From tracking our spending in Money Diaries to strategizing about how to ask our bosses for that long-overdue salary bump, we're pretty astonished by the way our bank accounts always seem to be at the tops of our minds. And even though most aspects of our lives are inevitably impacted by the ups-and-downs of that precarious cash flow, we'd never stopped to consider how physical money (so retro) is actually made. That's why we headed to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for a tour of all the absurdly intricate processes that produce those crisp, possibility-packed notes in our wallets. Turns out, it was way stranger than we'd ever expected.
Contrary to Beyoncé's unforgettable advice that " the best revenge is your paper," only 8% of the world's money exists in the physical world (as opposed to, like, numbers on a screen). And despite the endless platitudes about cash growing on trees, American money isn't printed on paper at all — bills are created with a hybrid blend of 75% cotton and 25% linen. We're guessing that's why they often survive a wash cycle or two.
But don't let your digitized checking account fool you: there are an estimated 40 billion United States notes in circulation, with a total value of $1.5 trillion. By our calculations, that's the cost of about six hundred and twenty-five billion In 'N Out cheeseburgers, just to put things in a little perspective.
Press play above to catch the mesmerizingly strange, and largely unseen, process that creates money. The weirdest behind-the-scenes thing we witnessed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing? All the mind-bending and impossibly detailed lengths that designers have invented to safeguard against counterfeiting. Spoiler: the sight of those bills getting sliced by the pile is almost certainly the most satisfying thing you'll see today.