Secret Hidden Symbols in US Dollars

Let's investigate the hidden secrets in US dollar notes!


Have you ever stared at the strange illustrations on U.S. Dollars and wondered why they exist? It's the most important currency in the world but few actually take a moment to contemplate the reasons behind these markings and the secrets they are hiding.

Let's take you through an in-depth look at the most significant hidden secrets in this often overlooked piece of paper.

Dollars in Detail: Front Side

Let's start off with the one dollar note - its obverse or 'front' side has many similar symbols that are carried forward to notes of other values.

Each front side has two signatures, the first is the signature of the treasurer of the United States, as indicated underneath. The second is the signature of the secretary of the treasury, accompanied by a marking indicating what year that particular dollar design originated.

Just above it is the treasury department seal, which authenticates the note. On closer inspection you'll notice a balance, which indicates justice, a key, which indicates trust, and an inverted V shape, known as a chevron, which has 13 stars within it.


That number 13 is a recurring theme which will be investigated in this article. Just above this seal is the name of the capital city and just above that is the unique serial number of that precise note.

This number is also copied on the opposite side of the note and at the front of it is a letter. The shrewd amongst you will notice that this letter also features inside the seal above.


This is the Federal Reserve seal and if you're interested in knowing which federal reserve bank printed your bill you can either check out the writing at the bottom of the seal, find out from the letter in the middle or refer to the numbers scattered around the note.

The letters and numbers correspond to different locations as shown below. Right above this is the obligation clause, stating that "this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private".


Portrait of George Washington

In the middle is good old George Washington, the first president. This picture was modelled off Gilbert Stuart's portrait of him in 1796 but it was reversed due to the engraving processes.

The portrait is supported by bay laurel leaves, which represent status like back in ancient Greece, and they also appear to be budding, indicating that the US is 'yet to bloom'.


Note Position and Plate Identifiers

The two last things of the front side are these letters and numbers in red. The one to the left is called the note position identifier, indicating where on the plate the note was printed.

The one to the right is the Face Plate number, indicating the number of the plate from which the bill was printed.


Those are the pretty standardised markings, and other note values have the same markings, but different figures appear in the middle like Lincoln on the five-dollar bill and Franklin on the 100-dollar bill.

They're also arranged slightly differently and have some additional design details, but these symbols are the basis for the front side of dollar notes.

The Reverse Side

On the reverse, back side of the note you will notice that it attempts to encapsulate the ideologies of the new nation that the founding fathers wanted to preserve following the declaration of independence.

In the centre you'll see the official US motto 'in God we trust' that was adopted in 1956. The two circles you see on either side are the two halves which make up the great seal.


Why are there two halves? Well, back then 'pendant' seals, which are basically wax discs attached to official documents with a chord, were still widely used and had a different design on either side.

The details contained in each of these designs are highly contested, and all you national treasure fans might dispute everything explained below.

The Bald Eagle

Let's start with the heraldic Bald Eagle, which you'll also notice is printed in purple on the five-dollar bill. In front of the eagle is an unsupported shield which symbolizes the fledgling country's ability to stand on its own.

The eagle is biting on a ribbon which has the phrase 'E Pluribus Unum' engraved on it. That means 'out of many - one' in Latin.


Above the eagle's head is a load of stars in what's known as a 'glory' - a feature that's made to look like it's bursting out of a cloud, symbolising a new nation led by God.

The eagle is holding a set of arrows showing its readiness to fight and an olive branch, which signifies peace. The fact that the eagle's head points towards the olive branch signifies that the United Stated of America prefers peace to conflict.


The Pyramid and Floating Eye

Now, onto the other, more controversial seal. The pyramid is meant to represent strength and durability. Meanwhile, the floating eye, called the eye of providence, is meant to represent God (or the illuminati?) watching over us.


The eye is a pretty frequently used symbol throughout history and is a simple and effective way to represent God. Therefore, it most likely doesn't represent a secret society's prevailing influence.

The cap, or triangle encasing the eye, is separated to symbolize that the United States is still far from finished and the rising sun behind it is supposed to represent a new nation that has begun. It even leaves a shadow to the west as back then that was the direction of undiscovered lands.


The motto at the top read 'annuit coeptis' meaning "he has favored our undertakings" and the motto at the bottom reads "novus ordo seclorum". Even though that might sound like a Harry Potter spell, it actually means "A new order of the ages".

Don't get confused into thinking it means "new world order" though, because it actually signifies "the beginning of the new American Era" as of the date of the Declaration of Independence. That date, 1776 is inscribed above in roman numerals on the bottom pyramid step.


The Number 13

You may be wondering why these mottos were chosen or perhaps you've noticed that some details have been bypassed. Let's investigate the recurrent number 13.

The motto 'annuit coeptis' has 13 letters, there are also 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 roman numeral digits and 13 pearls coming out of the seal on both sides.


The ribbon motto has 13 letters, the eagle is holding 13 arrows and the olive branch has 13 leaves and 13 berries. Meanwhile, the shield has 13 horizontal stripes and 13 vertical bars. It is claimed that the number 13 was particularly special to the founding fathers as it symbolises the 13 original colonies.


Owl or Spider Mark

While most agree that these markings make sense, perhaps the oddest feature that has conspiracy theorists drooling is the owl or spider mark.


An owl mark would symbolize the Illuminati and a spider would fit with the webbed background theme. Both may seem plausible, but sadly there is an even better explanation for this.

After overlaying a transposed section of the web from the bottom part of the bill, it is clear that this is just an unintentional feature.


Now that's pretty much everything for the dollar bill. The other U.S. dollar note values don't hide as many cool hidden symbols to talk about but we've deliberately missed out certain design features because we're considering making another article on this. Thanks for reading.

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