Money supply hundred dollar bills

Three Reasons You Might Want Hundred Dollar Bills

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 15, 2013    •    796 Views

At, you can enter the serial number of a $100 bill, your zip code and maybe even write WheresGeorge on the bill, and then send it on its way. Whenever its subsequent spenders note that serial number at with a zip code, the bill’s travels are noted. Between March 6, 2000 and May 17, 2013, a WheresGeorge $100 bill started out in California and returned 13 years later. With one user saying that the bill looked like it had been washed a few times and another reporting a hole in the word “united,” the list for this bill covered 12,798 miles.

The Travels of a $100 bill from Google maps and WheresGeorge.

The Travels of a $100 bill from Google maps and WheresGeorge.

Taking a trip abroad is not unusual for $100 bills.

Because a $100 bill is a pretty dependable piece of paper, you can place it under your mattress today and have almost the same spending power next year. Especially now with inflation at a rock bottom 1% annual rate, the dollar is a good store of value. In addition, low interest rates mean the opportunity cost (what you sacrifice by not lending it) of keeping cash is low.

Combine a stable US currency with low interest rates and you have the incentive to use $100 bills for business transactions and to hoard $100 bills at home wherever there is political and economic turmoil.  According to an economist at the Federal Reserve, close to 2/3 of all $100 bills are held outside the US.

The Federal Reserve’s annual money order reflects the skyrocketing demand for $100s:

Soaring demand for $100 bills.

Ultimately, though, there are just 3 reasons that US $100 bills are so popular. They are a universal medium of exchange, a clear yardstick of value and a secure store of value–the definition of any valid currency.

A final thought: Based on how we define money, can newly created virtual currencies like Bitcoin achieve widespread acceptability?
Sources and Resources: For tracking bills and other facts about the money supply, the Where’sGeorge website is fascinating while Federal Reserve Reports from  2013 and 2011 this print order  convey a wealth of information. And, as always, Planet Money can add something interesting on the topic.


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