8 Quick Facts About the $100 Bill

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1. The $100 is the highest value bill in circulation in the United States. The US stopped producing denominations larger than $100—$500, $1000, etc.—during WWII and halted distribution in 1969. While these larger notes are legal tender and may be accepted, the Federal Reserve Banks destroy any that are received.

2. Myanmar black market moneychangers will give you a better rate on hundreds than on $50s or $20s—and they better be clean and free of creases or they might just turn you away. Apparently Burmese moneychangers are a little OCD.   "¨"¨

3. Rumors of a new $100 have been circulating for several years now with not much to show from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It is supposed to combine micro-printing with tiny lenses—650,000 lenses for a single $100 bill—that will move the printed images as you move the bill. To me, this sounds like the optical illusion cards that come with Cracker Jacks.

100-euro4. The U.S. dollar has served for decades as the predominant coin of the realm for international black market transactions. Approximately three-quarters of all $100 bills circulate outside the United States. Strangely enough, the supremacy of the dollar in this shadow economy has given the U.S. economy a boost. Since most of these bills will never return stateside, this outflow of U.S. currency now serves, in essence, as a gigantic interest-free loan. A few economists have predicted that the relatively new 100 and 500 Euro notes will soon supplant the $100 bill as the worldwide shady currency of choice due to the Euro's higher value and now near-worldwide acceptance."¨"¨

5. Traces of cocaine are found on nearly four out of five bills circulated in the U.S., yet the $100, $5 and $1 have much lower traces than the $10 and $20. The truth is that probably only a fraction of these bills have actually been used to snort cocaine. Most contact with the fine powder probably comes from incidental contact in wallets, cash drawers, and money sorting machines. Random stat: Nearly 100% of Irish notes are said to contain cocaine traces."¨"¨

6. The $100 bill represents 11.9 percent of all U.S. paper currency production, with the average bill expected to last 89 months in circulation."¨"¨

100-dollar-back7. The clock on the back of a $100 bill shows the time as 4:10. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, "There are no records explaining why that particular time was chosen."

8. There have been calls to demonetize the $100. (I had no idea that demonetize was a word.) Given its predominance in underworld transactions, and the lack of ordinary businesses that still accept $100 bills, some economists and pundits have called for the elimination of the hundred. We're not just talking about removal from circulation, mind you, but a total demonetization (spellcheck thinks it's a real word, too). Basically, give people a year or two to turn in all their hundreds, and after a certain point, they would no longer be valid U.S. currency. This would cripple money laundering enterprises, shut down major black market enterprises, and hurt our enemies, the proponents say. I say that if we can't get rid of the penny, what hope do we have of writing off old Ben?

January 8, 2010 - 8:39am
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