Looking at U.S. currency is like taking a mini-lesson in U.S. history, as the bills bear likenesses of men who played important roles in American history.
The United States began issuing paper money in 1861. Most of the current designs were adopted in 1928, with the designs updated in recent years to combat counterfeit currency. Currency is manufactured by the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving, while coins are produced by the U.S. Mint; both agencies operate under the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The $1 bill is the most common. It features a portrait of George Washington, the nation’s first president, on the front, and a picture of the Great Seal on the reverse. The $2 bill is the least common. It bears a picture of Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence and was the third president, on the front, and a picture of the Declaration’s signing on the back. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president during the Civil War, is on the $5 bill’s front and his memorial on the back. Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the Treasury, is on the $10 note, with the Treasury Building on the reverse.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president known as Old Hickory, is on the $20 bill, with the White House on the back. Ulysses S. Grant, a Union general and U.S. president, is on the front of the $50 bill, with the Capitol on the back. Benjamin Franklin, an inventor and Founding Father, is on the $100 bill with Independence Hall on the back.
Places to change money in the United States are not as available as they are in other countries. Vendors in major airports can change money, but do not give very good exchange rates. Currency exchange bureaus are not very common, and most hotels do not change money for their guests. The best place to change money in the United States is at major banks, as smaller banks usually don’t handle foreign currencies except for Canadian. International travelers should also be able to get money through any bank’s ATM machines.