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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John discusses United States money!

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Hi, I'm John Green.  Welcome to my salon.  This is mental_floss video and did you know that 1) before 1929, the US Mint used to produce currency that was 50% larger than today's notes?  The bills were affectionately called horse blankets, because of their size, and that's the first of many facts about US cash money that I'm going to share with you today in this video presented to you by Allstate


2) Okay, let's start with where our money comes from.  Massachusetts Crane Paper Company makes the paper for US currency and they got the gig after the Revolutionary War as a thank you to the owner for allowing Paul Revere to stable his horses in his barn while he was riding for the revolution.

3) Nowadays, Crane Paper Company is headquartered in Sweden and also makes money for Thailand and Mexico, so you know, globalization.

4) Linen, the fabric that makes up 25% of US paper money's weight, is naturally bacteria-resistant and it's very hard to get wet or damp.  In fact, it gets stronger when wet.

5) But US paper money has been made partly with cloth for quite a while, like back in Ben Franklin's day, people used to sew up torn bills with a thread and needle,

6) and US paper currency is still considered legal tender if you have at least 51% of the bill.

7) But right, speaking of Ben Franklin, he supposedly designed the first American penny known as the fugio cent.  Instead of 'In God We Trust', the coin read 'Mind your Business'.   Now, I am in general opposed to pennies, which cost more than 2 cents per penny to make, but if we have to have one, I do desperately wish it said 'Mind your business' on it.

8) 'In God We Trust' though first appeared on US currency in 1864, three years after a minister from Pennsylvania petitioned for some recognition of the almighty on our money.  The move was partially a PR move intended to back the idea that God was on the union's side in the Civil War.

9) Where does your old cash go?  To a farm in Delaware, where more than four tons of US paper money is mulched into compost every day.  In previous eras, worn out bills were pierced or burned but we're much more environmentally conscious these days.

10) But here's some real environmentalism.  According to a 2008 New Yorker piece, America's early nickels were called half dimes, and they were at least partially produced from recycling Georgian Martha Washington's silverware.  We always put quarters in the porkchop party fund, but in honor of George Washington, maybe we should use half dimes.

11) Quarters have 119 ridges on them, while dimes have 118.   The ridges on coins were intended to stop people from shaving off metal and devaluing the coins.  If a merchant felt a smooth edge, they could tell it had been tampered with.

12) When Salmon P. Chase was Secretary of the Treasury in 1861, he was charged with issuing and popularizing America's new greenback currency.  Being an extremely humble politician, when he was forced to pick a portrait for the first $1 bill, he chose himself.

13) Oddly enough, Chase seemed to have had some lasting impact.  Like, when the US treasury decided to issue $10,000 bills, the highest denomination in history, they put Chase on the bill to honor his work bringing about modern bank notes.

14) So where are those $10,000 bills?  Well, apparently, they're still working in circulation.  There are roughly 300 of them still around, although you'd be foolish to plunk one down at a local store, because the bills command as much as $140,000 on the open market.

15) What's the most valuable coin ever printed by the US government?  Well, issued in 1997, that would be the American Eagle Platinum coin, a one-ounce, $100 coin.  It's good to have one so that if anybody ever asks you, hey, can you change $100?  You can say, no, but I do have $100 in change.

16) The Philadelphia mint used to keep a bald eagle around as a mascot, and yes, I mean an actual eagle.  Its name was Peter, and it lived at the mint in the early 1830s.  He sat on printing presses, befriended employees, and was let out every night for evening flights around the city.  Supposedly, the eagle silver dollars that were printed in the late 1830s were all modeled on him.

17) But Peter wasn't the only pet kept by the US treasury.  Records show that three dollars was spent to purchase a watchdog for the first mint in lieu of hiring some cops.

18) After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US recalled all of the money on Hawaii and issued new bills with the word 'Hawaii' over printed on them.  The idea was that if the Japanese forces took control of Hawaii, the US could immediately declare all Hawaian overprint notes worthless.

19) About $200 million was recalled at the time and the US government tried to burn all of it in a crematorium in Honolulu but when the money overwhelmed the furnace there, the military had to commandeer additional furnaces in Oahu to get the job done.  

20) For the record, one of those $20 bills overprinted with 'Hawaii', worth about $4,000 today.

21) There are many problems with Andrew Jackson appearing on the $20 bill, including that he, you know, wasn't a particularly good leader of the United States.  He was also hugely opposed to paper money. 

22) Most of the portraits on dollar bills face the same direction.  The exception is Alexander Hamilton.

23) And finally, I return to my salon to tell you that in 1825, the official rules of the Philadelphia mint stated that you could not visit on "Saturdays and rainy days".  No one's quite sure why.

Thanks again for watching mental_floss, which is made with the help of all of these nice people, and thanks again to our friends at Allstate who brought you today's video.  Thanks again for watching and as I always say to my friend Craig Benzine, you cannot keep a bald eagle at the office.