Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Letter On The Dollar

The capital letter beginning the serial number, which is also shown in a little seal, used to fascinate me as a child. You could tell which Federal Reserve Bank had printed the note - where it had come from. A was Boston, by far the most numerous; B New York, C Philadelphia, etc. We seldom saw anything else up here in NH. To see a J, Kansas City, or an L, San Francisco, was a rarity. Money didn't move about the country as much as it does now. I didn't have an internet to look up the information on then, so I wondered where I or K came from. Someone at a bank or a coin shop could probably have told me, but I wanted to discover them on my own. I didn't know E was Richmond until I went to college in Williamsburg. I didn't know K was Dallas until just now.

How had the bill migrated this far, I wondered. What wild chain of events could have moved money from Minneapolis to here? Such things are unremarkable now. I have no interest in "Where's George," following the current travels of a bill, because the many possibilities are too easy to see now. In 1964, a bill coming from Atlanta, Georgia might as well have come from Tbilisi, Georgia.

Did the five-dollar bill have the same letter codes? Probably, but fives were as rare as bills with a G then. I first carried a twenty of my own in 1970 (two, actually), to pick up my tux for the Junior Prom.


Anonymous said...

When I was a paper boy in 1970. I collected an A-L set of dollar bills just to see if I could. Seemed like I was collecting about $75/week from my customers ($60 of that went to the newspaper). Even so, it took about 3 weeks to collect the 'set'. For me it seemed like Phil, NY & especially Boston were hard to get in Terre Haute, IN.

Anonymous said...

I believe the letter designations indicate which Federal Reserve Bank ordered the notes, or received them. Paper currency is physically printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at only two locations - Wash DC and Ft. Worth.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Would it have been distributed from the FR Bank?

Anonymous said...

I had to post just to make sure I could tell you the letter verification - unhedi. Don't tell you daughter-in-law.

When they came out with the state series for the quarters, I thought I was good if I had one of each. Then I realized that we still had the pesky "D" and "P", so you needed two of each! I stopped after a while.

Donna B. said...

I was also going to the junior prom in 1970. And driving a Datsun station wagon with no A/C or radio. What I remember most about a $5 bill is that I got change from one when filling up that car.

OBloodyHell said...

> Money didn't move about the country as much as it does now.

And less, in some ways, with debit cards, than it has in the moderately recent past.

For a few decades, you would carry a fair amount of cash about the country with you as you travelled (assuming you didn't get cashier's checks), but nowadays, you're likely to have a couple hundred on hand, *maybe*, and the rest will go on the cards -- even if you're a "cash" kinda person, a debit card makes a lot more sense for most things and is just as easy as using a credit card.

OBloodyHell said...

> What I remember most about a $5 bill is that I got change from one when filling up that car.

But you forget that it took a lot more work to get the $4 to fill the tank than it does to get the $20 it takes to fill the tank now.


I forget the dates, but what was the minimum wage, then? $1.33? Now it's over $6.50, and probably really more than $7, depending on where you live... And you're really a lot more likely to be making a hell of a lot more than minimum if you have any skills at all.

I had a great busboy job in 1975 at one point, and was making more per hour (about $10) than my mother was as an experienced bookkeeper. I don't see that as as likely now as it was, then.