One of the better attractions in Fort Worth, TX is not publicized, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing north of the city and north of the I-820 ring road on Blue Mound Road. Many locals are not aware that it’s here. In fact, when it first opened 30 years ago next year, many thought it was a prison, not a money factory. This Bureau of Engraving and Printing is one of only 2 facilities making what is called paper currency despite the fact that linen and cotton are used to make it. One often asked question about the currency made here is how long it lasts. The life span of a one dollar bill is 5.8 years. One “fun fact” I learned is that I can bend any bill backwards and forwards about 4,000 times before it will tear.
This Fort Worth money factory opens at 9 am most days for self-guided tours. If you don’t learn during it, you aren’t paying attention. I was a bit unhappy that I could not take photographs on this tour. In fact, I was not allowed to take out and use my cell phone either. But after I thought about what the men and women making money below who often waved to me were doing, I soften this attitude. In fact, I went back to the main desk to ask why they allowed me to see the currency making process at all and was told that the man who donated the land for this money-making facility insisted that ordinary citizens have the right to watch their money being made. There are 8 stops on the self-guided tour with packaging before sending to the Federal Reserve the final one.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing near Fort Worth is already bigger than the one in Washington, DC and will soon be the main one. Because the building the facility is in in Washington, DC can’t be expanded, a new one is being built in Beltsville, MD. It will offer no tours and be much smaller than the current Washington BEP, which will become a museum when its money-making function ceases. It will probably be another 3 years before this happens. The mint situation will not change. There are still 4 money factories making coins in San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia, and West Point, NY.
To stay ahead of counterfeiters, changes are made to each type of foldable currency every 5 years. The next to get a facelift will be the $100 bill. I asked which foreign countries cause our government the most headaches by counterfeiting and was told North Korea and Afghanistan lead the list. Ruth & I were very interested in this aspect of money making and paid close attention to the ways in which counterfeiters are thwarted. Changes are often made to the security thread, color-shifting ink is used, and the water mark is altered. Ruth has often demonstrated what she learned about foiling counterfeiters since our free tour of this Fort Worth bureau.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing didn’t exist until Abraham Lincoln needed a national currency to pay for the Civil War. Before 1861 paper money was made by private companies and about one-third of it was bogus. The Secret Service was later created to go after counterfeiters, and Lincoln’s last act as President was the sign the bill creating it.
I could go on indefinitely, but it’s better for you to go to Fort Worth yourself to learn about those aspects of money-making that have appeal. Start with the self-guiding tour, ask the friendly staff any questions that occur to you while on it or while browsing the interesting displays on the first floor.