Paper Money Day is celebrated on the anniversary of the day the first United States Notes (or Legal Tender Notes) were issued in the United States — March 10 every year. On this day, we commemorate the United States’ longest-running paper currency. Of course, the notes have been modified and updated throughout time, but they helped to establish the foundation for the paper dollars we use today. If you still have one of the original 1962 notes, you’re holding a priceless piece of American history.
History of Paper Money Day
The history of paper money in the United States is a little complicated. While the first legal tender notes were issued in 1862, paper money existed before then. During King William’s War, on February 3, 1690, the first paper money was printed in Massachusetts to fund military action. However, that money was merely a bill of credit — “IOU” from the colony to the soldiers. In 1775, Congress tried to replicate this on a wider scale, but this failed due to rapid inflation.
In the 1860s, there emerged two forms of emergency paper currency – Demand Notes, which were issued in 1861, and United States Notes which were issued in 1862. During the American Civil War, these notes were used to pay for expenses. The Demand Notes were non-redeemable and began to lose value.
Of the two, it was the United States Note that became authorized as federal currency by the First Legal Tender Act, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln and enacted on February 1862. On March 10, 1862, the first United States Notes were issued, which is why we celebrate Paper Money Day on this said date.
Of course, before paper money, there were other methods of exchanging value, with trade by barter being perhaps the oldest. From barter, we transitioned into coins, with the Chinese being the first to use an object resembling the modern-day coin. They were also the first to move from coins to paper money in 700 B.C.
Paper Money Day timeline
The Massachusetts Bay Colony issues the first paper money in the U.S.
U.S. Congress enacts the Second Legal Tender Act through a Joint Resolution
Congress passes the Federal Reserve Acts, which authorizes the current U.S. banknotes
The last United States Notes are issued.
Paper Money Day FAQs
Who was against paper money?
The seventh president of the United States, President Andrew Jackson, was staunchly against paper money and wanted to abolish it. Ironically, his face is on the $20 bill.
What was paper money called in 1862?
The United States Notes, which were issued in 1862, were popularly known as ‘greenbacks,’ a nickname they took over from the previous Demand Notes.
Was there ever a $3 note?
Although images or references to a $3 note have been used in popular culture over the years, there has never been a legal $3 note. This is why the saying goes “as phony as a three-dollar bill.” While no $3 note has ever been issued, a gold $3 coin was produced in the 1800s.
Paper Money Day Activities
Do some reading
If reading this article brought some surprises, then that’s a sign that too few people know about the true history of paper money. Spend the day doing some light reading and you might find some fun facts to share at your next hangout with friends.
Only use paper money for the day
You can celebrate Paper Money Day by using paper currency exclusively throughout the day. Leave your change in the vending machine. No throwing cents in a tip jar. No throwing spare coins to the homeless. On March 10, only give out or spend paper money, and make sure to leave the change.
Hunt down some original U.S. notes
This might be a little difficult to do since the original United States Notes have been discontinued, but if you do find some, you would have stumbled on a goldmine. If you can’t find some of the original notes, you can make do with finding pictures of them online to compare with the notes we have today.
5 Facts About Paper Money That You Didn’t Know
It’s not really paper
What we call paper money is not really made of paper — it’s made of cellulose.
Fixed with a needle
Back in the 1700s, people used to repair torn notes with a needle and thread.
Beaten with a washing machine
The Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving put paper notes through washing machines to test their durability.
There’s cocaine on it, probably
A 2009 study revealed that 90% of paper money in the U.S. has cocaine residue on it.
Just like fireworks
The inks used in printing paper money contain calcium carbonate, a chemical also used to make red fireworks.
Why We Love Paper Money Day
It reminds us of our history
Paper Money Day is intrinsically linked to U.S. history. The legal tender note has roots in the civil war when it was used to provide much-needed aid and relief.
It’s certainly lighter
Imagine if paper money was never invented. We’d have been hauling around a ton of coins every day, jingling as we go. Paper Money Day reminds us of the ease that paper money brought into our lives, as well as the literal lightness.
We love growth
If you think about it, Paper Money Day is really about growth. Just by reading the history of paper money, we can see how money (and means of exchanging value) have progressed over the years. It reminds us of how far we have come and gives us hope about how far we can go yet. We have gone from trade by barter to coins, paper money, and now digital currencies and cryptocurrencies.
Paper Money Day dates