Monday, June 18, 2012

The color of money. No I mean literally, the color of money.

You know how sometimes people use the term "green" to refer to money?  Surely this is only an American thing, because other countries have bills that are different colors, right?  Actually, I bet people from other countries are surprised to find out all denominations of American money are green.  Seriously, ALL of them are green?  (And the same size?)  That's weird. 

Or is it?  Well let's find out.  Here are (what I estimate to be) the top 10 currencies (based on the countries with the largest populations, and the fact that the euro is used in a bunch of countries) and, more importantly, the color(s).

Chinese yuan (aka RMB)
1 USD = 6.37 CNY
Image source.

Indian rupee
1 USD = 55.8 INR
Image source.

1 USD = 0.80 EUR
Image source.

United States
1 USD = 1 USD, duh.
Since 2004, the newer designs have been less green.  But if you asked any American to draw you a picture of money, they'd totally color it green.  I stand by my previous statement about the unique greenness of American money.
Image source.

Indonesian rupiah
1 USD = 9416 IDR
Image source.

Brazilian real
1 USD = 2.06 BLR
Before 2010.  Image source.

Released in 2010.  Image source.

Pakistani rupee
1 USD = 94.5 PKR
Image source.

Nigerian naira
1 USD = 163 NGN
Image source.

Russian ruble
1 USD = 32.9 RUB
(I'm getting a lot of search results which are images of coins- perhaps Russia likes their coins more than other countries do?)
Image source.

Bangladeshi taka
1 USD = 82 BDT
Image source.

Conclusion:  Money is totally not green.

And here's my disclaimer:  I am very familiar with the US and Chinese money, but know absolutely nothing about all the other ones on my list, so it's totally likely that I misrepresented them.  What if I've included a picture of a bill that's technically in circulation, but no one really uses it, like the US $2 bill?  Or what if there's some subtle thing I missed because I expect other countries to work the same as the US?  Like, I never ever would have expected that paper bills could be used rather than coins for values under a "dollar", until they were handed to me in a bank in Beijing 2 years ago.  (Yes.  A paper bill for 50 "cents" (5 mao) or 10 "cents" (1 mao).  Wild.)

If you have any fun facts about some of the currencies listed here, please do tell.  ^_^

Wikipedia pages:
List of circulating currencies
List of countries by population
United States dollar
Brazilian Real
Exchange rates
Currency Converter


  1. generally currencies are designed for use by people who are colorblind or blind, to encourage rapid differentiation, are easily sortable (hence the different sizes), to be machine readable, and to be resistant to damage. however, usa currency has existed in design much longer than most currencies (i believe this is because americans dislike change when tradition is involved). remember how much outcry there was when the reverse of the $5 bill had an oversized numeral 5 printed in purple? and again with the $20 redesign? our currency (I believe) is still not readable by touch like many other prominent currencies.

    1. Wow I hadn't even thought about that! It totally makes sense for bills to be different sizes, then.

    2. One of the many reasons coins are better than bills. I don't know about non-western currency, but America is behind the Canadians, Brits, and Europeans when it comes to having coins that are actually worth something. Sure we have dollar coins, but as long as dollar bills are in circulation, no one uses them.

    3. Also, the whole thing with the dime being smaller than the nickel and penny doesn't make sense. This becomes apparent when trying to explain it to a non-American.

      "Yeah, it's weird but that's just the way it is." Actually, no, other countries get along fine with their currency sizes actually making sense. -_-

    4. Michael GottliebJune 18, 2012 at 9:25 PM

      Yep, the US is pretty unorthodox as far as money goes. I would bet good money (ha.) that referring to bills as green is a very American thing. We've had some weird coins in the past too, like 3 and 20 cents, as well as gold coins meant for actual circulation. Until I got one I didn't realize how tiny they were - the $5 one was about as big as a nickel! And that was back when $5 was a good chunk of money.

      Oh, and you mentioned Russian coins - an interesting fact about those is that they make coins worth 1 and 5 kopeks (with a kopek being 1/100 of a ruble). That means they've actually been minting coins worth 0.03 cents! They're not used much in practice, obviously.