Visit to the “Mint”


On Tuesday, August 7th, Kathryn, Bob (Kyle’s father) and I went on a tour of the “mint’ in Fort Worth, TX.  I put mint in quotation marks because everyone calls it the mint but it is officially the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

This is the only picture I have, as cameras and cell phones are not allowed within the facility. The security is not quite as bad as the TSA, but they’re trying to catch up.

Fort Worth Bureau of Printing and Engraving

The tour is on an elevated walkway and, with the short video, takes about an hour. It was truly an interesting tour!  This is one of two places where all the paper money for the United States is printed.  95% of it is replacement money; money printed to replace worn out bills. The tour explains the printing process; there are displays in the lobby that are historical in nature with a lot of fun facts thrown in. Here are some of the things we learned:

  • The original intent was to be a backup to the mint in DC, now all the paper money is printed here.
  • The demoninations are printed 24 hours a day M-F.
  • Each bill starts with a hand etched plate.
  • The denominations printed are the 1′s, 5′s, 10′s, 20′s, 50′s, & 100′s.  2′s are also printed only not as often because they are not used as much and therefore last longer. What’s not printed are the 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 50000, and 100000 dollar bills. These are not often in circulation.
  • The average “life span” of a $1 bill is 22 months; a $100 bill usually lasts 9 years.
  • The money itself is printed in a two step process.  First, color other than green is applied, one color at a time. Each time the ink must dry before the next step but the drying time is minimal.  Only green is used on the back hence the term greenbacks.  The sheets are originally printed to make a 32 pane sheet. The paper is cut in half first lengthwise, then the edges are trimmed and then the individual bills are cut.
  • The series number indicates the year the design on the bill was created. There is a new $100 bill being printed (the release date is unknown) with a series of 2009, the year the design was done.
  • There are 12 reserve banks from which the money gets distributed. These are spread accross the US and are assigned alpha characters A-L based on geographical location. This designation can be seen on the $1 bill in a circle to the left of Washington’s portrait.
  • The paper for the printing process comes from one source and comes with security measures already embedded in it. The higher the face value of the bill, the greater the security measures.  The only bill with no built in security features is the $1 bill.
  • The average production in a single day is around 20 million notes.
  • There are stringent quality measures at every step in the process. If notes make it to the end after the serial number is assigned and they are not correct, They are pulled and substitute notes with the same serial number are created. These will have a small star next to the serial number. So when does it become real money??? As soon as the serial numbers are scanned into the Federal Reserve data banks, they are considered to be ‘monetized’ or made real and recognized. It’s a very short walk from there to the vault!!


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