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20 Facts You Never Knew About Money


This list of facts needs no introduction because everybody knows what money is about. The hope is it will get you to think more about just the physical aspect of money (yes, freshly minted paper money smells great) and get you to see some things you may have missed. There is some history, some facts about minting coins, and naturally a few mentions of credit.

There are also a few corrections and clarifications about facts you have read from other websites. There are facts about money from other countries, and how governments look dimly on people who like to steal or counterfeit money. There was actually once an idea floating around that we should do away with paper money and just use coins. There is likely something for everyone in this list, so take a quick glance and see what you can find that is new.

1. The word “money” actually comes from a Roman deity who was entrusted to protect the coinage of the city of Rome.

Leave it to Rome to be the place to start the argument about religion and money. It was decreed that the money of the city of Rome should be stored in a place called the Temple of Juno Moneta. Located in the center of Rome overlooking the forum, it was where the coins were minted. The name was of two Roman deities – Juno and Moneta. Juno was a goddess who was the protector of the state. Moneta was the goddess of memory. Juno Moneta was more of a descriptive term for Juno and was regarded as the goddess who would protect the city's funds. “Moneta” is obvious related to English words such as monetary, money, and mint. Today, there are several government agencies who watch what happens to our money, right?

2. The first living person who had their name placed on a coin was Julius Caesar in 44 BCE.

Apparently, Julius thought his name belonged on a coin, as it was seen as a source of tribute. Militarily, Caesar was on a roll in the Gallic Wars and used his political influence to convince the four men responsible for minting Roman coins to put his image on them. This fact actually became an issue about 70 years later when Jesus was asked whether or not He and His disciples should pay tribute. Though some people today just pass over the question because we have a 21st century perspective of the world (we see presidents on our money all the time) back in those days the idea of a living person on a coin was unknown. Strange though that Julius Caesar’s death took place in that same year.

3. Beware of those money statistics.

One statistic that was encountered during this research was, “If you have $10 in your pocket and no debts, you are wealthier than 25% of Americans.” This sounds like $10 makes you richer than 25% of all Americans, but the catch is in the phrase ”no debts.” There are many debts that are a sign of wealth: a mortgage on a home, the lease on your car, the money borrowed to expand your business. Yes, they are debts, but they are also assets. There are a lot of people making a lot of money from people who believe that because something sounds right, it is right.

4. July 14, 1969 was the date the U.S. Treasury stopped printing paper denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000.

People often make a big deal about dates and times, but consider these financial notes that fall under the category “numbers don’t lie”: the 1970 stock market ended the year 140 points lower; the annual inflation rate jumped from 5.46% to 5.84% a year later; the first ATM was installed in the U.S.; and the price of a gallon of gas bumped up by 1 cent per gallon. In related future, financial connections, ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet, began communicating and Richard Nixon became President of the United States. Numbers may not lie but they don’t always tell the whole story about money.

5. The minting of the 1969 quarter was one of the worst in United States history.

We almost never take a close look at our money (see #15 below) because all we care about is if it is the right denomination we are giving to the clerk or that what we are getting back is the right amount. (How many people even bother checking their change anymore?) Coin collectors are one group that pays careful attention to the details of money, and according to one the striking of the quarters that have “1969” as their date was just plain awful. By quality standards it was ugly, with images struck poorly, the condition of the dies were lame, and the planchets were low quality. (A planchet is the result of a blank that goes through an upsetting machine. Really.) The question is: knowing this, do you really care any more about an “ugly” quarter?

6. Using money to stuff you pillow with makes more sense than you realize.

What we call paper money is actually cloth money. It is made of 75% cotton fiber, some colored to give it that green appearance. The other 25% is linen, like the kind your sheets and pillowcases are generally made from. By the numbers, 1 pound of dollar bills requires three quarters of a pound of cotton. The average pillow weighs between 3 and a half and 4 pounds, and a pound of dollar bills contains $454 if using $1 bills. To properly fill your pillow you would have to have between $1,589 and $1,816 in $1 bills. All printed U.S. bills weigh the same, so all you have to do to increase your savings is to change the denomination and multiply these numbers by 5, 10, 20, 50, or 100. Life can be simple.

7. The fear of carrying cash on your person is not something new, but goes back to the days of knights in the Middle Ages.

