What is money made of? This question rings in the mind of many people and since we talk of coins and paper money, is money made from paper?
It is also understandable if you are wondering; is money is made from trees? Because after all, aren’t trees the source of paper?
A lot of intrigue surrounds the subject of how money is made and even more interesting is the fact that this knowledge shouldn’t inspire you to DIY your own money – it is illegal!
Now that we have that out of our systems, this post contains everything you need to know about how money is made, right from the raw materials to the bills in your wallet.
Of course, the process is not as simple as it sounds. Countless hours go into the entire process to ensure that everything is perfect. So, back to how money is made, let’s dive deeper and see how the process goes.
What is Money Made of?
American paper money is made of 75% cotton and 25% linen mixed paper. Bills of over $1 have tiny red and blue synthetic fibers of various lengths evenly distributed throughout the paper.
All US bills have a built-in watermark and also feature black ink, green ink, color-shifting ink, and metallic ink.
On the other hand, coin money is made from a combination of copper, zinc, and nickel.
Is the process responsible for the characteristic smell of new money? Check out why money smells weird.
How Is Money Made? The Full Printing Process of Paper Money
The US Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing oversee the full production process. These two facilities produce over 650 million dollars and coins every day.
On a lighter note, regardless of what Hollywood would have you think, the security of the facilities is impenetrable, so don’t get any ideas!
Now, let’s take you to the bureau of engraving and printing to see how everything is done.
Step 1: Designing and Engraving
Even before collecting and processing the raw material, the US treasury department hires top-class artists to design new dollar bills.
Different artists handle different portions of the design including the portrait, numerals, letterings, etc. Why do they have to design new dollar bills? Can’t they just use the old ones?
New paper money is designed to add more security features and minimize counterfeiting. As technology advances, paper money has to change as well.
After the designing process is completed, the final design is sent to the secretary of the department of treasury for approval and where necessary, to suggest changes.
The designs are then engraved into metal printing plates or steel dies in mirror image prints of the originals.
Step 2: The Making of the Material
As we said initially, the paper used for printing bills is not the same as you use daily.
So, what kind of paper is money made out of? You can’t find this special paper in your nearby stationary shop. The raw material for dollars is cotton and linen. About 75% of the paper is cotton, and the rest is linen.
However, that’s not enough to create a bill that can withstand all the wear and tear throughout its average life span. The added strength comes from combining polyvinyl alcohol or gelatin instead of normal water.
Everything is loaded into a giant boiler and pressured for 2 or more hours. After the boiling process, everything is dumped into a massive pool for cleaning, and then they’re pressed and pulped again for that smooth and crisp feeling. The byproduct of this process is large sheets of paper.
Step 3: Removing Moistures
They must remove all the remaining moisture from the paper. Then, they use a high-tech furnace-like heater to dry the papers. Once everything is dried up, they turn these papers into huge 8 feet rolls weighing more than 4 tons.
Step 4: Printing
With the metal engraved plates ready and the paper, all dried up, we’re ready to begin the highly advanced printing process.
The process begins with printing some key images on blank paper with green ink. The subtle background colors, the USA banner, and the barely visible 10 numerals, all of these are printed initially. The details increase security against counterfeiting. After this, the ink is set to dry for 72 hours before starting the process.
Next, the printed sheets go through black ink or metallic ink-filled grooves of the printing plate, which prints all the important visible elements of paper money including the portrait, vignettes, numerals, scrollwork, and letterings.
This press only prints one side at a time. After a side is finished, it has to be dried for 72 hours, or the ink will come off. The back side, AKA the green side, is printed first; after 72 hours, the face, AKA the black side, is printed. The front side also has a unique color-shifting ink.
Step 5: Inspection
Once the printing is done, the bills need to be flawless. This is why the money goes through a state-of-the-art inspection chamber where both machine and man check all the individual bills. This is the final stage before wrapping up.
Firstly, the bureau’s inspectors check all the bills one by one to ensure they are absolutely perfect in every way. After that, the bills go through the Upgraded Offline Currency Inspection System(UOCIS) which entails the use of computers, cameras, and specialized software to thoroughly inspect aspects as specific as color registration and ink density.
The computer also uses optical scanners to take pictures of the bills and cross-reference them with the design to ensure everything is where it should be. In the process, imperfect bills are caught in seconds.
Step 6: Overprinting
This is the stage where serial numbers, Federal Reserve identification numbers, Federal Reserve seal, and Treasury seal are added.
The sheets then go through another inspection to ensure that the above details check out.
Step 7: Cutting, Stacking, and Wrapping
After inspection, the sheets are cut into individual bills using guillotine cutters. The notes are counted, stacked into stacks of 100 bills, then 1000 bill bundles, and finally shrink-wrapped into 4000 bills bricks.
For packaging purposes, easier counting, storage, and shipping, the bricks are then packed in cash packs of fours and then placed in skids that contain 40 of such cash packs, totaling 640,000 bills.
The packaged money then makes its way to the Federal Reserve system from where it is released into circulation when needed.
Check out why money exists to see why we need enough money in the reserve.
What Happens If Money Gets Wet?
Wet money is still money. While money is made to be water resistant, it is not waterproof. It can get destroyed depending on the degree of exposure and what it has been exposed to.
For example, if you have just been caught up in the rain, your notes might not suffer much damage.
On the other hand, hot water and detergents can ruin the security features of paper money and alter how the notes reflect light. This can be detected by currency sorting machines.
If you have wet money and are not sure if it has been destroyed, the best course of action would be to dry it and then take it to your bank for replacement.
