Welcome to this travel blog which is inspired by the wandering clouds effortlessly gliding through distant lands. Sometimes almost still as if watching the beauty of the earth below and at times rushing to some place far away – as if on an endless travel mission. This is where I share my observations, experiences and thoughts gathered during my travels

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dollar Factory

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the US Department of Treasury prints the Federal Reserve Notes i.e. US dollar currency at two locations in the country, Washington D.C. and Fort Worth, Texas. We visited the facility at Fort Worth to see how billions of dollars in hard cash looked like in times of recession. Actually we were quite surprised to know that the facility is open to visitors since we do not know if similar facility in India is open to the public.

After going through standard security checks, we entered a lobby where there was a huge glass cube with one million dollars of hard currency stuffed inside. Gosh, looking at all that cash made me feel a little dizzy. As we turned away and began looking at other exhibits, we were ushered into a mini-theatre where they were about to screen a video documentary. The video was very informative and showed the history of currency making, how currency is printed, the crucial role played by the engravers, how the designs are prepared, the kind of ink and paper used, the various tests the currency notes are put through (like the laundry test where the notes are put through the laundry seven times to check if they survive), how they redeem currency that is completely mutilated, the things that are done to deter counterfeiting, how defective currency is identified and removed and how the notes become ‘real currency’ after one final step that takes place in Washington D.C. We were then taken on a tour of the facility. Through the glass paneled elevated walkway, we saw that the place looked like any other printing factory, just that what was being printed gave it an extra value. The notes were printed, cut, stacked, bundled and loaded into boxes meant to be dispatched to the D.C. facility. There were very few workers and they seemed to be going about their jobs in a matter-of-fact way. One of the workers standing next to a huge pile of notes scribbled a fat number and held it up for us to read. I could not even count the zeroes- but that was apparently the value of those green bills stacked next to him. We were told that the new ‘purple five’ dollar bill was being printed at the facility and if we looked more closely, we could see the identity of the Fort Worth facility printed on every such bill available. The tour lasted for about 45 minutes and we were then brought into another exhibit area. We were really impressed with the way the entire tour was organized and also the manner in which all the information was presented to visitors through interactive and interesting exhibits. On the way out, we stopped at the gift shop which sold interesting items like uncut sheets of dollar bills, shredded dollar bills besides the regular souvenirs like magnets and key-chains. We purchased a few souvenirs by paying cash (somehow did not feel like paying with plastic) and asked for a ‘purple five’ to be given as part of the change due.

We wondered in whose pockets would the billions of Federal Reserve Notes we had seen getting printed finally land. Hopefully, in the hands of those who have a rightful claim. In God We Trust!

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