Those knights of old were a brave lot, but when it came to their money they realized carrying a lot of cash was not a good idea – even for a knight of renown. The way they got around it during their jousting battles was to have a special ring created that they carried with them. The ring was basically the Medieval version of the credit card chip. There was a symbol on the ring that was unique to their home castle. When staying at an inn or purchasing anything, the innkeepers knew of the mark, and would provide services and lodging based on the imprint of the ring. The innkeeper would then take the bill with the imprint to the castle to receive payment.

8. At one time, stealing money was punishable by death in the United States. In other countries, things got worse.

If we are honest, if we come across a counterfeit $20, $50, or $100 bill we are not likely to do the “right thing” as instructed by the Department of the Treasury because: “There is no financial remuneration for the return of the counterfeit bill.” The idea of money having a sense of real value has long passed, but in earlier days the story was much different. For example, in the United States the first mint was created by Congress on April 2, 1792. Anyone who worked at the mint who stole the newly minted coins or decided to try and make their own would, like treason, potentially be put to death. If you lived in even earlier times things got worse. The Chinese would cut out the heart of anyone caught counterfeiting the emperor’s paper currency. Even in 1817 in Jolly Old England the government hung 313 people for counterfeiting or passing counterfeit notes. Ignorance is not always bliss.

9. Shredding, burning, or tearing money doesn’t mean all is lost.

There is a little known and talked about place that will take your mutilated or damaged money and reimburse you for it at its full face value, Located in the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, it has examiners who will verify each claim and piece together the damaged money for you. One rule of thumb is that any paper note you submit a claim for must have at least 51% of the note clearly intact. A downside of the process is that the current estimates for sending you the reimbursement is it can take from 6 to 36 months to fully complete. Waiting 3 years for $10 may try anyone’s patience, but the option is available.

10. Money and love are not mutually exclusive, but inextricably woven.

There are too many quips that surround love and money, such as “No money, no honey.” But thanks to research we have an established relationship between money and your personal romantic relationships. One is that men who pay money for sex are not nearly as happy as men who don’t pay for it. That would explain many things, including why many men are in so much debt. But in long term relationships with a significant other or wife, if the woman makes more than the man, ED becomes a more common problem. This may account for the popularity of Viagra, but scientifically speaking men who are with partners who make more money than they do are also more likely to cheat. It appears that the old adage “Money may not buy love but it can buy a good substitute” is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

11. God and money worked together to create the earliest banks.

The issue whether money in and of itself is evil has been bandied about for decades. Some qualify that statement as it is the love of money that is the problem, while others maintain that God doesn’t really care about money, so whether you have a little or a lot, it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It may help to know that the earliest banks were religious temples where people “deposited” different forms of currency, whether it was grain or precious metals used as money. As we saw with the city of Rome above, the idea of “in God we trust” precedes the existence of the United States, but most people don’t see Fort Knox as a temple of worship. OK, maybe Goldfinger’s followers.

12. Mr. Plastic Fantastic is real and his credit score is spectacular.

You may have heard about this man from California who has amassed 14,000 credit cards. Well, that number is wrong. The more accurate number is just under 1,500 and the story is true. If you are wondering just what card he uses at any given time, according to sources he uses only one or maybe two of those nearly 1500 cards. It’s not about the amount of credit but making the point that you can have many credit cards and still be virtually debt free. His credit score is near perfect, another proof that if you treat credit card debt the same as every other kind of debt, it will not financially stress you out. Just for number’s sake, the total credit limit to those cards is just under $1.8 million.

13. Coins had ridges before Ruffles did – and for a good reason.

This actually is one of those money facts that makes sense, but also shows that coins are not what they used to be. By the beginning of the 18th century, the U.S. Mint started putting ridges on its coins. Remember earlier that we mentioned most people don’t pay any attention to their money? Well, there was a time when coins actually were made of valuable metal – gold, silver, copper, nickel. People would shave off just a bit off the edge of the coin and pile it up to sell as metal. When it comes to gold, a shaving here and there can add up, and who would notice? So the ridges were added to prevent this practice. Today’s coins aren’t worth the trouble.

