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How Money is Made: Lesson for Kids

Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Cori Hodges

Cori has degrees in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education and has taught lower elementary.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Do you ever get money for your birthday? Do you ever wonder where that money came from and how it was made? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more! Updated: 10/06/2020

Who Makes Our Money?

People use money every day, but we rarely take the time to really think about what goes into making the money in our wallets or the people who worked hard to make it. The U.S. Department of Treasury is the government body in charge of the production of money. It oversees two branches that produce the money. The U.S. Mint makes coins, while the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing makes paper money, or dollar bills. Now, let's explore the process of making money, from the design to the distribution.

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  • 0:04 Who Makes Our Money?
  • 0:36 Designing Money
  • 1:12 The Materials
  • 2:05 Making the Money
  • 2:51 Inspection and Circulation
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Designing Money

The U.S. Department of Treasury hires designers who create sketches and models of paper money and coins. After the designers submit their designs, the Secretary of the Treasury chooses one to be made into money, though there may be additional changes to come to a final design.

But why do we need new designs? As technology improves, it becomes easier for people to make their own fake money. The making of fake money is called counterfeiting, which is illegal. To cut down on counterfeiting, the government redesigns our money by adding new features.

The Materials

If you compare a dollar bill and a piece of computer paper, you'll notice they don't feel the same. That's because paper money is made out of a special blend of cotton and linen that makes it harder to counterfeit. The ink is also specially made by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. All paper money uses black and green ink, though some of the newer bills (in denominations of $10 and higher) also use metallic or color-shifting ink, which helps prevent counterfeiting.

Our coins are made of metal and alloy. This use of bi-metallic materials not only helps cut down on counterfeiting of coins, but it also reduces the cost of making coins. If a coin were made purely out of metal, it could be worth more than the face value. This might lead people to melt the coins and sell them as metals rather than using them as currency.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About How Money is Made for Kids:

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Make a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that depicts the branches of the US Department of Treasury and what kinds of currency they are in charge of.

Example: The US Mint oversees the making of coins.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:

Create a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that details the processes that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the US Mint use to make paper money and coins.

Example: Paper money must dry for 72 hours on each side.

List Prompt:

Make a list of at least five ways the Department of Treasury tries to prevent counterfeiting. You can refer to the lesson, but try to recall as many ways from memory as you can. At the top of your list, provide the definition of counterfeiting.

Example: Color-shifting ink.

Essay Prompt:

In at least three to five sentences, write an essay that describes how and why paper bills and coins are inspected. Also answer the following question: What can happen if a flawed coin sneaks past inspection?

Example: Flawed coins can end up being very valuable.

Design Prompt:

Pretend you have been commissioned by the Department of Treasury to design a new bill or coin. Make a drawing of what your new bill or coin will look like.

Example: You could re-design bills that are already in circulation (like the dollar bill or five-dollar bill), or you could create an entirely new type of bill, like a three-dollar bill.

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