As fast as money leaves our hands these days, have you ever stopped to think about what it's actually made of? Despite its name, the “paper money” used in the United States consists of a blend of 75% cotton and 25% linen, rather than wood pulp like normal paper. In addition to durability, this gives banknotes a special feel, enabling bank tellers to easily determine whether money has been counterfeited. Randomly-distributed red and blue fibers, infrared inks, and security threads also make dollar bills difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce.
Throughout the years, the printing process for banknotes has evolved, making paper curency more resistant to tearing, staining, and weather-related decay. In fact, you would have to fold a dollar bill over 4,000 times before it would tear.
Beginning with Australia in 1996, many countries (including the United Kingdom, Brazil, Israel, Indonesia, Mexico, Australia and Canada, among others) have switched to plastic polymer banknotes. This has made the currency far more durable and essentially rip-proof. These banknotes can even go through the laundry without showing any signs of damage or wear.
Money makes the world go round:
- Security threads were first added to U.S. banknotes in 1990. These threads appear in different locations depending on the denomination of the bill. When held over an ultraviolet light, the threads glow red.
- A watermark was first incorporated into U.S. currency in 1996, though the concept of the watermark dates to 13th-century Italy.
- In 2009, a research team from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that approximately 90% of U.S. paper money contains traces of cocaine residue.