Treasurer and Bureau of Engraving
and Printing Sell Uncut U.S. Currency
In late November, a long line of people waited in
the auditorium of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Hanging on the wall was a banner emblazoned with the
statement, "We make money the old fashioned way,
we print it." The we might have referred either
to a bunch of counterfeiters or to the U.S. Bureau of
Engraving and Printing. With the appearance of U.S.
Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow, it was safe to assume
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) set up shop
at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston for a two-day
sale of sheets of uncut genuine currency. According
to the Bureau's Mary Halsall, the BEP tries to visit
the Federal Reserve Banks at a rate of three per year.
Their last visit prior to Boston was a successful turnout
For the currency connoisseur, most of the uncut bills
were Federal Reserve Bank of Boston issues. Boston Fed
issues carry the capital letter A (for Boston, the First
District) and the number 1. (Each of the 12 Federal
Reserve Districts is identified by its own letter and
number - A through L and 1 through 12.)
But don't expect to pay face value for the uncut sheets.
A sheet of four uncut dollar bills will cost you $11.50.
The markup helps cover the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's
overhead and production costs.
For some of the buyers, the uncut sheets will be used
as gifts for Christmas, birthdays, graduations, weddings,
and other occasions, especially for that hard-to-buy-for
person. Others will use them as customer incentives
and, of course, many simply want to add them to their
collection. But those who really want to show off will
wrap their gifts in uncut currency or maybe even use
the sheets to wallpaper a favorite room.
A typical buyer at the November sale in Boston was Coleen
Benson, an employee at the Boston Fed. "I bought
two sets of $1 sheets and one $5 sheet. The $5 sheet was
a Christmas gift for my grandfather. Watching him open
his gift and reading the personal note from Treasurer
Withrow wishing him a Merry Christmas was priceless. It
was the perfect gift for my hard-to-buy-for grandfather.
He has it hanging above the fireplace."
Will the uncut sheets increase in value? Perhaps. The
$1 bill may actually be worth more to collectors if the
Treasury eventually discontinues the paper dollar in favor
of a dollar coin. The reasoning behind replacing the dollar
bills with coins is cost. The dollar bill is the most
widely produced and quickly replaced bill, with a life
of about 17 months, whereas coins can last about thirty
years. Almost half of all the currency printed in fiscal
1996 - over four billion notes - was in $1 bill denominations.
Even though the Treasurer's signature is already printed
on every bill, people waited in long lines to get her
signature again, but this time, in person. On the first
day, Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow autographed as many
uncut sheets as time allowed.
The bestseller over the two days was the sheet of four
$2 notes, mainly for the uniqueness and the scarcity of
the Jefferson bill. "It's a bill you don't see every
day. I didn't even know they still made them," responded
a buyer. Others bought the $2 sheets because "it's
the most attractive of the bills," referring to the
portrait of the signing of the Declaration of Independence
on the back. Other top sellers were the sheets of four
and sixteen $1 notes.
President Clinton appointed Ms. Withrow as the 40th Treasurer
of United States in 1994. As Treasurer, she is responsible
for the operations of both the U.S. Mint and the BEP.
Treasurer Withrow holds the distinction of being the first
person to have held the post of Treasurer at all three
levels of government - local, state, and national.
How to Buy Uncut Currency
If you were not able to attend the sale, you can order
uncut currency by writing to:
Engraving and Printing
Mail Order Sales,
Room 515 M
14th and C Streets, SW
Washington, D.C., 20028
or by calling
(7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday-Friday).