Dollars and Sense

Free Fun at the Atlanta Monetary Museum

My family, with three girls ages 8 to 12, learned about the history of money and how the Federal Reserve works on a visit to the Atlanta Monetary Museum in midtown. The Federal Reserve houses all the extra bills that banks aren’t equipped to hold in a gigantic multi-story warehouse. Who knew there was so much money on Peachtree Street?
Our favorite part of the visit was standing behind floor-to-ceiling windows to watch money being processed by the Fed’s staff. An interactive screen explains the process from the time money arrives in an armored truck to when it is placed in the vault by computer-operated mini-forklifts. The machines look like something you might see in a futuristic movie like WALL-E!
Exhibits explain the barter process and currency from the beginning, when tea and salt were traded for goods. We laughed about trying to pay for something today with a shoe or some beans. We saw high denomination bills like $5,000 and $10,000, and tried to lift a gold brick using a lever similar to one on a slot machine. It’s heavier than you might expect! 
An exhibit and video explains how the Federal Reserve Bank sets monetary policy. We learned about the process of setting interest rates, controlling the amount of currency in circulation, and inflation.
At the end of the tour, each visitor gets a sealed bag of shredded money! A large machine shreds and bags bills that are too tattered to be in circulation and makes them into souvenirs.
This is a heavily guarded building, but the atmosphere is welcoming. Adult identification is checked and all visitors walk through an X-ray machine and have their bags scanned. Bags and photography are not allowed; complimentary lockers are available. The self-guided tour can take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on your interest level. 

– Jennifer Haslam

If You Go

Atlanta Monetary Museum, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
1000 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-498-8500; frbatlanta.org/about/tours/museum.cfm
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: Free