The Real Reason the Dollar Bill Never Changes

Most denominations of U.S. currency have huge portraits of past American leaders on them, but there’s one exception: the single. The one-dollar bill has a relatively smaller picture of George Washington, but that’s hardly the only difference. The $100 bill is more colorful, has a watermark, and contains all sorts of designs throughout. The $20 bill features subtle background colors of green and peach, an embedded security thread that glows green when illuminated by UV light, a watermark, and a color-shifting numeral 20 in the lower right corner of the note. The $5, $10 and $50 all have similar features, and in the past two decades each as undergone a significant redesign. The one-dollar bill, on the other hand, hasn't changed since 1929. So, why hasn’t George gotten an upgrade? The decision to redesign paper currency stems from the security needs of a nation, specifically counterfeiting. Making fakes takes money and comes with considerable risk, but the drawback with smaller bills is that it would certainly draw attention if you bought a big-ticket item in cash using a huge wad of one-dollar bills. A stack of 100 one-dollar bills is nearly a half-inch thick, and $500 in singles would be a stack more than 2″ tall. Still, it’s vending machines that are the real reason the dollar bill has remained the same. Vending machine companies don’t want to spend the money to redesign their machines to recognize a redesigned dollar bill. Since counterfeiting of $1 bills isn’t a huge problem, the government hasn’t made updating the currency a priority.