You don’t have to be a student of Karl Marx to be fascinated with the mystery of money, that abstract representation of human activity you can carry in your pocket. And it seems all the more mystical after a visit to one of the few places in the world where you can see money being made in the literal sense — the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
During the Bureau’s 45-minute tour, you’ll see millions of dollars’ worth of ones, fives, tens, twenties, fifties, and hundreds rolling off the presses. (The Bureau prints about $700 million in notes every day.) You’ll learn about all the security features designed to foil counterfeiters—the cotton/linen paper, the special inks, the watermarks, the embedded metallic security thread—and you can measure yourself against a ruler that tells you how many $100 bills it would take to match your height. Five feet ten inches is worth about $1.6 million.
Finally, on the way out you can have your mind blown again by paying $33 for a sheet of 16 uncut $1 notes, among many other items for sale. For more, visit www.moneyfactory.gov.
During peak season, from March through August, the Bureau requires a free ticket to take its tours. The ticket booth opens at 8 a.m. and most days all of the tickets are gone by 8:30 a.m.. So get there early. In really busy times, like the first two weeks of April, the line forms as early as 5:30 a.m. The US Bureau of Engraving and Printing is served by Metrorail, Metrobus, the DC Circulator, and the Old Town Trolley.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Hours: Visitor Center Hours of Operation (March through August): 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Tour Hours of Operation (March through August):
Visitor Center Hours of Operation (September through February): 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Tour Hours of Operation (September through February):
The Tour and Visitor Center is closed on weekends, federal holidays, and the week between Christmas and New Years Day.
Admission: Admission is free, however tickets are required March through August. The Ticket Booth opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes when all tickets have been distributed.
Parking: Some metered parking is available on side streets. There are parking lots at 14th and D Streets, SW; 12th Street and Maryland Avenue, SW; and 12th and C Streets, SW.
Metrorail: Blue and Orange Line to the Smithsonian stop.
Old Town Trolley Tour