Michael Lambert, associate director for the U.S. Currency Program at the Federal Reserve Board, discusses how the annual order for new currency is determined.
Get a brief overview of U.S. currency, including the denominations and series in circulation, as well as the design process.
In order to finance the Civil War, Congress authorizes the U.S. Department of the Treasury to issue non-interest-bearing Demand Notes. These notes earn the nickname “greenbacks” because of their color. All U.S. currency issued since 1861 remains valid and redeemable at full face value.
Congress authorizes a new class of currency, known as “United States notes,” or “Legal Tender notes.” These notes are characterized by a red seal and serial number. They continue to circulate until 1971.
By 1862, the Demand Notes incorporate fine-line engraving, intricate geometric lathe work patterns, a U.S. Department of the Treasury seal, and engraved signatures to aid in counterfeit deterrence. To this day, U.S. currency continues to add features to deter counterfeiting.