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Where are the $10 bills going?
July 08, 2011

It’s car show time in Iola, Wis. The annual event began yesterday. I worked the afternoon in the Krause Publications book tent.

Naturally, I was watching to see how many of the remainder coin books were being snapped up for $5. However, since I was working a cash register, I was more interested to see what came my way in the form of legal tender.

There were no coins involved. All of the books are priced in even dollar amounts, $1, $5 and $10, etc., with most of my transactions involving $5 books.

I had one purchaser buy a $5 book and tender a $100 bill. Another buyer offered me $100 for a $16 purchase. I handled three or four $50 bills as well.

For the most part, though, most buyers were spending $20 bills or lower. We took credit cards, but as a percentage, the number of such transactions was not too high.

As I observed the relative quantities of notes used, I saw the following:

The number of $1 bills seemed to multiply rapidly. I was amazed that I did not give out more than I took in. Quite the contrary, many people would use a $1 bill so their change would be a larger bill.

For example, I had one buyer of two books that cost $5 and $1, for a total of $6, hand me $11 to get a $5 bill as change.

Another buyer of $11 in books handed me a $20 and a $1 bill to get a 10 spot in change.

As many $5 bills as I handed out as change, a larger number came in. The $20 also came in in large numbers.

The drawer was regularly emptied so that there was never too much cash sitting there at any one time, but the one denomination that was never taken was the $10. In the course of the afternoon, I always seemed to be on the verge of running out of $10s and at one point I did get a fresh supply.

Had you asked me before my shift started what bill would be in the shortest supply, I doubt that I would have picked the $10.

I go on duty again this afternoon. Perhaps something else of interest will arise. Tomorrow I divorce myself from cash and spend my time cooking hamburgers on a gas grill for the Lions club. I repeat the process on Sunday. By Monday I will be glad to be able to sit at my desk.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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