The Almighty Dollar!

While dollars in paper form are common today, quite an evolution was required for the U.S. to use and trust this form of currency. The dollar started out as a silver coin, like most other coins did in the early years of the United States. The colonies followed the precedent of European countries in their forms of currency and even adopted the name “dollar” from the Spanish dollar which was easier to access on the American continents than British currency. The turning point for paper money was the Civil War. In 1861, Congress issued the U.S. Mint the ability to print “demand notes” which could be exchanged on demand (hence the name) for coins. Then on February 25, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the National Banking Act into law, which established the federal dollar as the sole accepted currency in the U.S. Both of these national decisions helped fund the war and bring standardization to the American form of money. The dollar bill served in the role of demand notes, particularly as silver certificates, up through the 1960s. Though the late 1920s-1930s saw a great many design changes to the note, most of which have established the dollar’s modern-day design. For example, this is when Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington appeared on the front of the $1 dollar bill and when all the details you now see on the back of the dollar (with the exception of the phrase “In God We Trust”, which was added in 1957) were added. Then the dollar bill officially became a Federal Reserve Note in 1963. Dollar coins are still issued by the U.S Mint. In fact the Presidential $1 Coin Program began in 2007 and has been issuing $1 coins with five Presidents every year in the order in which they served in office.

The front of the paper dollar bill and the tails (reverse) end of the dollar coin. Photos courtesy of

The front of the paper dollar bill and the tails (reverse) end of the dollar coin. Photos courtesy of


Scavenger Hunt: Track your dollars around the U.S.!

Did you know what the large letter on the left side of the front of every dollar bill means? It’s a code for the city where that dollar was printed! So ransack your wallet and compare the letters – you up to twelve locations to find on a map or globe. Here is the line-up:

A=Boston (MA); B=New York City (NY); C=Philadelphia (PA); D=Cleveland (OH); E=Richmond (VA); F=Atlanta (GA); G=Chicago (IL); H=St. Louis (MO); I=Minneapolis (MN); J=Kansas City (MO); K=Dallas (TX); L=San Francisco (CA)

Once you have a list of the letters you have on your money, help your kids find where their money was “born”! If your children are older, see if they can find the cities on their own!

Another option is to check out You can type in the serial number on the front of any dollar bill and, if the bill has been in circulation for a while, you could find out where it’s been!

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