I am in the midst of moving and my house is filled with empty boxes. Yesterday I was packing my book shelf and came across a book that my grandfather gave me more than thirty- four years ago. The book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, was popular at the time of my 22nd birthday in 1975. However, my busy college schedule kept me from reading it at that time. It was one of those things that stayed on my to-do list for weeks before it finally fell off.
Within the pages of my newly rediscovered book I found another pleasant surprise – a birthday card, a crisp new twenty dollar bill, and a hand written note from Gramps, “Stuart, I bet you can’t save this bill for the next 30 days.“
My grandfather died more that fifteen years ago. He was wonderful man and a major influence in my life. I am now finally reading one of his birthday gifts, and I am dedicated to saving the other two for my grandchildren.
I am curious to learn how my accidental savings efforts exceeded my grandfather’s 30-day wager. Can you tell me about how long an average twenty dollar bill usually lasts? Thank you.
Stuart S. – Muncie, IN
It sounds like your grandfather was a very wise man: not only did he give you a book that has become a classical examination of eastern and western philosophies, but he also offered you a very valuable personal challenge.
I first discovered Robert Pirsig’s masterpiece in 1977 and although I found it a difficult read at the time, it soon became one of my top five all -time favorites. The book has found its way to many bookshelves and its wonderful aphorisms have been extensively debated for the past three decades. But did you know that Pirsig’s classic has sold over 5 million copies in twenty-seven languages and was described by the press as “the most widely read philosophy book, ever”? It was originally rejected by 121 publishers – more than any other bestselling book.
As for your grandfather’s wager: It’s the Federal Reserve system that tracks the circulation of all bills in the American banking system. The Fed reports that the average lifespan of a $20.00 bill is about 24 months in the United States these days. Not at all the 30 days that your grandfather bet!
Other denominations and their average lifespan are:
- $1.00-21 months
- $5.00-16 months
- $10.00- 18 months
- $50.00-55 months (a little over 4.5 years)
- $100.00-89 months (about 7.41 years!)
Incidentally Stuart, If you are fascinated with the circulation of currency and the flow of money in America, you might want to visit Where’s George?. From this funky site you can learn to follow the travels of a selected bill as it moves throughout the nation’s economy.
Thanks for sharing your trip down memory lane. I wish you the best of luck.