A lot of things have been said about money, from being the root of all evil to being the means for doing good acts. There is family money, blood money, dirty money, laundered money – and in this list, some factoids about money that add a little more colour to the currency.
- When you file your taxes each year, you can take solace in knowing that the ritual dates back almost 5,000 years, to a time when Egyptians started paying taxes in goods and labor. Egypt and Mesopotamia began using silver and gold bars as currency, around 2500 B.C.
- Temples became the first banks because they were sturdy, frequently visited, and intimidating to would-be thieves.
- By 1750 B.C., Babylonian temple priests had branched out into issuing loans to locals.
- Founded in Italy as a pawnshop in 1472, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena is the world’s oldest surviving bank.
- Paper money originated in China in the year 910 and amazed Marco Polo when he visited three centuries later. He also noted that the emperor, Kublai Khan, seemed to be printing an awful lot of notes, which ultimately wrecked the economy. Due to skyrocketing inflation caused by churning out so much money, paper bills had to be abolished in China in the 15th century.
- The expense of the U.S. Civil War inspired the government to introduce paper “greenbacks” in July 1861.
- All the U.S. coins and bills in general circulation today have a total worth of about $829 billion.
- There is more cocaine residue on U.S. bills than on any other currency. Also found on money: staphylococcus bacteria and fecal matter.
- At the turn of the century, you could carry your cash to Washington, D.C., to have it washed, ironed, and reissued.
- The paper used for U.S. bills isn’t made from trees. Rather, it contains 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.
- To foil counterfeiters, the latest $5 bill design has an embedded security thread that contains more than 650,000 tiny glass domes, creating an optical illusion that the Mint hopes is impossible to duplicate.
- In 1949 Frank X. McNamara took friends to dinner in New York City but forgot to bring his cash. He vowed never again to be so embarrassed and so created the Diners Club Card, the first credit card.
- The Diners Club Card was initially made of cardboard. It listed the 14 participating restaurants on the back and had an annual fee of $3.
- Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron built the world’s first true ATM for a Barclay’s Bank in North London in 1967. The machine was based on the concept of a chocolate bar dispenser.
- Plastic cards did not yet exist, so Shepherd-Barron’s ATM accepted only checks laced with identifying traces of radioactive carbon-14. Once a distinctively radioactive check was detected, customers entered their four-digit PINs. Shepherd-Barron claimed users “would have to eat 136,000 checks” for the radioactivity to have any dangerous effects.