Here's a rough draft. Things that need to be added? More snark to put in?
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies.
--The Gift of the Magi
, O. Henry[[hottip:*:published 1906, the last 3 cent pieces were 1889 and it's conceivable some were still circulating]]
The spread of American media and American influence has made American currency at least somewhat well-known in many places. A quick review, which ignores coins made, at higher than their face value, for collectors:
- Cents. A hundred of these make up a dollar. The coins themselves are often called pennies (never "pence"), but prices are still in "cents". These used to be made of solid copper but increasing copper prices (and pressure from the zinc industry) resulted in a change to zinc with copper plating in 1982. Most vending machines won't accept them and they are nearly worthless but they are handy in making change (note that tax in the US is added to the sale price, resulting in uneven totals) and there's no real sign of them going away.
- Nickels (5 cents). The nickel is only about 25 percent nickel.
- Dimes (10 cents). Smaller than the nickel. Contained silver up to 1964.
- Quarters (25 cents). Contained silver up to 1964.
- Half dollar (50 cents). Contained silver up to 1970. Generally not accepted by vending machines and rarely seen in circulation.
- Dollar coins. In general circulation up to the 1930's (silver), then not until the Eisenhower dollar in the 1970's (not silver). The modern size of dollar coin was introduced with the Susan B. Anthony coin in 1979, which was reviled for looking almost exactly like a quarter. Current dollar coins are gold-colored and easier to distinguish, but remain unpopular, appearing mostly in post office and subway vending machines.
Banknotes: We could get into great detail about how banknotes have changed in design. Most of this will be useless information to you. The dominant color on them is still green, but shades of color were added when they were redesigned in the mid-2000's (except for the $1 bill). Banknotes contain anti-counterfeiting strips which, of course, led to a conspiracy theory on The X-Files: Fight the Future
- 1 dollar; The most common bank note.
- 2 dollars: The two dollar bill is a common butt of jokes and is almost never seen in the wild. Stories of stores believing they are fake turn up every so often, with varying degrees of dubiousness.
- 5 dollars.
- 10 dollars.
- 20 dollars.
- 50 dollars.
- 100 dollars. The highest denomination in circulation.