With Tax Day nearly here, we’ve got money on our minds—one dollar bills, to be exact. In addition to being able to buy you a soda, each note contains a wealth of information about when and where that very bill was printed. Here’s what every symbol on a dollar really means:
The Federal Reserve Seal and the Federal Reserve District Number
12 different Federal Reserve Banks are responsible for printing paper money in the U.S. You can figure out which of the 12 printed your bill by looking at the letter in the Federal Reserve Seal to the left of the portrait of George Washington, or listed just before the bill’s serial number. A corresponding Federal Reserve District Number code can be found in four locations on the same side of the bill. Here’s a reference to the bank codes:
|Reserve Bank||Letter Code||District Number|
The United States Treasury Seal
The green seal stamped over the word “one” to the right of Washington’s portrait is the United States Treasury Seal, which contains balancing scales to represent justice, a key (the symbol of office authority) and a chevron with thirteen stars to represent the 13 original states.
The bill’s serial number appears twice on the front of the bill, once in the lower left hand quadrant and once in the upper right hand quadrant. The letter that precedes the numbers must match the letter within the Federal Reserve Seal, or else you’re working with counterfeit cash. Because there are a total of 832 bills per serial number, the letter after the serial number notes how many times the Bureau of Engraving and Printing used that very same sequence of serial numbers: “A” is for the first time, “B” is for the second time, “C” is for the third time and so on.
The series date, which shows the year a note was printed, can be found in the lower right quadrant, between the portrait of Washington and the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury. There isn’t a new series printed each year, though—a new series will only result from a change in the Secretary of the Treasury, the Treasurer of the United States or a design change. If a new Treasurer of the United States is chosen, a letter such as “A” will also be added to the end of the current series year.
Plate Series Number
The plate series number, which identifies the literal engraving plate from which the note was printed, can be found once on the front of the bill in the lower right quadrant above the Federal Reserve District Number, and again on the back in the lower right corner. The number is different on the front and back because a different plate is used to print each side.
Note Number Position
The note number position is a letter followed by a number, and can be found in the upper left hand corner of the bill. It indicates which position on the plate the bill was printed—the number notes the quadrant, and the letter notes the position within that quadrant. Here’s how this would look on the plate:
The Great Seal of the United States
Found on the back right of the bill, the front of the seal shows a bald eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and 13 arrows (referring to the 13 original states) in the other: This symbolizes that the United States has a desire for peace, but will always be ready for war. In front of the eagle is the national shield, which sports 13 vertical stripes to signify the 13 original states joined under one force. The latin motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” written on the ribbon hanging from the eagle’s beak, translates to, “Out of Many, One.”
On the back left of the bill is a pyramid underneath the Eye of Providence (or, the Illuminati symbol if you’re into conspiracy theories), which is the symbol for permanence, strength and God watching over mankind. 1776, the official beginning of the United State’s nationhood, is written in Roman numerals at the base of the pyramid. The latin motto above the pyramid, “Annuit Coeptis,” translates to “He [God] has favored our undertakings.” “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” which is written out below the pyramid, means “A new order of the ages,” referring to the founding of America.
Now that you’ve examined your bill thoroughly, feel free to use it to buy that soda.