98 Valuable Facts about Money

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published September 25, 2016Updated October 14, 2016
  • Cattle (which include sheep, camels, and other livestock) are the first and oldest form of money. Each head of cattle was called a caput, which is Latin for “head.” So, a person with a lot of cattle had lots of caput or “capital,” a word still used today to describe money.[2][11]
  • Throughout history, people have used many forms of money, such as soap, cocoa beans, elephant tail hairs, entire elephants, grain, animal skins, fishhooks, feathers, tea tobacco, bird claws, and bear teeth.[3]
  • The Romans made their coins in the temple of Juno Moneta, the goddess of marriage and women. From the name Moneta, derives the words “mint” and “money.”[12]
  • The largest U.S. bill ever in circulation was the $10,000 bill, which was issued until 1945. As of May 30, 2009, only 336 of these large bills have been known to survive. Salmon P. Chase is depicted on the bill.[3]
  • Though discontinued, technically, high-denomination bills ($500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000) are still legal tender. They were last printed in 1945 and discontinued by July 14, 1969. The present denominations of U.S. currency in production are the $1, $2, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills.[3]
  • The phrase was placed on United States coins when religious sentimet increased during the Civil War
  • It wasn’t until 1963 that the motto “In God We Trust” appeared on U.S. paper currency.[5]
  • The Romans were the first to stamp the image of a living person on a coin. After winning in war, Julius Caesar featured his portrait on a coin in 44 B.C.[8]
  • The Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) were the first people to use ingots, the first form of metal money. The value of ingots depended on their weight.[12]
  • A stack of dollar bills one mile high would be worth 14.5 million dollars.[5]
  • Worn coins are melted down and used to make new coins. Worn bills are shredded. Some shredded bills are recycled and made into roof shingles or fireplace logs.[12]
  • Abraham Lincoln was the first American to be pictured on an American coin in 1909. The designer Victor David Brenner put his initial VDB at the base of the portrait on Lincoln’s arm.[3]
  • During the Middle Ages, knights did not want to carry cash around because of robbers. Instead, knights wore special rings. When a knight stayed at an inn, for example, he would stamp the bill with his ring. The innkeeper later took the stamped bill to the knight’s castle to be paid.[2]
  • The U.S. Secret Service was originally created on July 5, 1865, during the Civil War to fight counterfeiting, which was a huge problem. By the end of the war, between 1/3 and 1/2 of all U.S. paper currency in circulation was counterfeit.[12]
  • At the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 37 million notes roll off the presses—per day. Almost half are $1 bills. Almost 95% of the notes printed each year are used to replace notes already in circulation.[8]
  • The bird pictured on the American silver dollar was a real eagle named Peter. From 1830 to 1836, people who worked at the United States Mint adopted him to use as model for the drawings. When he died after getting his wing injured in the coining press, they stuffed him. He is still on display in the lobby of the mint.[3]
  • Pygg was a type of clay used to make the chubby bank accounts
  • In Old English pygg was a type of clay that was used to make jars and dishes that held money. The word eventually morphed into “piggy bank.”[6]
  • Not only do money engravers work with incredible precision, but they also have to illustrate backwards. The design they cut into the plates is the mirror image of what it will look like when it is printed. It takes 12-15 years of training to become an engraver.[3]
  • A modern coin-counting machine can count 2,500 coins a minute. A bank note-counting machine can tally up to 100 bills in 4 seconds. It can also tell what denomination they are and if they are fake.[3]
  • The word “bankrupt” is from the Italian banca rotta, literally “broken bench.” In the years of early banking, people who exchanged, stored, and lent money did their business in the public marketplace at a bench. If the man at the bench, or the “banker,” ran out of money or was unfair, his bench would be broken.[6]
  • There are more than 1.6 million ATMs in the world. There is even one in Antarctica. Friday is the most popular day at the ATM. The average amount withdrawn from an ATM is $80.[12]
  • Icelanders use credit cards and debit cards more than any other country in the world. Seventy percent of all consumer business in Iceland is done with plastic, compared to 39% in North America.[10]
  • The ancient Chinese cut out the hearts of anyone caught faking the emperor’s paper currency. England holds the record for executing counterfeiters. In 1817, the British hanged 313 people for making or passing phony bank notes.[3]
  • The earliest recorded forgery was in 540 B.C. when Polycrates of Samos used fake gold coins to a pay debt he owed to Sparta.[3]
  • Governments can get money in three ways: 1) print it, 2) borrow it, or 3) collect taxes from their citizens.[12]
  • Governments will sometimes infuse counterfeit money into an enemy’s currency to wreck their financial system. Germany did it to England in WWII and the Americans did it to the Japanese.[3]
  • The first coins with their value printed on them were minted around 600 B.C. in ancient Lydia (modern-day Turkey). The coins were made of electrum, which is an alloy of gold and silver.[2]
  • Lydia was an ancient kingdom in western Turkey
  • The worst market crash in the United States lasted two years (1930-1932) and helped spawn the Great Depression. A thousand dollars invested in September 1929 was worth just $108.14 in July 1932.[8]
  • The government of Hungary printed the highest denomination ever created in 1946. It printed a bank note worth 100 quintillion pengoes. A hundred quintillion looks like this: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000.[8]
  • Before early forms of money were developed, people used to barter, which is a simple form of exchanging goods.[12]
