Most people probably don’t give it much thought, but there’s actually a lot of fascinating history behind the paper currency. Stay with us as we dive into the surprisingly compelling world of money!
What Is Money Made Of Today?
The US dollar is made of 75% cotton and 25% linen, while Australian banknotes are made of polymer. This makes them much more durable and long-lasting than traditional paper bills.
Interestingly, the Philippines use a unique material for their currency — 80% cotton and 20% abaca. Abaca is a type of banana plant known for its sturdy fibers, which makes it perfect for banknotes.
So, if you’ve ever asked yourself is money made from trees, the answer is no. As it happens, it’s made of shrubs!
10 Mind-Blowing Stats and Facts About Paper Money
Think you know everything about paper money? Check out these mind-blowing stats and facts about paper money and see how much you really know!
1. The first banknotes in the world were made of paper.
(Guinness World Records)
The first paper money appeared in China during the Tang Dynasty. These notes, known as “Jiaozi,” could be exchanged between individuals for coin-based money.
However, due to inflation, “Jiaozi” was replaced with another note called “Huizi,” which was printed by the government.
2. The US dollar is made of 75% cotton and 25% linen.
What is American money made of? A blend of cotton and linen. The specific proportions vary depending on the currency, but it’s typically about 75% cotton and 25% linen.
This combination makes paper money both durable and able to be printed in large quantities. The ink used on paper money is also specially formulated to resist fading over time.
There is currently about $2.2 trillion in circulation across the US.
3. Euro banknotes are made of pure cotton paper.
What is paper money made of in Europe? Euro banknotes are made of pure cotton paper. That’s why they have a unique feel. They also contain color-shifting ink. So, the next time you hold €50 in your hand, tilt it, and you’ll notice how the value numeral changes its color from purple to olive green.
4. The South African rands (ZAR) are printed on a cotton substrate.
(South African Reserve Bank)
What is money made of in South Africa? All banknotes are printed on a cotton substrate.
Before 1990, ZARs contained only figures of the apartheid regime. Today, the banknotes contain photos of the country’s wildlife (rhinoceros, elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard) and pictures of the country’s former president, Nelson Mandela.
Fun fact: the commemorative 100 banknote features a prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.
5. What is money made of in the Philippines? 80% cotton and 20% abaca.
(The Culture Trip)
The six different Philippine banknotes in circulation are the 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 peso bills. All of these colorful notes contain images that represent significant people or events from Philippines history alongside picturesque views, including its endemic fauna & flora species.
6. Indian rupees are made of 100% cotton.
What is money made out of in India? The cotton fiber in Indian currency notes is combined with a solution of gelatin that makes them last longer. Moreover, Indian rupees are different than other countries’ banknotes because they have many security features.
Nine, to be exact: security thread, watermark, micro-lettering, latent image, identification mark, intaglio printing, color-changing ink, see-through register, and fluorescence.
7. Australia was the first country to introduce polymer banknotes in 1988.
What is money made of in Australia? While they might look like they were made of plastic due to their waxy feel, Australian dollars are made of polymer. In fact, The Land Down Under was the first country that made polymer banknotes.
8. The British pounds are made of 100% polymer.
(Bank of England)
With over £70 billion worth of banknotes in circulation, the British pound is one of England’s most valuable commodities. What is money made of in the UK? 100% polymer.
Polymer banknotes have many advantages over other types of currency. Their surface is very smooth and durable, making them less susceptible to dirt or wear-and-tear from handling.
They can also withstand extreme temperatures without sustaining damage as paper does.
9. Canadian dollars are made of a plastic-like polymer.
(Bank of Canada Museum)
What is Canadian money made of? Before 2011, Canadian dollars were made of cotton-based paper. Today, they make them from a plastic-like polymer because it lasts longer, has more security features, and is recyclable.
Canadian dollars are also unique because they have a vertical format. Only three other countries have vertical banknotes — Israel, Venezuela, and Switzerland.
10. The Central Bank of Egypt launched its first polymer banknotes in 2021.
Egyptian pounds that were initially made of cotton will now be replaced with polymer since it’s a more durable material. Fun fact about Egyptian notes? They are bilingual, i.e., they have an Arabic face and an English face.
How Long Can Money Last?
Now that you know what kind of paper is money made out of, let’s see what’s its estimated lifespan.
11. A $100 bill can last for up to 22.9 years.
The lifespan of Federal Reserve notes varies depending on their purpose. For example, denominations like $100 are often used as a store-of-value and will thus last longer than lower valued ones such as $5, which were designed to be spent more frequently in transactions.
12. The estimated lifespan of a $1 bill is 6.6 years.
At the same time, a $5 note can last up to 4.7 years, while a sawbuck ($10) has an estimated lifespan of 5.3 years. Next, a $20 bill will last 7.8 years, and a $50 one can last up to 12.2 years.
13. The average lifespan of an Australian dollar ranges between 5 and 15 years.
What material is money made of in Australia? Polymer. As mentioned before, Australia was the first to develop polymer banknotes.
A $5 polymer banknote can last up to five years, as well as a tenner. The $20 banknote has an average lifespan of 10 years, while a $50 bill can last 15 years.
14. How to preserve paper money? Store it in a cool, dry place.
Bankruptcy is not the only thing that can destroy your hard-earned cash. Paper money can also be damaged by humidity, air pollution, and salt air. To prevent this from happening, place your money in protective holders or albums and keep them away from direct sunlight. Thank us later.
Now that you know how money is made, next time you’re looking at your bills, take a moment to appreciate the textile make-up of our currency. And if you’re ever feeling low on cash, just remember: at least your money isn’t all made out of paper!
Is money actually made of paper?
While paper money was indeed made out of paper in the past, today it’s made of cotton, linen, or polymer. For example, the US dollar is printed on special paper different from the traditional paper.
Namely, while the traditional paper is made of wood pulp, the currency paper is made of 75% cotton and 25% linen.
At the same time, banknotes can also be made out of polymer, like BOPP (biaxially oriented polypropylene).
Is money made out of trees?
Money might “grow on trees,” but it’s not made of trees but shrubs. Given that paper made of wood pulp is not very durable, the Benjis in your wallet are made from a legally-protected mixture of fiber and cotton.
That said, more and more countries, starting from Australia, are moving to banknotes made out of entirely synthetic compounds, such as a polymer.
Why? Because the polymer is resistant to water, it’s dirtproof, recyclable, and more durable.
Why is money made of cotton?
First of all, it’s cheaper to make money from cotton. Secondly, unlike traditional paper that’s made out of cellulose, cotton paper is more durable and it’s unaffected by water. For example, if you put a tenner into a washing machine, it won’t disintegrate.
And lastly, cotton money has a flexible, soft structure. Therefore these banknotes are easy to fold, and they are less slippery, making them suitable to store and carry.
What is U.S. money made of?
The almighty American dollar is made of 75% cotton and 25% linen. Denominations of $5+ also have built-in security threads and watermarks, while a C-note ($100) has a highly advanced level of security — a 3-D security ribbon (6mm wide) woven into the paper.
All banknotes have green ink on their backs and black ink on their faces. Now that you know what is money made of in the States, you should also know that each bill has its own unique design, images, and symbols.