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US prints record amount of $50 bills as Americans began carrying more cash during pandemic

A $50 bill.
A $50 bill.

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed a record-breaking number of $50 dollar bills last year, with a total of more than 756 million banknotes printed, CNN is reporting.

This is the highest nominal value printed in one year for more than 40 years, amounting to about $37.8 billion if you add up all the $50 dollar bills printed.

In 2019, only 3.5% of U.S. banknotes were $50, compared to 8.5% in 2022.

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What is driving the increase in $50 bills?

Though the $50 bill has traditionally been a less popular note, the U.S. Federal Reserve Service is finding that people have started saving more money, and that it's more convenient to save larger bills. During the pandemic, Americans began carrying more cash, so the Fed decided to raise the rate of $50 bills, printing 756,096,000 in 2022.

Before the pandemic, the $50 bill was one of the rarest bills ordered in recent years, with the exception of the $2 bill. But in 2021 and 2022, the Fed ordered more $50 bills than $10 and $5.

50 dollars in woman's hands
50 dollars in woman's hands

According to data reported by CNN, Americans use less cash for daily purchases and hold more cash than pre-pandemic levels.

The Federal Reserve doesn't print money. It estimates demand and orders currency from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, while the U.S. Mint produces coins. Currency orders are now primarily driven by the need to replace damaged notes, and the average lifespan of a $50 bill is 12.2 years, according to the Fed.

According to the Federal Reserve's 2024 order, they plan to print a range of roughly 99 to 211 million $50 bills, which is less than a third of what was printed in 2022. However, a report from the San Francisco Fed suggests that American households still have high levels of cash holdings compared to pre-pandemic times.

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There is a common superstition surrounding the $50 bill

Some people avoid handling $50 bills due to superstitions about bad luck.

Although there are various explanations regarding the origin of the superstition surrounding the $50 bill, there is no concrete evidence that the bill itself is the cause of bad luck. The belief has originated among gamblers and individuals involved in illegal activities who preferred to use a smaller denominations of bills.

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Appearance of Ulysses S. Grant on the bill

A patch of light hits the statue of the 18th U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC.
A patch of light hits the statue of the 18th U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The $50 bill has an interesting characteristic that has led to the belief in its curse. The 18th U.S. president, Ulysses S. Grant, is featured on the bill. Some people associate Grant with bad luck and disappointment, and they believe that has cursed the bill.

Grant was a respected military general and played a significant role in the post-Civil War era during his presidency.

Superstitions surrounding money are often derived from cultural and historical factors rather than concrete evidence, even though theories may offer exciting explanations for the perceived curse of the $50 bill.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US prints record amount of $50 bills in 2022