What Is a Cash Drawer?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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Despite numerous advancements in technology during the 20th century, almost all retail businesses still make use of a cash drawer. Located underneath the actual cash register which is used to ring up merchandise, the cash drawer is where the salesperson deposits currency when a sale is made. As a rule, a cash drawer is divided into compartments for paper currency as well as coins.

The first cash register was patented in 1883 by a saloon owner in Dayton, Ohio. From the beginning, cash registers came equipped with a cash drawer to guard the money being made by the store owner. In fact, the original inventor came up with the idea in order to keep his own employees from stealing from him. Although most cash registers are now operated electronically, the basic function hasn't changed much.

Originally, a cash drawer was either an integral part of the cash register or sat underneath the register as a separate part. When a sale was complete, the drawer would open and money would be deposited in the appropriate spots. When it was time to count the money, the cash drawer could be manually released and pulled out of the register.


Modern day cash registers operate in essentially the same way as they did in the 1800s. The only significant differences are that they are now electronically powered and the cash drawer typically has a cylinder lock that requires a key to open. Modern cash drawers generally open when the appropriate key is pushed or with a key in the event of a power failure.

The design of the cash drawer itself has also not changed since its invention back in 1883. Small compartments in the front of the drawer are intended to separate coins with a place for pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, as well as an additional compartment for half dollars, dollar coins, or simply extra coinage. The larger compartments behind the coin compartments are intended to hold one-, five-, 10-, and 20-dollar bills. Cashiers typically hide larger bills under the cash drawer to discourage would-be robbers.


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