Field Trip to the Money Factory
Date: September 13, 2011
Place: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington DC
Interview: Brian Thompson, Banknote Designer and Dixie March, Script Engraver
It takes one person to spend money, but many people to create money. These are the people from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, also known as the Money Factory.
Meet Brian. He's one of the Banknote Designers at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Brian Thompson, Banknote Designer:
My job is to design United States currency.
One thing about being a bank note designer is it's 98% thinking. You have to think about what you're going to do and think about what's going to work when it gets on the press. The easiest approach when designing, it's a big puzzle. You take different pieces and aspects of America or different things and piece it together almost like one united, almost like a story.
Different icons, such as the eagle, because I know we hand draw those and to end up seeing those on a note is pretty awesome, because you know, it's like your artwork is all over the world.
Once the design team has finalized the design, steel plates need to be created for the printing press.
This is Dixie. She's a script engraver and puts the finalized design into steel.
Dixie March, Script Engraver:
If you notice your money it has lettering on it and it also has numerals on it to denote the denomination. While we have designers that pick up and make designs, my job is to interpret their designs in steel.
Sitting and cutting script, because it's very rhythmical. You're just looking in your die through your glass and twirling the die around and cutting it.
There's not too many artists that could say that they've had their work replicated billions of times.
Once the plates are created, the money starts being printed. Blank currency sheets are brought in. First, the background images are printed. Then presses print the backs of the notes and then the faces of the notes. The final step is the printing of the serial number and Treasury and Federal Reserve seals.
Once the bills are printed, they're cut and packaged into "bricks." The completed loads are transferred and securely stored in the Federal Reserve Vault.