Block title

Disintegrating Value


Archival pigment print from the series "Absolute Powers / ex nihilo" Detail: According to the Federal Reserve, a typical $1 bill lasts for about 5.8 years before becoming so fragile that it gets withdrawn from circulation and destroyed. A $100 bill, on the other hand, lasts for 15.0 years. This makes sense given that a $1 bill is used so much more frequently. But what’s interesting is that, even as late as 2011, the average $100 bill lasted 21.6 years before becoming worn out. So according to Federal Reserve data, the average lifespan of a $100 bill has fallen by more than 30% over the last several years. This is primarily due to a significant increase in use, i.e. $100 bills are used more frequently in day-to-day transactions… at the gas station, grocery store, and even coffee shop. Naturally, this increased use of the $100 bill is because prices are higher than they’ve ever been–you can’t pay the grocery bill anymore with a twenty. Wages and salaries have also increased over time, but not as fast as living costs. Just like the dramatic decline in the purchasing power of a $100 bill, this trend is a prime example of how inflation, the "invisible tax", pilfers from people slowly over time.