Daily Picture Show

Where Does Money Go When It Dies?

We've all desperately tried to force a crumpled dollar bill into a vending machine to no avail. Fortunately, when your dollar is that decrepit, it's on death's door and will likely be removed from circulation.

The average lifespan of a $1 bill, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is 21 months. Eventually, money is destroyed — either by the Federal Reserve itself, or by the places that create it to begin with: the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the U.S. Mint. On average, 5 million unfit currency notes are destroyed each day.

1 of 8

View slideshow i

In the midst of America's debt ceiling dilemmas and budget binds, photographer Will Steacy wanted to get a closer look at the source: money. A few weeks ago, he got ahold of some bills that have been removed from circulation but not yet destroyed, and photographed them with a large-format film camera before returning them.

"The dollar, once a global staple, can be seen as a symbol of a slumping superpower as it struggles to compete against foreign currency like the euro and yuan," Steacy writes, "and the repercussions of the American-made financial crisis redefine the value of the dollar in a global economy."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.