Inside the money factory that prints $500 million every day
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is where the US dollar and US government treasuries have been printed for more than 150 years. DW paid a visit to the home of the Greenback and found little sign of the digital age.
The money factory
America's largest money factory, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), was first created in Washington in 1862. The entrance, with its bright, neoclassical limestone facade and huge columns, resembles a fortress.
The dollar clock
Around a million visitors per year pass by the printing rooms via a screened corridor. Wherever you are in the BEP building, you are reminded of the greedy demon Mammon, who clearly still rules here. Even this oversized clock is decorated with dollar bills.
All hail the mighty Greenback
The color green is perhaps one of the most important and oldest security features of the dollar bills. The color recipe is top secret and has been patented. Ed Mejia, who is one of just a few people who know it, takes care of the engraving process. His machine can create 10,000 sheets of dollars per hour — but makes a noise of about 95 decibels (about the same noise level as that of a drill).
Off to a vault to dry
Inspectors constantly monitor the quality of the print. As the notes need three days to dry, they are stored in a vault. In total, notes worth $560 million (€484 billion) are produced here every day. The costs for production and paper are 3.6 cents per dollar.
In the high-security area, a sign reminds staff that no-one is allowed to work alone. Incidentally, the average annual salary of BEP employees is $93,000. That's almost twice as high as the average US income.
The last stage on the way to becoming the world's leading currency is to assign each note its own serial number. The stamping machine for this is set by hand.
Ready for shipping
One more machine counts, sorts and bundles the $20, $50 and $100 bills. Ten bundles are shrink-wrapped in plastic. An employee collects the packages on a trolley, ensuring that the sticker with the unique serial number is showing. Until the dollars are delivered to the central bank and the serial numbers released, they are worthless.
Security above all else
The safety of the BEP's estimated 2,000 employees is paramount during the complex printing process. The presses can be switched off instantly by sensors or a red button.
As well as patrotism — the star-spangled banner is visible everywhere — the bureau's managers and staff are not above humor. Authors: Anja Steinbuch and Michael Marek.