Learning fun facts about money is a great way to get more interested in your finances. Plus, they’re fun to share with friends! So if you're curious about some of the lesser-known aspects of those dollar bills you carry around in your wallet, read on for 21 fun money facts!
6 Money facts about coins
First up, let’s cover some interesting facts about money. Particularly, all those loose coins buried between the couch cushions.
1. It costs more money to make pennies and nickels than they're actually worth!
It costs the U.S. Mint about 2.10 cents to produce one penny and about 8.52 cents to make one nickel. This is primarily due to the price of copper and nickel — which have both gotten more expensive over time.
This leads many lawmakers to question whether it’s time to retire some small-value coins from circulation. What do you think?
2. Coins stay in circulation for about 30 years before they get melted down and repurposed
This is one of the best money facts for those that love repurposing things! After about 30 years, coins become too worn down and tarnished to stay in circulation. So the Federal Reserve melts them down and repurposes them.
But warning — it’s illegal for anyone besides the U.S. government to melt coins. So this is one thing you can't upcycle yourself, but still pretty cool to know.
3. Two separate agencies create coins and paper money!
When you think of creating money, your mind may go straight to the U.S. Mint. But in reality, the U.S. Mint only makes coins (think pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters). The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) is actually the agency that makes paper money.
4. Congress creates “coin programs” to encourage families to collect coins
Do you remember when state quarters were released in the early 2000s? As a kid, I loved rummaging through my mom's quarters to see which states I could find.
Turns out, Congress creates certain coin programs — such as the 50 State Quarters Program — to try to encourage individuals to collect coins.
One of the most recent programs is the American Women Quarters program. It features the faces of Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Anna May Wong, and other women who have had a profound impact on American history.
5. Nickels weren’t always made of nickel
During WWII, the government actually reserved nickel for war efforts. As a result, nickel coins were made out of alternative metals like copper, manganese, and silver.
In other words, the nickel we know and love today was completely nickel-less. How’s that for a fun fact about money?
6. Nickels used to be half the size of a dime
The first five-cent coins to ever enter circulation in the U.S. were called “half dimes.” They were worth half as much as a dime, and as such, were also made with half as much silver.
But this had one major problem: these five-cent coins were super small and easy to lose. Indeed, they were half the size of a regular dime.
So, they got an upgrade in 1866 when the Mint Director at the time, James Pollock, recommended they be made out of nickel instead. This resulted in a larger (and cheaper) coin that was harder to lose.
9 Money facts about physical bills
Now that you know some fun facts about money — particularly coins — let’s dive into some money facts about banknotes, dolla' bills, benjis, or whatever else you want to call them!
1. Physical money doesn’t last forever
We’ve all come across a torn and tattered dollar bill. But did you know that paper money actually has an average lifespan? — just like humans!
Here are some interesting facts about money and its lifespan:
- A $100 bill lasts about 22.9 years.
- A $50 bill lasts 12.2 years.
- A $20 lasts 7.8 years.
- A $10 bill lasts 5.3 years.
- A $5 lasts about 4.7 years.
- A $1 bill lasts about 6.6 years.
Turns out, we use $5 bills the most in transactions, which is why they have the smallest lifespan. We handle $100 bills the least, which is why they have the longest lifespan.
2. A Massachusetts-based firm manufactures all currency paper
Since 1879, Crane Currency, a Massachusetts-based firm, has made the currency paper the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses to make banknotes. Can you imagine being the only company in the U.S. that makes our nation’s currency paper? One word: Fancy!
3. There is no such thing as “paper” money
Here’s another fun fact about money — Federal Reserve notes are actually made of 25% linen and 75% cotton, not paper!
Bills of $5 or more also have watermarks and tiny red and blue synthetic fibers of various lengths evenly distributed throughout the paper to make it more difficult to counterfeit. These are also known as "security threads."
4. It takes a lot of willpower to rip a banknote
If you wanted to rip a banknote (which I’m not sure why you would) you’d need to make 4,000 double folds forward and backward. Who has that kind of time?! Still, it’s one of many fun facts about money you may not know.
5. All paper bills weigh one gram each
A typical banknote weighs 1 gram each, regardless of whether it's a $1 bill, a $50 bill, or a $100 bill. Because there are 454 grams in one pound, this means there are 454 notes in one pound of money.
Likewise, a literal “ton of money” would be made up of 907,185 dollar bills!
6. If you stacked money one mile high in the air, it would contain more than 14.7 million banknotes.
An average banknote is 0.0043 inches thick, and there are 63,360 inches in a mile. So if you wanted to stack dollar bills one-mile high into the sky, you’d need more than 14.7 million dollar bills to make it happen (63,360 / 0.0043).