To dry your paper money, you can place the bills between napkins, lay them out in a dark airy place, or place them in the pages of a book.
Do not iron or microwave your money to dry it. An iron can completely destroy or burn your notes while the magnetic ink used in the bills is not safe in the microwave.
Typically, your local bank should replace soiled, defaced, torn, and destroyed paper money if more than half, at least 51%, of the bill is intact.
How Coins are Made?
Coins are one of the different types of money available. To know how coins are made, we have to pay a visit to the US mint facility. This is where all the coins are produced and shipped from. Making coins isn’t a complex procedure like paper money, though.
So let’s check out how they make coins, shall we?
Step 1 – Designing
Just like paper bills, the production of coins also starts from the design department. First, 4 to 7 medallic sculpture artists are hired to design the coins. Thanks to computers, the designs are all digitally made with sophisticated software instead of clay sculpting.
Once the design is selected, the artist sends the 3D data to a machine that makes the master hub. This master hub will be used to press coins. However, if they press coins against the master hub, it’ll print a reverse or negative image. This is why they create two master dies with a negative image for pressing the coins.
Step 2 – Preparing the Raw Material
After a long process of refining, melting, casting, and rolling, giant coils of copper and nickel are passed through a “cookie-cutter” machine that punches out small disks, the base for the coins. After that, the small disks go through various machines that prepare them for the press.
A conveyor belt moves the blank disks to the next stage. Finally, the disks are poured on top of a press that moves all of them to a die- the negative die from the designing phase.
Step 3 – Striking the Coins
Finally, all the empty disks are moved to a stamping/pressing machine with two dies. One for the front side of the coin (heads) and one for the back (tails). The machine can strike/press 750 images per minute at high speed. Almost 60 tons of pressure is used to strike one coin.
The coins are then dropped into a bin for the inspection process. Unlike paper bills that go through human and machine inspection, coins go through only human inspection. First, experts check the coins for flaws. After that, coins are put into bags and shipped to the Federal Reserve Bank.
What is Money Made Of? [Major Currencies]
Here’s a quick and simple-to-understand chart showing what the most popular currencies are made of:
|Currency||What Material Is Money Made of|
|US Dollar||Made of 75% cotton and 25% linen.|
|Euro Banknotes||Made of 100% pure cotton fiber.|
|Japanese Yen||Made of Edgeworthia chrysantha or Mitsumata tree.|
|Pound Sterling||Made of 100% polymer.|
|Australian Dollar||Made of 100% polymer.|
|Canadian Dollar||Previously made of cotton and paper and now replaced with synthetic polymer bills.|
|Indian Rupee||Made of 100% cotton.|
|Hong Kong Dollar||Made of 100% cotton fiber.|
|New Zealand Dollar||Made of polypropylene plastic fiber.|
|Swiss Franc||Made of paper and polymer.|
Also Read: What is the Lowest Value of US Paper Money without the Portrait of a President?
What Is Money Made Of: FAQs
1. Why Does the US Government Change Dollar Bill Design?
Changing the bill design helps the US government to prevent counterfeiting. As they further develop new dollars, they add new security aspects which makes it harder for counterfeiters to replicate the dollar.
2. Why Isn’t It Possible to Make Paper Money at Home?
It’s not possible to make paper money at home because the process uses cutting-edge technology. For starters, the paper used is not made of the typical wood pulp but is specifically made for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and it comes with a built-in watermark and security thread. Also, paper money contains many security aspects as well as identification details.
3. Can You Buy Coins Directly from the US Mint?
Yes, you can buy directly from the US Mint, where coins are originally produced. Then, all you have to do is either use their website or call their toll-free number. There’s even the option of subscribing to coins and coin sets that are offered every year.
4. What Happens to the Flawed/Rejected Paper Money?
If the bureau of engraving and printing finds any flawed paper money, they immediately dispose of it by shredding. If the money is already in circulation, it is taken back to the federal reserve banks to be shredded. Shredded money can be recycled to make roofing and insulation materials. However, sometimes they sell those bills as collectible items as well.
5. Why Can’t They Print Every Paper Money at the Same Time?
Printing all money at the same time would lead to inflation. Putting more money in circulation does not increase the supply of goods; it just means there’s more money to buy the same amount of products. This leads to an increase in prices and reduced purchasing value of money, simply referred to as inflation.
6. Is Money Made from Trees?
To some extent! Unlike normal paper that is made from wood pulp from softwood trees, money is made out of paper derived from 75% cotton and 25% linen. What kind of tree is money made out of? Money is made from fibers of cotton and flax plants.
7. Is Money Made Out Of Fabric or Paper?
Is money made out of cotton? Is money made from Paper? Money is made out of a special kind of paper derived from 75% cotton and 25% linen fibers.
8. What Metal Is Money Made Out Of?
Coin money is made from a combination of copper, zinc, and nickel.
What Is Money Made Out Of? Final Words
The process of how money is made is long and sophisticated. You might be wondering what you should do with this information because let’s face it; it is not like you will learn how to make your own money at home, right? Just so you know, attempting this is illegal in addition to the fact that you have nil chances of succeeding.
Still, information is power, and maybe every time you hold a buck in your hands, you can appreciate both the effort and the process that goes into making it both literally and figuratively.
Do you have any comments, thoughts, or insights you would like to share about how money is made? Let’s heart below!
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I’m Swati, a mom, a personal finance enthusiast, and the owner of TheBlissfulBudget. My work has been featured in major publications including Fox 10, Credit Cards, Cheapism, How to Fire, Databox & Referral Rock.
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