  • The two facilities of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (one in Fort Worth, Texas, and one in Washington, D.C) together use about 9.7 tons of ink—per day.[5]
  • A $1 bill lasts 18 months; $5 bill, two years; $10 bill, three years; $20 bill, four years; and $50 and $100 bills, nine years. Coins can usually survive in circulation for about 30 years.[5]
  • One million $1 bills would weigh 2,040.8 pounds. One million dollars in $100 bills would weigh only 20.4 pounds.[1]
  • There have been many unusual forms of money throughout history, such as the cowry, which is the shell of a sea snail. They were colorful and durable, which made them popular money with civilizations around the world. The cowry was the longest and most widely used currency in history.[11]
  • Early Romans used salt as a form of money. In fact, the word “salary” comes from sal, which means “salt” in Latin.[3]
  • Yap islanders of the Pacific used donut-shaped stones as money. Some stones were as large as 12 feet across.[8]
  • The phrase "to pay through the nose" has a rather dark origin
  • The phrase “to pay through the nose” has its roots from the Danes in Ireland. The Danes would slit the noses of the Irish who would not pay a Danish poll tax.[3]
  • The first U.S. Mint was created by Congress on April 2, 1792. It produced its first circulating coins in March 1793. If anyone who worked there made fake coins or stole real ones, they would be punished by death.[3]
  • The Philadelphia Mint has the capacity to make 1.8 million coins an hour, 32 million coins per day, and 13.5 billion coins every year. The Philadelphia facility is the largest mint in the world.[8]
  • The word “buck” as a reference to money dates back to days before paper when Americans traded animal and elk bucks for goods and services.[3]
  • The Office of Currency Stands will replace damaged money if a person can present 51% of the note to officials. Every year the U.S. Treasury handles around 30,000 claims and redeems mutilated currency valued at over $30 million.[12]
  • There is more money printed for Monopoly each year than there is real money around the world. The amount of money in a Monopoly game is $15,140.[3]
  • The only woman to have ever appeared on a U.S. currency note is Martha Washington. She was on the $1 Silver Certificate in 1886 and 1891 and on the back of the $1 Silver Certificate in 1896.[3]
  • No African Americans have appeared on paper money. However, in the 1940s, commemorative coins were created with the images of George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, followed by the release of a Jackie Robinson coin. Four African American men have served as Registers of the Treasury and one African American woman served as the Treasurer of the United States. Their signatures appear on paper money.c[3]
  • The country with the worst inflation in the world is Zimbabwe. In 2008, it experienced 6.5 sextillion percent inflation.[2]
  • One of the most expensive coins in the world is the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. One sold in 2010 for $3,737,500. It is so rare because it was printed by a rogue mint employee who made only five of the coins.[2]
  • The U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox was built in 1936. It holds 4,578 metric tons of gold. The New York Fed is even bigger at 7,000 metric tons. Together, they hold 7.5% of all gold ever refined.[6]
  • A 2002 study in the U.S. showed disease-causing germs on 94% of bills tested.[3]
  • The amount of germs on paper money is enough to make you want to switch to credit
  • The oldest “money” ever found are small pieces of obsidian that were used in Turkey as far back as 12,000 B.C.[8]
  • In the United States, paper bills are printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Coins are produced by the U.S. Mint.[1]
  • If a person had 10 billion $1 notes and spent one every second of the day, it would take 317 years to spend it all.[2]
  • The Chinese invented paper money in the 9th century A.D. Its original name was “flying money” because it could easily blow away in the wind. However they used it just briefly. The first time paper currency was consistently used was in the 18th century by the French.[3]
  • Over 170 different currencies are used around the world today.[6]
  • The Spanish word peso means “weight.” In English it was known as “a piece of eight.”[3]
  • If a man’s wife or long-term girlfriend makes more money than he does, he is more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and anxiety. He is also more likely to turn to infidelity in an attempt to recapture his masculinity. This information comes shortly after a report that states 40% of women now make more than their male counterparts.[9]
  • Money problems can contribute to erectile dysfyunction
  • The Chain Cent was the first coin minted and circulated in the USA in 1793. It was struck only during that year.[3]
  • Most of the money in the world today is fiat money, or money that is not backed by gold or other metals. The term “fiat" comes from the Latin for “let it be done.” It is money that is accepted simply because a government declares it official money.[9]
  • The earliest banks were ancient religious temples where people stored grain or precious metals they used as money.[2]
  • U.S. currency is actually fabric, not paper. It is composed of 25% linen and 75% cotton and has tiny red and blue synthetic fibers of different lengths evenly distributed throughout. If it were paper, it would easily fall apart.[2]
  • The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) estimates that it would take 4,000 double folds (forward and then backward) before a bill will tear.[5]
  • The United States officially adopted the dollar as its unit of currency in 1785.[2]
  • The largest bill ever printed was a $100,000 gold certificate issued in 1934. They were never circulated among the general public; rather, they were used for transactions between Federal Reserve Banks. President Woodrow Wilson was depicted on the bill.[8]
  • Studies show that millionaires may enjoy better and more adventurous sex with more partners. Studies also show that women enjoy sex more if their partner has more money.[7]
  • All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy.

