20 Interesting Facts about Money
There are 168 different currencies in the world and billions of dollars worth on new banknotes are printed every day across the world. Here's some of the most amazing facts about money.
1. Before coins were invented in 1500 BC, people used to trade in all kinds of strange commodities, such as gold, rice, fish, barley, salt, tea leaves, cows, blood, and even bat guano. In America the word "buck" to mean money comes from the days when people used to trade various animal skins, including buckskins as currency.
2. The art of making money is precise and complex. Each coin has to be exactly the same as the next, so that people accept that they are worth the same amount of money. Traditionally coins were made by either striking metal between two engraved dies, or by casting them in moulds. However in the 18th century coins were made by new steam powered machinery, which greatly increased the number of coins that could be produced in a day.
3. The production of bank notes however is a bit money complicated. Originally bank notes were black and white but now almost all of them are brightly coloured and feature highly complex designs, which makes them harder to counterfeit but also instantly recognisable as a national currency.
4. In 1923, hyperinflation caused German currency to lose almost all of its value. It became so worthless that people gave it to children to play with or even used it as wallpaper.
5. India has a banknote of zero value. They look exactly the same as other banknotes but are worth exactly zero rupees. You might ask, what's the point? Corruption in India is widespread and a major concern. Many government officials in India require monetary bribes for all sorts of permits and services. The zero rupee banknote serves an important purpose, it is given to officials who request bribes as a statement of peaceful non-cooperation. Each zero rupee note bares a declaration that states "I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe". It's sole purpose is to make a statement. Ironically this makes the zero rupee banknote both valuable and worth absolutely nothing at the same time.
6. In most countries and currencies one pence pieces cost more money to make than they are actually worth. The US treasury spends 2.41 cents to mint each penny, making a huge loss. Because of this the Canadian government stopped producing pennies in 2013.
7. The world's largest counterfeiter of US currency is North Korea. They produce high quality fakes that the American Secret Service have nicknamed "superdollars" because they so closely resemble genuine notes.
8. The production of banknotes requires zero trees, no paper is used at all. All paper currency is made from a custom blend of cotton and linen, usually around 25% cotton and 75% linen.
9. 90% of US banknotes contain traces of cocaine.
10. Queen Elizabeth II is the queen of currency, her portrait has graced the currencies of 33 different countries, more than any other individual in history. Canada was the first country to use the British monarch's portrait on their banknotes in 1935, when it printed the, at the time, 9-year-old princess on its $20 notes.
11. More monopoly money is printed every year than real money.
12. If you have just $10 in your pocket and no debts, you are wealthier than 25% of Americans.
13. A cheque is only an instruction to a bank, it therefore, can be written on absolutely anything, and as long as it has all the necessary components, it will be honoured by the bank. Cheques have been written on doors, stone slabs, bananas and even cows.
14. Banknotes are pretty gross. A study showed that 14% of banknotes contain fecal matter and 94% contain pathogens. Viruses and bacteria can live on most surfaces for about 48 hours, but they can live on paper money for up to 17 days.
15. Icelanders pay for things using credit and debit cards more than any other country in the world. 70% of all business in Iceland is done with plastic, compared to 39% in North America.
16. Australia makes its banknotes from Polymer, which is a type of synthetic plastic. They last for 2.5 times longer than traditional cotton and linen banknotes and are surprisingly more eco friendly. They are also harder to counterfeit. The UK will also be switching to plastic banknotes in 2016.
17. Some coins have grooved ridges around their edges. They serve little purpose today, but they were originally added in the days when coins were made from precious metals such as silver and gold. People used to scrape the edges off the coins before spending them, then sell the precious metals they scraped off. The grooved ridges were added to stop people doing this.
18. A vast majority of the money in the world is not physical money, it is simply numbers in the computers of banks.
19. Money which cannot be backed by a physical commodity such as gold is called Fiat money. Fiat money includes digital funds, paper banknotes and coins, these kinds of money are only valuable, simply because a government declares it an official currency. However other non-government backed fiat money can become valuable, just because there's a high demand for it, such as the emerging Bitcoin currency, which has no centralised control body. The only thing that makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies valuable is the simple fact that lots of people want it.
20. And finally, if all the gold in the world were melted down into a single square block, it would only be 21 metres on each side.