7. Most U.S. currency isn’t even in the U.S.
Here’s an interesting fact about money that’ll leave you scratching your head…
According to authorities, between one-half and two-thirds of the value of all U.S. currency in circulation is outside the United States. This is mostly due to the fact that the U.S. dollar is the world’s primary reserve currency.
So as a result, several nations use it for international trade and cash reserves.
8. There used to be a $100,000 bill!
This is one of our favorite fun facts about money! In 1934, the U.S. created a $100,000 bill, also known as a $100,000 Gold Certificate. While it’s technically the largest banknote the government ever issued, it was never meant for public use.
Instead, Federal Reserve Bank branches used them for large inter-bank transactions. But still. Can you imagine what you’d do if you found a $100,000 bill on the sidewalk? My gawd.
9. $2 bills aren’t as rare as you think
If you’re like me, you may think $2 bills are pretty rare. But in reality, there are still more than 1.4 billion $2 bills in circulation as of 2020. That’s billion… with a B.
For comparison, there are:
- 13.1 $1 bills in circulation
- 3.2 billion $5 bills in circulation
- 2.3 billion $10 bills in circulation
- 11.7 billion $20 bills in circulation
- 2.3 billion $50 bills in circulation
- 16.4 billion $100 bills in circulation
6 Money facts about consumer debt and spending
This next list isn’t necessarily fun — but it does show some interesting facts about money, consumer debt, and spending you may not know.
And if you’re currently in the thick of paying off debt or trying to budget, reading these statistics can help see where you fall against the average.
1. The average house costs $344,141 in the U.S.
That's according to recent Zillow research. But averages actually vary wildly from city to city.
For instance, San Jose has the most expensive housing in the U.S. The average house sales for $1.06 million. Paullina, Iowa has some of the cheapest housing, with the average home costing just $147,800.
This kind of makes you wonder which is best, renting or buying?
2. The average student loan borrower has $37,693 in federal and private debt.
But racial disparities exist. The average Black student has $57,770 in student loan debt while the average White borrower has $30,520. More specifically, Black women have the highest average student loan debt than any other demographic.
In fact, many Black women face a full-on student debt crisis, which is why financial success is essential for women of color.
3. Consumer debt has grown due to the COVID-19 pandemic
There’s now $800 billion more in collective consumer debt in the U.S. than there was pre-coronavirus pandemic. Student loan debt saw the largest increase, followed by mortgage debt and personal loan debt.
On the flipside, overall credit card debt actually decreased during the pandemic.
4. The average salary in the U.S. is $58,260.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person makes $58,260 a year in the U.S. That breaks down to around $28.01 an hour.
But here’s where the money facts get interesting…
Cardiologists make the highest average salary in the U.S., bringing home around $252,970 a year. The lowest recorded wage is for shampooers and fast food workers, which both make around $25,000.
No matter where you fall on the list, here are eight simple ways you can increase your income.
5. The average family spends $609.75 per month on groceries and dining out
Ask anyone what part of their budget they’re trying to trim back on, and 9 times out of 10, they’ll say FOOD! It seems like everyone is spending way more on food than they want (and inflation doesn’t help).
Each year, the average family spends $4,942 on groceries and $2,375 on dining out, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This breaks down to $609.75 each month — just on food.
If you’re trying to cut down your grocery budget, try out some of these 35 delicious frugal meals next time you hit up the grocery store. Or, weave some of the 25 best cheapest meals into your weekly food routine.
6. Contrary to popular belief, money can buy happiness
There’s a lot of debate out there as to whether money can buy happiness. But here’s a fun fact about money for you — it actually can, in certain situations.
While it’s true money can’t buy you relationships or fix all your problems, it can…
- Reduce your stress (which can, in turn, improve your relationship with your partner and lower your chances of divorce)
- Buy you time to spend with the people you love
- Buy experiences (which, in turn, bring you more happiness than physical things)
So in short, money can buy happiness — if you spend it collecting moments that align with your values and goals — rather than on possessions that may lay in a corner collecting dust.
Hope you enjoyed these interesting and fun money facts!
These are definitely some fun and interesting facts about money! Increasing your knowledge about money can help you appreciate it and use it wisely.
Whether you’re trying to master your student loans, create a budget that works for you, or buy your first home, we’re here to help you every step of the way! Sign up for one of Clever Girl Finance’s 100% free courses to get the direction and support you need to reach all your financial goals.