then charge their customers premium prices.

 

There are at least two statutes, 18 USC 333 and 18 USC 475, which may apply to celebrity notes . 18 USC 333 prescribes criminal penalties against anyone who "mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued".  

 

Additionally, 18 USC 475 prescribes criminal penalties against anyone who "designs, engraves, prints, makes, or executes, or utters, issues, distributes, circulates, or uses any business or professional card, notice, placard, circular, handbill, or advertisement in the likeness or similitude of any obligation or security of the United States issued under or authorized by any Act of Congress or writes, prints, or otherwise impresses upon or attaches to any such instrument; obligation, or security, or any coin of the United States, any business or professional card, notice, or advertisement, or any notice or advertisement whatever". The prohibition contained in section 475 may apply when a celebrity note is being used as a form of commercial advertising.

 

A determination of the legality of any particular celebrity note is a matter within the authority of the Department of Justice. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing's position regarding this matter is that this and similar other treatments of United States currency are demeaning. This type of enterprise is neither endorsed nor authorized by officials at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

 

Was Confederate currency printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing?

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has exclusively designed, engraved, and printed all United States paper money since 1862. However, Confederate States Notes were not produced by the BEP and are not obligations of the United States Government.

If genuine and in good condition, Confederate Notes may be of interest to collectors of old currencies. The names and addresses of collectors and dealers are likely to be found online or at your local library.

 

Do $3 notes exist?

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has never been authorized to print a $3 note. However, during the early 1800's, banks operating under Federal or state charters issued notes of that denomination. These notes were printed by private contractors and are not obligations of the federal government.

 

Which of our Founding Fathers are found on the U.S. currency we use today and why?

Many denominations of today's Federal Reserve Notes feature portraits of men regarded as Founding Fathers of the country because of their roles in creating and developing the new nation of the United States of America. Some of the accomplishments of the Founding Fathers that appear on U.S. paper money are listed below.

 

George Washington (1732-1799) $1 Federal Reserve Note

  • Member of the First and Second Continental Congresses (1774-1775)
  • Commander-in-Chief of the American Revolutionary Army (1775-1783)
  • President of the Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • First President of the United States (1789-1797)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) $2 Federal Reserve Note
  • Member of the Second Continental Congress (1775-1776)
  • Author/Signer of the Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • First Secretary of State (1790-1793)
  • Third President of the United States (1801-1809)

 

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) $10 Federal Reserve Note

  • Served in the American Revolutionary Army (1775-1781)
  • Member of the Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • Signer of the U.S. Constitution (1787)
  • First Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795)

 

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) $100 Federal Reserve Note

  • Served in the Second Continental Congress (1775-1776)
  • Member of the Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • Negotiated peace treaty with Great Britain (1781-1783)
  • Signer of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution (1776/1787)

 

What is the significance of the Great Seal of the United States on Paper Currency?

The face (obverse) of the Great Seal first appeared on the back (reverse) of the $20 Gold Certificate, Series 1905. In 1935, both the face and back of the seal appeared for the first time on paper money on $1 Silver Certificates.

 

Mandated by the First Continental Congress in 1776, the Great Seal took many years of work by multiple individuals and committees before final adoption in 1782. The Department of State is the official keeper of the seal. A description and explanation of both the obverse and reverse of the seal comes from the Department of State pamphlet The Great Seal of the United States (September 1996):

 

Obverse Side of the Great Seal: The most prominent feature is the American bald eagle supporting the shield, or escutcheon, which is composed of 13 red and white stripes, representing the original States, and a blue top which unites the shield and represents Congress. The motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one), alludes to this union. The olive branch and 13 arrows denote the power of peace and war, which is exclusively vested in Congress. The constellation of stars denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.

 

Reverse Side of the Great Seal: The pyramid signifies strength and duration: The eye over it and the motto Annuit Coeptis (He [God] has favored our undertakings) allude to the many interventions of Providence in favor of the American cause. The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words under it, Novus Ordo Seclorum (A new order of the ages), signify the beginning of the new American era in 1776.

 

Why is the phrase In God We Trust on U.S. currency?

The use of the national motto on both U.S. coins and notes is required by two statutes, 31 U.S.C. 5112(d) (1) and 5114(b), respectively. The motto was not adopted for use on U.S. paper money until 1957. It first appeared on some 1935G Series $1 Silver Certificates, but didn't appear on U.S. Federal Reserve Notes until the Series 1963 currency. This use of the national motto has been challenged in court many times over the years that it has been in use, and has been consistently upheld by the various courts of this country, including the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 1977.

 

The Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice intend to actively defend against challenges to the use of the national motto. In 1992, a challenge was filed and successfully defeated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

 

I have some currency that was damaged. My bank will not exchange it for undamaged currency. What can I do?

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Office of Currency Standards processes all requests for reimbursement for damaged United States currency. They decide the redemption value of torn or otherwise unfit currency by measuring the portions of the notes submitted. Generally, they reimburse the full face value if clearly more than one-half of the original note remains. Currency fragments measuring less than one-half are not redeemable. Go to the Damaged Money section of our website for additional information and the procedures to redeem mutilated currency.

 

Does the BEP make shredded currency available to the public?

