Minting Money at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
March 1, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC, US – It used to be that becoming a millionaire was the pinnacle of success in America. Today, that notion seems almost quaint. The true zenith of financial triumph is not just making a million, but rather making millions of dollars in an instant. From tech IPOs to The Wolf of Wall Street, going from zero to millions in 60 seconds is in the zeitgeist.
If that kind of cash seems like a hard concept to wrap your mind around, you might want to take 40 minutes out of your day to tour the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC. This is literally where US currency is printed and produced. As you walk along the gallery overlooking the production floor, you can see millions of dollars being printed…in an instant!
We must say that getting to glimpse all that cash is kind of cool. The tour starts with a short introductory film, and then visitors are guided to watch as paper is dyed, cut, stamped, and transformed into (real!) bills. In the Bureau’s parlance, they’re called Federal Reserve Notes. The Bureau prints billions of dollars in currency each year to make sure enough is in circulation. (Eat your heart out, Jordan Belfort!)
They don’t make coins here (those are produced at the US Mint), so paper money is the focus. But when the tour is over, you can take a walk through the Visitor Center, where exhibits showcase historic notes and coins that are no longer in use. It’s pretty amazing to consider how much more a dollar was worth in the days of yore!
While the tour itself is quick, efficient, and free, snagging a ticket for the tour is more of a, well…, investment. Tickets must be picked up at the Bureau’s booth on Raoul Wallenberg (formerly 15th Street). The ticket booth opens weekdays at 8:00am, but lines usually start around 5:30am. Tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis and are often sold out by 8:30am (during Cherry Blossom season they sell out by 6:30am or 7:00am). One person can get up to four tickets, and they’re very strict about enforcing this.
It’s a system not even The Wolf of Wall Street could run a scheme on.
Read more about the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in our Washington, DC Guide.