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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

In this section, we feature aspects of the American dollar, history and origin of the currency. "The United States dollar (sign: $; code: USD) is the unit of currency of the United States; it has also been adopted as the official currency of some other countries. The U.S. dollar is normally abbreviated as the dollar sign, $, or as USD or US$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies and from others that use the $ symbol. It is divided into 100 cents." - More from Wikipedia

Dollars and Cents – US Currency Facts and Trivia

Money does matter!!!

A majority of people immigrate to the US to start earning in Dollars. Some of the fundamentals of US currency, the design and its significance are presented here.

What is the origin of $ as currency symbol in US?

Dollar Sign

One funny explanation is, it is the letters U and S superimposed (abbreviation for Uncle Sam?), because the original dollar sign had two vertical lines, not one.

But the actual theory is, dollar sign is an abbreviation for 'pesos'. The Spanish dollar, also known as the peso de 8 reals, was the principal coin in circulation in the United States up until 1794, when US began minting its own dollars.

It is only appropriate that an Irish immigrant to the United States be the one credited with originating the dollar sign. Oliver Pollock sailed the high seas at the age of twenty-three, and settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This young entrepreneur rapidly established himself as a wealthy and influential West Indies trader. Pollock moved his operation to Louisiana, where he amassed even more wealth as a trader, and as a plantation owner. His success enabled him to provide supplies to the Patriots’ cause in the Revolutionary War, and to maintain close contact and a degree of influence with Congress. Pollock’s success allowed him easily to purchase military supplies to support "the cause," as the Spanish Empire had an outpost in New Orleans, Louisiana. In his dealings with the Spaniards, Pollock used their currency, the peso.

In true Spanish tradition, Pollock used an abbreviation for pesos, yet his penmanship made the abbreviation appear to be the transposition of the letters "p" and "s." In handwriting, "pesos" was usually abbreviated lowercase "ps", with s above and to the right of the p and with the hook on the latter written with one or two deep strokes. As time went on, the p and s tended to get mashed together and the result is $.

The dollar sign and the ps abbreviation were used interchangeably from around 1775 until the end of the century, after which the latter faded from view.

[Information Source: Prof. Florian Cajori - author of "A History of Mathematical Notations"

Currency Notes and Coins in US

Where is currency printed?

Since 1862 all U.S. currency has been printed in Washington, D.C., but to help meet increasing demand, a second printing facility was opened in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1991. Fort Worth now produces about half the nation's currency.

Front and backs of currency coins

Denomination Front  Back
1 Cent (Penny) Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Memorial
5 Cents (Nickel) Thomas Jefferson Monticello
10 Cents (Dime) Franklin D. Roosevelt Torch
25 Cents (Quarter) George Washington 50 States Design
50 Cents John F. Kennedy Presidential Coat of Arms
1 Dollar Sacagawea Bald Eagle

Motto appearing on every coin

"Mind Your Business" - this motto was the first one printed on US coins. But now the motto is different. "In God We Trust" - found on all US coins, this phrase was first used in 1864 during the Civil War. It was dropped for a period, then later restored by Congress "E Pluribus Unum" (in Latin it means "From many, One"), this phrase (part of Great Seal of the United States) also appears on every coin.

Front and backs of currency notes

Denomination  Front Back
$1 George Washington ONE between obverse and reverse of Great Seal of U.S
$2 Thomas Jefferson The Signing of the Declaration of Independence
$5 Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Memorial
$10 Alexander Hamilton U.S. Treasury Building
$20 Andrew Jackson White House
$50 Ulysses Grant U.S. Capitol
$100 Benjamin Franklin

Independence Hall

Currency note measurement and material

Currency note measures 2.61 inches wide by 6.14 inches long, and the thickness is 0.0043 inches.
Currency paper is composed of 25 percent linen and 75 percent cotton. Red and blue synthetic fibers of various lengths are distributed evenly throughout the paper. Before World War I these fibers were made of silk.

Federal Reserve branches

There are 12 Federal Reserves in US. The Serial number of currency note has the following prefix as per Federal Reserve it’s attached to.

Money in US
Code Federal Reserve
A1 Boston
B2 New York City
C3 Philadelphia
D4 Cleveland
E5 Richmond
F6 Atlanta
G7 Chicago
H8 St. Louis
I 9 Minneapolis
J10 Kansas City
K11 Dallas
L12 San Francisco

You may also be Interested in the following links:

  • FAQs about United States Paper Currency: US Treasury Learning Vault including Biographies, Secretaries, Treasurers, Duties, Functions, Treasury History, Tours, Treasury Building, Frequently Asked Questions
  • FAQs: Currency: Buying, Selling & Redeeming Denominations Legal Tender Status Portraits & Designs Production & Circulation
  • U.S. Department of the Treasury : Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  • Government Redeems Damaged Currency: The Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) in Washington, DC examines and reimburses businesses and individuals for their damaged or mutilated paper money. BEP’s free mutilated currency service is prominently posted on its web site. This service is often of particular interest to victims of fires, tornadoes, floods, and other acts of nature. The BEP’s Office of Currency Standards handled more than 26,000 mutilated currency claims and sent out reimbursement checks for over $97 million in fiscal year 2005. If currency is only wet and not damaged in any other way, it should be separated as soon as possible, and placed between paper towels. When they are dry, the notes should be taken to a local commercial bank or Federal Reserve Bank where new currency notes for the same amount will be exchanged.
  • Official U.S. Treasury - FAQs: Portraits & Designs of Currency: Answers to questions including Why were certain individuals chosen to be pictured on our paper currency? What portraits are found on United States paper currency that is in circulation today? Whose portraits were included on currency notes that are no longer produced?
  • United States dollar - Wikipedia: Several countries use the U.S. dollar as their official currency, ... Over time, for convenience, the US currency symbol evolved as people would simply...
  • You may also be interested in's finance and investments section


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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

FAQ Disclaimer: All information provided in these FAQ’s is deemed to be accurate by the author.  Due care has been exercised to ensure the veracity of this information and guidelines. However, there may be error (s) and omission (s) and all information is subject to change., and its affiliates do not assume any liability for the information provided herein. The reader is strongly recommended to confirm this information from official sources.

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