Paper money has been used in the United States since the American Civil War. Unfortunately, during that time nobody took very good notes on why some of the choices about how money looks were made.
Green is a very common color for money. While we are unsure why it was picked originally, we do know why it was kept. Dollar bills used to be much larger, but in 1929 bills were made smaller, the size they are now. At that time, someone did take good notes!
The green ink was kept because it was easily available in large amounts, so lots of money could be printed. The ink itself was strong. It doesn’t rub off easily, which makes it a good choice because people are always touching it!
The ink that makes green ink is actually made of several different color inks. The special combination is kept secret, so that people can’t counterfeit the bills. Counterfeiting means making fake money, which is a serious crime. It’s not fair for some people to have to work for their money, if others just make fake copies.
The biggest reason dollar bills are still green is tradition. Money has been green for so long, it’s hard to imagine major changes to it. The nickname for the U.S. dollar is actually “greenback” because of the green ink used to print them.
ExplorationWhere Did Your Money Start?
Ask a grown-up if you can take a look at a dollar bill. Or maybe you have one of your own! Dollar bills have a lot of information on them. They have different letters, numbers, phrases and pictures that make the dollars really difficult to counterfeit.
Dollar bills come from a Federal Reserve Bank. These banks are located in major cities. If you want to know which city your dollar bill is from, you can find out pretty easily on your dollar bill! Next to George Washington’s picture, there is a seal, an image that looks a little like a gear. Inside that seal, there is a letter. Each letter means a different city.
b=New York, New York
h=St. Louis, Missouri
j=Kansas City, Missouri
l=San Francisco, California
Where is your money from? Can you find it on a map?
Sources & links
“Secrets of Making Money.” NOVA Online. 7 March 2010. “Know Your Money.” BankersOnline.com. 1990. Bankers U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving ”“ FAQ Library. 2009. 7 March 2010.