Every year, the federal government prints millions of notes a day. Here’s a fast look at what go into producing a $20 bill and also what determines once a bill’s expectation ends.1


A $20 bill starts the end life as part of a big sheet that paper. While most document is made mostly from wood pulp, the file used through the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and also Printing doesn’t contain any kind of wood in ~ all. Currency record is written of a distinct blend the 75% cotton and 25% linen. It’s made through special watermarks and has blue and red fibers installed in it together with a special defense thread.2,3

Each empty sheet is tracked from the moment it leaves the mill until it is printed, and also the entire shipment is consistently reconciled to make particular all room accounted for.4


These blank sheets the cotton and also linen file get printed 4 times. Background images and colors are printed — both political parties at when — using offset presses that space over 50 feet long and also weigh over 70 tons. After dry for 72 hours, the portraits, vignettes, scrollwork, numerals, and also letters are published on the back using Intaglio presses that are a only 40 feet long and also weigh only 50 tons. After drying for one more 72 hours — in unique guarded cages — more portraits, vignettes, scrollwork, numerals, and also letters are published on the front using the Intaglio presses. Finally, the serial numbers, federal Reserve seal, Treasury room seal, and also Federal to make reservation identification numbers are published using a letterpress.5

Cutting and Wrapping

Once dry, these printed sheets are gathered in stacks of 100 come be reduced by a specially designed guillotine cutter. Each new stack the 100 $20 receipt is wrapped through a special file band. Ten of these 100-note stacks are gathered, maker counted, and shrink-wrapped into a bundle. Then, 4 of these shrink-wrapped bundles room collated together, given a special barcode label, and also shrink covering again to produce a brick of 4,000 bills, worth $80,000.6

Distribution and also Circulation


The Treasury room ships these recently printed $20 bills to the federal Reserve Banks, who consequently pay them out to banks and savings and also loans—primarily in exchange for old, worn-out bills. The brand-new bills room handed out to customers of these establishments as they withdraw cash, either through tellers or through automated novelist machines.7

An typical $20 bill will change hands often, yet even the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and also Printing isn’t certain how numerous times a invoice will relocate from one bag to the next. Contrary to well-known belief, the government doesn’t have any means to track individual bills.

There is a polyester security thread installed in the file that runs vertically up one next of each bill. If you look closely, the initials USA TWENTY along with the bill’s denomination and a tiny flag room visible follow me the thread indigenous both sides of the bill. This object makes money more complicated to counterfeit, but cannot it is in tracked electronically.8


Banks gather worn out and also damaged currency, sending out it to the federal Reserve in exchange for brand-new bills. The commonwealth Reserve climate sorts through these bills to determine which are still usable and also which space not. Those bills deemed usable are stored until they have the right to go the end again through the commercial banking system. Those understood no longer usable are cut into confetti-like shreds. Many are climate disposed of; a small portion is sold in five-pound bags v the Treasury’s website.9

1. Federal Reserve, 2019 2. Office of Engraving and Printing, 2019 3. Federal Reserve, 2019 4-6. Bureau of Engraving and also Printing, 2019 7. Federal Reserve, 20198.

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Office of Engraving and Printing, 2019 9. Federal Reserve, 2019