Shredded currency is available in small amounts through the BEP. Small amounts, as pre-packaged souvenirs, are available for sale in the Washington, DC and Fort Worth visitor centers. Larger amounts of shredded currency for use in artistic or commercial purposes will need to be obtained from the Federal Reserve Bank; and written approval from the Chief, Office of Compliance, is required before the Federal Reserve Bank will consider honoring currency residue requests. Treasury approval will be based upon the following requirements.

 

  1. The recipient must follow Environmental Protection Agency and other local or state requirements for recycling shredded currency.
  2. The shredded currency must not be recycled into paper of printable quality.
  3. The residue must not be used as confetti, or in loose form such as used in packing materials.
  4. Firmly seal any container in which the residue is placed so that it must be broken in order to remove the residue. The container must be at least 4 mils thick.
  5. Due to the presence of various chemicals in ink, the recipient must not use shredded currency for the creation of products designed to hold food or drink for human consumption.
  6. If the recipient is intending to make a product with shredded currency, a sample of the product and/or packaging and marketing materials may be required.
  7. The recipient must not claim the value of the shredded currency enclosed in a product as having a monetary value greater than the weight of the shredded currency per ounce, or fraction thereof, multiplied by $165 per ounce.
  8. The recipient must not ship the shredded currency overseas.
  9. The recipient must not place any replica of U.S. currency on any product or container into which shredded currency is placed, or on any related advertising or other written material.
  10. The recipient must agree not to resell or otherwise dispose of the residue without Treasury approval.

 

Requestors must agree to the above conditions and state intended use in a written request to the following address:

 

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Attn: Chief, Office of Compliance
Shredded Currency Request
14th and C Streets, SW
Room 321-A
Washington, DC 20228

 

Please include the following contact information, and allow 21 days for a response:

 
1. Name (First, Last, MI);
2. Home Address (Street, City, State, Zip Code);
3. Home Phone Number;
4. Cell Phone Number;
5. Personal Email Address;
6. Name of Business;
7. Business Address (Street, City, State, Zip Code, Room Number);
8. Business Phone Number
9. Business Email Address
 
The Department of the Treasury reserves the right, at its own discretion, to revoke any approval granted if the above conditions are violated. Privacy Act Statement - Use of Shredded U.S. Currency System

 

I have a $1,000 currency note from the Bank of the United States. It is dated December 15, 1840 and has the serial number "8894." Can you tell me what it is worth now and where I can cash it in?

This currency note from the Bank of the United States is something that we have seen in the past. Our office receives many inquiries concerning the authenticity of these notes.

 

It is important to note, first, that the Treasury Department did not issue notes intended for circulation as currency until 1862. This being the case, these notes are not obligations of the United States Government.

 

It is likely, though, that the note is part of a series of antiqued reproductions issued in various denominations and forms for use in advertising campaigns. The most popular of these bear the serial number 8894. These notes are so widespread that they were the subject of an August 5, 1970, article in the monthly numismatic publication, Coin World.

 

Why does my $5 note have a red seal?

United States Notes contain red seals, and were last printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 1968. The Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act, Public Law 103-325, codified at 31 U.S.C. 5119(b)(2), enacted in September 1994, amended 31 U.S.C. by canceling the requirement to reissue these notes when they are redeemed.

If genuine and in good condition, United States Notes may be of interest to collectors. The names and addresses of collectors and dealers are usually listed in the classified section of the telephone directory under the headings of "Coins" and "Hobbies."

 

What is the primary function of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing?

The mission of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is to serve as the Federal Government's most secure and efficient source of vital Government securities. The BEP manufactures the financial and other securities of the United States. Accordingly, the BEP designs, prints, and furnishes a large variety of security products, including Federal Reserve Notes, Treasury securities, identification cards, naturalization certificates, and other special security documents.


BEP CAREERS FAQs

How do I apply for a position at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing?

The BEP does not maintain an applicant supply file for any of its positions, therefore, to receive consideration for a position at the BEP, you must apply to a specific vacancy announcement number. If there is a specific vacancy announcement for which you want to receive consideration, obtain a copy of the announcement and follow the guidelines outlined in How To Apply For A Federal Position.

   
   
   

 

Who may qualify under the Veteran's Readjustment Authority (VRA)?

Please refer to our Veteran's Readjustment Authority page.

 

Who qualifies under the 30% or more Disabled Veteran Program?

Please refer to our Disabled Veteran Program page.

 

Can my salary be negotiated or do I have to start at the first step of a grade?

Yes, your salary can be negotiated as long as this is a new appointment or a reappointment with a break in service of 90 calendar days from your last Federal employment and employment with the District of Columbia on or after October 1, 1987.

 

Do I need my most recent performance appraisal?

Yes

 

What if I don't have a recent performance appraisal?

Make a statement informing the recruiter and selecting official that you realized you needed one, but did not have one to submit.

 

How can I get the Declaration of Federal Employment-306 form?

You may call the receptionist desk at (202) 874-2633 or you may contact the servicing specialist listed in the vacancy announcement.

 

How can I find out the status of a position for which I have applied?

Contact the servicing specialist listed in the vacancy announcement.

 

What is the salary of a position?

Please refer to our Pay Scales page. You may also find more information on Government Pay on OPMs website www.opm.gov.

 

Where can I find out about additional vacancy announcements your agency may have available?

 

All positions that are open at the BEP may be retrieved from our Job Search page or OPM's website.