    - Spike Milligan

  • The “all-seeing eye” that sits on top of the pyramid on dollar bills is a symbol of divine providence. An image of the children of Israel in the wilderness was also considered.[4]
  • The currency most traded around the world is the U.S. dollar. Other heavily traded currencies are the euro, the Japanese yen, and the pound sterling (British pound).[8]
  • Credit cards were first used in the 1920s. Hotels were the first to offer cards to their customers to pay for their hotel stays. Soon department stores and gas companies offered their own cards. All these cards, however, could be used only at the business that issued them. Then Diner Card arrived in 1950s and could be used at different restaurants and hotels. In 1951, some banks began issuing credit cards that could be used at different places.[12]
  • Walter Cavanagh of California is known as “Mr. Plastic Fantastic.” He has more than 13,000 credit cards, the largest collection in world. He keeps his cards in the world’s largest wallet, that is 250 feet long.[12]
  • The ridges make coins harder to counterfeit
  • A quarter has 119 grooves around the edge. A dime has 118. In the past, when coins were made with precious metals, the ridges were created to prevent people from scraping off the sides of coins and sell the precious metals.[3]
  • The average adult has between 8 and 10 credit cards. The average American family carries a credit card debt of $8,000.[10]
  • The study or collection of money is “numismatics,” which is Greek for “coins in circulation.”f[6]
  • The dollar sign may come from the Spanish peso or pieces of eight. This Spanish dollar was accepted as money in the U.S. until 1857 and could be used whole or cut into halves, quarters, and eights. Other scholars say that the dollar sign is the initial U and S (for the United States) stuck one on top of each other.[4]
  • The word “cash” is from the ancient Chinese, who carried their coins in bundles on strings. A bundle of a hundred coins was called one cash. The Chinese probably got the word from the Portuguese who called their coins caixa, pronounced “cash-a.”[4]
  • George Washington’s picture on the dollar is based on a famous 1796 portrait by Gilbert Stuart. Washington first appeared on the dollar bill in 1869.[4]
  • The first dollar bill did not depict George Washington. Rather, it showed a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in 1862.[4]
  • Slang names for the dollar bill include greenback, Washington, clam, buck, and single.[4]
  • Queen Elizabeth II holds the record for appearing on more currency than any other person. Her portrait has appeared on the currency of more than 30 different countries.[2]
  • The Queen herself is worth only about $490 million
  • The word “cent” is from the Latin centum, meaning “hundred” and later “hundredth part” under the influence of percent. The official name for the penny is a “cent.” Originally cents were made from copper, but today the cent is less than 3% copper—the rest is made of zinc.[4]
  • It costs more than a penny to make a penny. It costs roughly 2.5 cents.[1]
  • Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury in the United States. To honor his contributions, his picture appeared on American money starting in the Civil War. Today his portrait is still on the $10 bill.[1]
  • The only number on a coin is the year it was minted. All other numbers are spelled out. However, the $1 bill contains the number 1 eight times. Each bill also contains an individual serial number.[4]
  • The seal on the dollar bill has several symbols. The scale represents justice. The 13 stars stand for the 13 colonies. The key symbolizes the treasury’s power and authority.[4]
  • Dollar bills used to be larger. They were first printed in their current size in 1929. Today a dollar bill is 2.625 inches from top to bottom. It measures 6.125 inches from left to right.[4]
  • The “FW” on the dollar bill means the bill was printed in Fort Worth, TX. If there is not an “FW,” the bill was printed in Washington, D.C.[4]
  • The letter inside the seal on a bill shows which of the 12 Federal Reserve banks issued the bill (A: Boston, B: New York, C: Philadelphia, D: Cleveland, E: Richmond, F: Atlanta, G: Chicago, H: St. Louis, I: Minneapolis, J: Kansas City, K: Dallas, L: San Francisco).[4]
