Print Friendly

Consumer Information

Circulation of money

The amount of U.S. currency and coin in circulation increased dramatically during the 20th century, as the table below shows. (Figures are from Treasury Department publications.)


Amount of currency in circulation
(in millions)

June 30, 1910


June 30, 1920


June 30, 1930


June 30, 1940


June 30, 1950


June 30, 1960


June 30, 1970


June 30, 1980


June 30, 1990


June 30, 2000


June 30, 2010


Over the past 20 years, the amount of Federal Reserve notes in circulation has grown by about $700 billion, as the chart below illustrates.

Value of Currency in Circulation

Interactive chart: Click and drag your cursor over a date range to zoom in on an area of the chart. A double click on the chart will return the view to normal. Click on a currency amount in the legend box to toggle the corresponding chart figures off and on.

Note: Includes Federal Reserve notes, U.S. notes, and currency no longer issued. Excludes the dollar value of denominations larger than the $100 note.
Source: Federal Reserve Board

As of October 2011, approximately $1.04 trillion worth of U.S. currency was in circulation, of which $1 trillion was in Federal Reserve notes. The Federal Reserve estimates that as much as two-thirds of the total value of U.S. currency is held outside the United States.

How money circulates

The amount of currency in circulation depends on demand. Each year, the Federal Reserve Board estimates the public's demand for new currency in the upcoming year and submits a print order to the BEP. The order includes estimated changes in currency usage and the destruction rate of unfit currency. The Federal Reserve pays the BEP the cost of printing new currency. It also arranges for and pays for transporting the currency from the BEP facilities in Washington, D.C., and Fort Worth, Texas, to all Reserve Bank cash offices. When the cash offices receive the currency, they then distribute it to commercial banks, savings and loan associations, and other depository institutions. Customers of these institutions withdraw cash as they need it. After people spend their cash—whether at department stores, grocery stores, and so on—retailers and others redeposit most of it with the banks. When banks have more cash than they need to meet customer demand, they deposit the excess with the Fed.

The Federal Reserve's role in coin operations is more limited than its role in cash operations, as the United States Mint is the issuing authority for coins. Reserve Banks distribute new and circulated coins to depository institutions to meet the public's demand, and take as deposits coins that exceed the public's needs.

When money wears out

Worn money

Money wears out from handling and is sometimes damaged. Banks send old, worn, torn, or soiled notes to their Federal Reserve Bank to exchange them for new bills. The Reserve Banks sort the money they receive from commercial banks to determine if it is fit or unfit. If the money is fit, the Reserve Banks store it in their vaults until it goes out again through the commercial banking system. Reserve Banks destroy unfit currency and return damaged and worn coins to the Treasury.

Redeeming damaged money

You can redeem mutilated currency either by mail or in person at the Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing. When you submit mutilated currency, you should include a letter describing the estimated value of the currency and how the currency was damaged. An experienced mutilated currency examiner carefully researches each case. The time it takes to process each case varies with its complexity and the examiner's workload.

For information on how to submit a claim, visit the Treasury Department's Mutilated Currency web page.

The redemption value of mutilated coins depends on their type, denomination, and extent of mutilation. The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia handles the redemption of mutilated coins. Coins that are merely bent or worn slick through natural wear are not considered mutilated and are exchangeable at full face value.