14. George Washington was not always the face of the one dollar bill.

Despite all the current political controversies, very few people want to see anyone’s face other than George Washington on a $1 bill. But as a matter of history, the first face to appear on the $1 bill was the rather uncontroversial Salmon P. Chase, who was the Secretary of the Treasury in 1862. Chase was likely controversial in his time, having served in the positions of governor of Ohio, U.S. senator, and Supreme Court Chief Justice. Washington didn’t make it onto the bill for another 7 years. If you happen to have a $1 bill with the face of Case on it, even if it is crumply and worn, don’t buy a candy bar with it. It’s worth between $150 and $300 to a collector.

15. If you are bored and need some reading material, pull out a $1 bill.

While the $100 note and the $20 note are used far more than the single dollar bill, the $1 note is king of money information. For example, it contains the number “1” eight times. You can tell where the bill was printed by looking for the letters “FW.” If they are present it means it was printed in Fort Worth, Texas. If not, then Washington D.C. Look on the seal of the bill and you will find a letter. That letter shows which of the 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). If you draw a line connecting these Federal Reserve branches it looks like an eagle’s talon. Finally, count the number of times the number “13” appears on the bill. There were 13 original colonies which are reflected in 13 arrows, the 13 leaves seen on the olive branch, 13 stars, and 13 stripes on the shield.

16. Watch your APR in this country.

Most people treat their credit card limits as if it is actually money. It isn’t. It’s debt. Money borrowed that you will have to pay back. Banks loan you this money because they make money on the money you spend based on the APR or annual percentage rate. If you opened a credit account in the country of Zimbabwe in 2008, your APR would have been 1 sextillion percent or about $100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 on every $100 owed. That is an estimate because compounding has not been calculated. It is not clear what interest rate banks were paying on a Christmas Club savings account.

17. Replacing paper money with coins was once touted as a way to save the government (taxpayers) a ton of money.

There was a time that Americans were considering replacing paper money with a coin of the realm. There had been silver dollar coins in the past, but most people thought of them as collector’s items, not a serious to regularly pay for everyday goods and services. The movement gained momentum with the issue of the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin in 1979. The calculations were it could save the government as much as $600 million a year in printing costs. Saving taxpayers $600 million a year in 2017 doesn’t even make a ripple in the pool of the country’s national debt. In fact, less than 50 percent of the money that actually exists in the country is in the form of physical currency. The rest exists in computer systems, stored electronically.

18. If you are looking for a source of passive income you may consider opening your own casino.

This is not as weird as an idea as it might sound at first. According to research, gambling of all types generates more revenue each year than the following entertainment activities combined: movies, live spectator sports, theme parks, cruise excursions, and recorded music. There is at least one reason that makes sense of this existing trend – banks pay almost zero interest on a savings account, and if you want to buy U.S. Savings Bonds of the “I” variety you can get 2.58%. One jackpot at a casino can pay out 100 times that much, and for winnings under $1200 the casino is not required to report the winnings to the IRS. At the end of the year, players can offset their winnings with their losses (so be a good record keeper). As a casino owner, you statistically always come out on top on virtually any game the player chooses.

19. Putting your money where your mouth is can be dangerous to your health.

You have heard about the research that showed most of the paper money, especially $20 bills, has trace amounts of cocaine on it. But what is not so often talked about is that 94% of all paper money has some type of bacteria on it. You would have to eat several hundred pounds of paper currency to have any detrimental effect to your health, but bacteria are a much different ball game. Of course, it depends on the kind of bacteria you are exposed to, but if put in your mouth it can enter your bloodstream through the gums. So swallowing is not necessary for the bacteria to present a danger to you. If you are wondering why your parents told you to keep your hands out of your mouth, and why doctors tell you to wash your hands regularly, it’s mostly about the money.

20. However, rats appear to love the taste of money if you happen to be careless enough to just leave it lying around.

We can thank drug lord Pablo Escobar for this tidbit of money knowledge. As it turns out, he discovered you can only launder so much money through banks, which leaves the question of what to do with all that cash. As the story goes, he did what any thrifty saver would do – he banded up the money into piles and put it safely away in a basement. Rats soon found that the money had some nutritional value (other than the trace amounts of cocaine) and chomped away at millions of dollars of Escobar’s stash. The truth is, he probably didn’t miss it. If he was serious about maximizing its value he would have bought 20 or so cats to rid the premises of the rodents. We now know better.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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