Five things you need to know about the new hundred-dollar bill

October 8, 2013
Source: NewMoney.gov
(Source: NewMoney.gov)

The government is accomplishing at least one thing today: releasing a new $100 bill!

Okay, so maybe it has taken Uncle Sam more than three years to debut these new Benjamins. And maybe the printing got screwed up twice, resulting in some bills with blank spots and others with reportedly too much ink. (Those had to be destroyed.)

But the new $100 bill is here now, with fancy new security features, such as an image of the Liberty Bell that appears in an inkwell and a 3D blue motion strip down the center. (See The Switch for a rundown of the bill's new tech. And check out the cool interactive graphic at newmoney.gov.)

Here are some more interesting facts about our favorite greenback.

There are about $900 billion worth of hundred-dollar bills in circulation, and most of them are overseas.

About half to two-thirds of Benjamins are held internationally. The Federal Reserve is overseeing the introduction of the new bill and targeting much of its messaging to foreign countries. Judging from the list of languages its marketing materials are translated into, major holders of hundreds include Azerbaijan, Russia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Korea.

The Benjamin is the second banana to the Washington.

There were 8.6 billion hundreds in circulation at the end of 2012. That makes them the second most-circulated bill after the dollar. But the $100  bill is the fastest-growing: The number in circulation has quintupled over the past two decades.

Currency is cyclical

The Fed has stockpiled 3.5 billion new $100 bills at its 28 reserve bank cash offices. They will circulate them among the 9,000 banks they do business with directly starting Tuesday. The number of bills requested varies daily but tends to run in cycles. Demand spikes around Christmas and the Lunar New Year, for example, when consumers are on the lookout for crisp bills to give as gifts.

Hundred-dollar bills are built to last

The estimated “life span” of a $100 bill is 15 years, the longest of any denomination. The $10 bill has the shortest life span, clocking in at just 4.2 years. Still, money is made to endure: A regular piece of paper can be folded 400 times before it breaks, says Peter Hopkins, a consultant to Crane & Co., which makes the paper on which our currency is printed. A U.S. bill is designed to withstand 8,000 folds. Which brings us to …

One company has provided the paper for the nation’s currency since 1879

That would be the aforementioned Crane & Co., based in Dalton, Mass. The company’s roots date back even further -- to 1776, when Paul Revere was looking for a paper mill to help him issue notes to pay soldiers during the American Revolution. The name of paper mill owner Stephen Crane’s burgeoning business? The Liberty Paper Mill.

VIDEO: New bill aimed at fighting back against counterfeiting

Ylan Q. Mui is a financial reporter at The Washington Post covering the Federal Reserve and the economy.
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Neil Irwin · October 8, 2013