“Money… it’s gas” - says an old song by Pink Floyd. Written more than 40 years ago, it still rings true today. Most of us have a desire to obtain money for the security and the possibilities it provides. Money is something, which can motivate or divide; it can be sexy, but it also can be the cause of some very destructive decisions and actions. Whatever shape or form it has, it is attractive to people all over the world. In Chicago there’s an actual Museum of Money – a place where you can touch and learn about this crucial element of our economy.
Hidden in The Loop, the Museum of Money offers much more than just a display of old coins. It provides information about counterfeit bills and lets you design you own currency as well. Most importantly, the Museum lets you experience the true value of money – why interest rates are important to the economy and how inflation affects our earnings. All of this is located in the south wing of the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago.
The visit is free of charge and can be started at any exhibit of the Museum – many people choose to watch a 10-minute movie about the role of the Federal Reserve. If the group asks, it can be shown with Polish subtitles – so don’t hesitate to visit if you or someone in your party doesn’t speak English.
If you start your trip at the north corner, you will pass 50 thousand dollars. Hidden in an old elevator shaft, this display is very “picture friendly”, especially to children. “They want that in their bedroom”, says Amy Ganser, Program Supervisor of the Museum.
The displays of old coins and bills are also very interesting, especially if you know what you are looking at. Make sure to stop and take a picture of the “The Grand Watermelon Bill” which is a thousand dollar bill with the zeros shaped as watermelons. “It’s from 1890 – says Amy Ganser – “A thousand dollar bill was a very large sum of money. If you were using them, you were living a grand lifestyle” – says the program supervisor. How much is it worth? - According to marshu.com this is the most expensive of US Paper Money – in 2006 it was estimated to be worth more than two million dollars.
One of the roles of the Federal Reserve is money shredding of the damaged and old currency taken out of circulation. Each day the Federal Reserve in Chicago shreds approximate 35 million dollars into little strips, rendering it useless. The Museum actually offers a display where visitors can virtually decide which bill is going to be destroyed. The interesting fact is what will happen after the shred– as Amy describes, “Each Federal Reserve is different. We are working with a company to compost it, so one day it turns into soil. The thing is, it does not turn into new currency”.
The Museum of Money is a trip for an entire family. When adults are learning about the power of inflation, kids can admire “the cube of cash” – a million dollars hidden in an oversized cube.
One of the most memorable displays is hidden behind the wall at the end of the tour – it’s a suitcase containing a million dollars. The Museum also offers a free picture at that display - just push a red button and smile with a million dollars by your side.
The Museum of Money is located in the Federal Reserve Bank in the Loop. It’s open Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. Not only is it free to the public, but it also gives away souvenirs – packages of shredded money. Each one contains approximate 364 dollars. It’s free! And it doesn’t happen often that someone gives you free money.
The Museum of Money in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
230 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago IL 60604