The journey of each individual currency note is pretty incredible. After being printed or minted, each bill is then passed between people and businesses to facilitate transactions. If it’s a $1 or $5 bill, it changes hands on average about 110 times per year – and if it’s a $20 bill, it’s more like 75. The interesting part is that almost every transaction is linked to the one before it, and the series of subsequent transactions for each bill creates a unique, broad story.
By the time a bill is retired, it would have facilitated many hundreds of transactions that enabled everything from the purchase of used cars to the shadier deals in underground markets. It’s a pretty interesting tale for such a little piece of paper.
About US dollar bills
The infographic from TitleMax gives a sense of what happens when all of those individual stories are combined together into one large one: the U.S. supply of currency notes, the shelf life of each type of bill, and how the whole system works as a whole.
In total, there is a total of about $1.5 trillion in U.S. physical currency in circulation, and roughly 80% of this value comes from the 11.5 billion $100 notes that are in circulation.
|Note||Number of bills in circulation|
|$1 bill||11.7 billion|
|$2 bill||1.2 billion|
|$5 bill||2.8 billion|
|$10 bill||1.9 billion|
|$20 bill||8.9 billion|
|$50 bill||1.7 billion|
|$100 bill||11.5 billion|
Of course, this is just a fraction of the total money that exists as a whole, which includes digital deposits and liquidity added by central banks. That’s why, in the U.S. today, there’s about $14 trillion in total money supply (M2), of which physical currency makes up only about 11% of the total value.
TURNOVER PER BILL
Every year, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing is responsible for printing new dollars – and interestingly, 70% of these new bills are used to replace older notes going out of circulation. That raises the question: how many years does each bill last on average?
|Note||Average Life Span|
|$1 bill||5.8 years|
|$5 bill||5.5 years|
|$10 bill||4.5 years|
|$20 bill||7.9 years|
|$50 bill||8.5 years|
|$100 bill||15.0 years|
This means that printers are mostly turning out new batches of $1 and $20 bills, since there are more of those in circulation than most other bills. At the same time, many new $100 notes are also being printed as well since they are the second most common bill. However, these last 2-3x as long as smaller denominations.