Catherine Donovan: Why American Paper Currency is Green
When people look at American dollar bills, a common thought is "why are they green?" Although not an exact answer can be given, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has presented three reasons for the color choice. The simplest reason relates to the fact the green pigment which was used for large-sized banknotes was the most readily available color choice when small-sized banknotes were brought in to circulation in 1929. The second reason relates to the fact that America, when choosing the color of the currency, wanted to be represented as a strong state.
As is the feeling today, a state that has the reputation for being healthy is more likely to attract investors. It was thought that the color green represented strength and constancy. Finally, action had to be taken to prevent counterfeiting. The problem of counterfeiting dates back to the mid-1800's, consequently the same time that photography was becoming more accessible and popular. At that time, for the most part, banknotes were printed in black ink, with a tinge of color. Counterfeiters soon realized that the color on the banknotes could be erased. After the color was removed, the bills were photographed, multiplied, and then colored with the appropriate shade. It was found when developing permanent ink, that the shade of green was the least likely to be altered because it was the most resistant to chemical and physical changes. In 1876, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing took over the job of printing banknotes from private companies. The green color was kept for uniformity reasons, and then the color was retained for the long run since it had become the traditional color of the currency.
Information for this report was taken from two websites, which are maintained by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The sites' addresses are: http://www.bep.treas.gov/document.cfm/18/108 http://www.bep.treas.gov/document.cfm18/101