The poor economy may be liberating ‘mattress money’

When it comes to currency, I have a special interest in $100 bills, and my interest was piqued anew after the owner of a 24-hour store shared with me an observation of his.

Not only are $100 bills nice to have in hand, but my move to Washington, D.C. in 1995 for what was to be a year or two as a temporary employee of the Treasury Department made them the source of my income for quite a while.

I went there to create and oversee a $26 million international public education campaign that introduced to the world our nation’s first newly designed note–the one with the big heads–since 1928.

It was a huge and rewarding challenge.

Although you may not know or recall, the new currency was designed (at a cost of just under 5 cents a note) to deter counterfeiters.

Numerous features (not all of them disclosed) were added to the notes toward that end, and my campaign had a goal of smoothing the transition from the old ones to the new while letting the public all over the world learn how to discern whether a bill was authentic.

I remained in D.C. to oversee the debut of the $50 and then $20 notes, subsequently backed into real estate there, built a team and returned “home” to Manhattan when I could not longer stand being away.  (I was born and reared in suburban Boston.)

New designs have since been issued with even more sophisticated features.

A new $100 note was to be released last April, but the Federal Reserve (which contracts with the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing to produce our currency) announced in October that up to 30 percent of $1.1 billion was flawed.  Try multiplying that by five cents or, by now, probably more.

In any case, I decided to write this post after a conversation I had with the owner of a store that I frequent, Barzini’s, when I noticed a cashier holding a $20 note up to the light.

Jerry Barzini counts the cash, and he noticed a trend soon after the economy fell into the Great Recession.  As he told me:

I see more and more old money coming into the business.

Virtually all denominations of notes with the small heads show up regularly, more than a couple a day, he related.  In his view, customers had been collecting the money as way of saving.  Said he:

They had hopes of buying something better.  People are digging into their piggybanks.  The main reason is the bad economy.

Jerry would be the first to tell you that he is no expert on the subject.  At this point, neither am I.  Were I still a traditional journalist, I’d do more research and more interviews about mattress money today, but his observations struck me as being on the mark.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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