The Secret Life of Money

It’s a reserve currency you can use almost anywhere in the world. There’s more than $1 trillion of it in circulation. An unimaginable amount of time, energy, resources and technology are employed to create, protect, transport and defend it.

Flickr/401(k) 2013

Flickr/401(k) 2013

We’re talking about American currency – the millions of crisp bank notes that roll off the presses every year and exchange hands across the country and the world. In 2012, the U.S. spent more than $700 million printing paper money. But that’s hardly all there is to the complex process of creating and distributing money. That money is packaged and shipped to Federal Reserve banks, then sent to commercial banks where it’s withdrawn by consumers, spent, returned to the banks and then shippedback to the Federal Reserve for storage…where it’s checked over, bill by bill, for damage and counterfeit.Wow!

In fact, behind each dollar bill is an amazingly complex system that we often take for granted.  In “Secret Life of Money”, a one-hour special to air on the Discovery Channel on March 30th, the whole system behind creating – and protecting – America’s currency is unraveled, from the presses that print the money to the armored cars that carry it to commercial banks, and everything in between.

We were curious about some of money’s little-known mysteries, so we talked to David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein, correspondents for NPR’s Planet Money and experts featured in the special, for their insight about currency, its value and its future. Check it out in my new article on


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