How Money is Made
It’s a question that crossed most of our minds, been answered in a middle school social studies class, and then subsequently forgotten: How does money get made? In keeping with this month’s focus on finances, Loyal Nana is here to offer a refresher.
The primary thing to know is that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is responsible for printing paper money while the U.S. Mint is responsible for making coins. The specific locations and processes for making money have changed over the years, but as of today, paper money is currently being produced in two facilities, while coins are produced in 4 separate places.
Bills are printed on special paper, made out of 75% cotton and 25% linen, as opposed to the wood pulp that most paper is made out of. Security features embedded in the paper include portrait and numeric watermarks, security threads that glow under ultraviolet light, and a 3-D security ribbon on $100 bills. Multiple rounds of printing are required to make paper currency. While older bills were plain green, newer bills have subtle color gradations offset printed on in order to make them more difficult to counterfeit.
Microprinting, color-shifting ink, and serial numbers are applied with intaglio and overprinting processes and then guillotine cutters cut the completed currency sheets apart. The bills are then shrink-wrapped to be delivered to the Federal Reserve System.
The process to make coins begins with refining metal into long strips the diameter of the denominations they’ll be turned into. Once they’re sliced into discs they’re tumbled in order to polish them. The coins are then struck using steel dies that carry a recessed version of the intended design. The grooved lines around the edge of some coins are called reeding and were added to deter people from shaving the metal off of coins. These are also added when the steel dies to strike the discs and the metal expands outward into the die that’s holding its edges. Some coins alternatively receive inscriptions at this stage. Once the coins are completed, they’re sorted, counted, and bagged for distribution.
That’s the Loyal Nana refresher course on how American currency is made. If you’d like to learn more, make sure to check out the US Currency Education Program.