  • All the bills and coins circulating in the United States today are worth $1.2 trillion
  • There are between 7.5 billion and 9 billion $1 bills in circulation at any given time.[4]
  • The government keeps the ingredients in the ink used on a bill top secret to prevent counterfeiting. No one knows for sure why bills are green. It is most likely because green ink was the easiest to find when money was first printed.[4]
  • The pyramid on the Great Seal is unfinished and the U.S. government hasn’t explained why. Some people think it represents that America is always growing.[4]
  • The Latin phrase Annuit Coeptis above the “all-seeing eye” on the dollar bill means “he has favored our undertaking.” The Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum means “one out of many” and refers to America, which is one country made out of many states.[4]
  • The Latin phrase underneath the pyramid on the dollar bill, Novus Ordo Seclorum, means “a new order of the ages” and refers to the time after 1776 when America declared its independence.[4]
  • The number 13 is represented on the dollar bill several times: there are 13 arrows, 13 leaves in the olive branch, 13 stars, and 13 stripes on the shield. Thirteen stands for the original 13 colonies that formed the U.S.[4]
  • The eagle on back of the dollar bill is holding an olive branch, which is a symbol of peace. The arrows in the eagle’s right talon stand for war. The eagle faces the olive branch, which many people interpret as showing that America strives for peace.[4]
  • The Massachusetts Bay Colony became the first colony to make coins in 1652. In 1690, Massachusetts also began making paper money called bills of credit.[2]
  • The word “dollar” is from the German taler, which is an abbreviation of Joachimstaler, a town near a silver mine. The silver from the mine was used to make taler, a type of silver coin.[4]
  • The $100 bill is the most counterfeited bill of all time.[4]
  • Arguing about money is the number one predictor of divorce
  • Research shows that increasing sex provides a mood boost similar to a $50,000 income gain. However, men who pay money for sex were considerably less happy than those who didn’t.[7]
  • Today, most money isn’t in the form of bills or coins. It is information held in computers at businesses and banks.[12]
  • The image of the shield on the back of the dollar bill has nothing holding it up, which represents the idea that America can succeed by following its own beliefs. The collection of stars on the back of the dollar bills illustrates the United States taking its place among other countries.[4]
  • All the gold discovered in the world would be a cube between 62 feet and 82 feet along each side, which would fit into a tennis court.[4]
  • The word “coin” is from the Latin word cuneus for “wedge,” because the dye for stamping metal coins was wedge-shaped.[4]

1 Clifford, Tim. American Coins and Bills (The Study of Money). Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Publishing LLC, 2009..

2 Clifford, Tim. Money through the Ages (The Study of Money). Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Publishing LLC, 2009.

3 Drobot, Eve. Money, Money, Money: Where It Comes From, How to Save It, Spend It, and Make It. Berkeley, CA: Publishers Group West, 2004.

4 Forest, Christopher. The Dollar Bill in Translation: What It Really Means. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2009.

5Fun Facts about Money.” FederalReserveEducation. Accessed: May 21, 2013.

6 Hall, Alvin D. Show Me the Money: How to Make Cents of Economics. New York, NY: DK Publishing, 2008.

7 Kerner, Ian. “Sex or Money: What Makes You Happier?CNN Health. “October 4, 2013. Accessed: May 30, 2013.

8 McManus, Lori. Money through History (Understanding Money). Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2012.

9Men More Likely to Have Issues with Sex and Their Health When Wives Make More Money, Study Finds.” MailOnline. May 30, 2013. Accessed: May 30, 2013.

10Secret History of the Credit Card.” PBS. Nov 23, 2004. Accessed: May 21, 2013.

11The History of Money.” NOVA. October 26, 1996. Accessed: May 21, 2013.

12 Young, Robert. Money (Household History). Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, Inc, 1998.