Where do dollar bills come from?

U.S. Bills

Here’s an interesting fact: Every single U.S. bill in the world is printed on paper made by one small mill in Dalton, Massachusetts. The mill, Crane & Co., has been in charge of this production for the last 130 years.

How Crane & Co. Got So Lucky
In 1879, when Rutherford Hayes was POTUS, a mill in Philly made the U.S. bill but charged the government an expensive $0.75/lb. The Dept. of Treasury called for them to lower their price and they did, but only by $0.05. The DOT said forget that, we’re opening the contract to the public and letting people bid on this, and the lowest bidder will take over making the U.S. bill.

Individual companies bid as low as $0.39, until Crane & Co. came along and bid $0.38, winning the contract. They almost didn’t though; competitors were said to have held the owner in his room to prevent him from bidding, some even say he was locked in there – but snuck through a window to get out.

The Process
A giant steel ball (rotary digester) that resembles the Death Star uses steam and chemicals to cook away the contaminants in cotton and linen fibers – which are used to make the paper (not trees!). It can hold several thousand pounds of fiber at a time, and when the fibers are done cooking they are left to drain and cool down. A size press then coats the fiber so it’s able to be printed on the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

After it’s cut down several times into sheets, quality tests are performed, in which the paper is folded and unfolded several times until it breaks. Currency paper can be folded 5000 times before it breaks, while normal paper breaks after 100 folds.

How Security is Implemented
Currency has to be two things: durable and hard to counterfeit. Surprisingly, the security is not in the ink or printing, but in the paper itself. For one thing, the cotton and linen material make a dollar bill feel unique. There are several hidden security features as well, such as a hidden plastic strip that the government provides – this gets embedded into the bill. There are also subtler security points such as colored (red and blue) threads scattered throughout the bill. According to several reports, the counterfeit rate across the world is very low – 1 in 10,000 bills are fake.

When Everything is Said and Done
Two guys transport the shipments of paper to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in a secretly armored 18-wheeler. When they pull into rest stops, the public must wonder what they’re hauling because they carry guns on them.

An intense audit is done by the government every 4 years when Crane & Co.’s contract is up for renewal.

Just how much does Crane & Co. make off the government for being in charge of creating the bills that run the world and influence the economy? That is one question that will never be answered, because it’s classified.

Source: NPR


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