American Cash has a distinctive smell - any reason?

I was just at the bank today exchanging some Yen for dollars and as soon as the dollars hit the table in front of me, I could smell that old familiar scent, even though the bills were a few feet away from my nose I could quite clearly tell that those dollars were American, even without looking at them. It’s quite a strong smell. I don’t know how to describe exactly it but it’s kind of a spicy aroma.

I never noticed a particular smell to Australian cash, even back before 1998 when it was, in fact, still paper (now it’s some kind of polymer which has no really distinctive aroma to it). And just now, I pulled out a few Japanese yen notes, made of paper very similar to, if not the same as, American dollars. They have no smell at all.

Maybe it’s just that I don’t notice the smells that I’m really used to, and instead pick up on the scents that are unusual to me?
So I ask the dopers - Do you also think American cash has a distinctive smell? If so, is it manufactured that way on purpose, perhaps for the benefit of sniffer dogs or some other means of detection?

Yes, American paper money does have a distinct smell. Why I don’t know, or whether it’s deliberate or a byproduct of production. Actually, I always assumed it was the smell of the ink, but I could be wrong on that.

It’s the aroma of millions of fart hours, filtered through wallet leather.

The scent of American currency to me is vaguely pukey. After a few days using it I don’t notice it as much but when I first exchange my Euro for Dollars the aroma is strong.

I don’t notice a smell to it. Then again, I’m a bank teller and I work with it 40 hours a week. Perhaps it’s like the guy who works at Home Depot that doesn’t notice the chemical and cedar smell the place has…


My early memories of smelling money come from the days when most of of my exposure to it came from mom’s purse, kind of a cosmetic smell. These days, my nose ain’t so good.

I have noticed a distinctive smell, especially with new notes. Is it the ink?

Now that you mention it, it does have a smell. It smells ‘old’ to me, for some reason. Musty maybe?

I had always understood that US notes are made with a very high cotton fiber content, such that they were more like cloth than like paper. They are certainly more durable than Canadian notes, which seem to be more paperlike, and less resistant to the washing machine. I figure the smell of US money is the smell of an unwashed cloth kept in someones pocket for years and handled a lot.

I also notice my wallet stinks for week after a trip to the US, so maybe it is more than that.

Mmmmmm. . .the sweet smell of success. :wink:

US currency is made from a blend of cotton and linen so it isn’t paper at all. According to one of those TV science shows (no cite) it’s recycled cotton fiber, more specifically, recycled jeans.

More than just fart smell. :smiley:

Except you notice it most with brand new money. I always assumed it was the ink.

Actually, US currency paper is made by the Crane Paper Company in Dalton, MA out of 100% brand new virgin cotton fiber. Recycled cotton contains optical brighteners left in from washing with detergents. This is the basis of the low-tech method of checking for counterfeit currency using ultraviolet light to look for fluorescence.

That’s not a good method considering the number of times I’ve left a $20 in my pocket before the wash, only to discover it in my freshly laundered pants. Are you saying if I tried to spend it someone would tell me its a fake?

It’s a lot less likely these days, as new currency $5 and up has fluorescent markers imbedded in it that are a lot harder to fake. In the old days simple fluorescence was often used to reject currency.

Hmm, from the urban legend that a majority of US bills have contact with /contain traces of cocaine, that would be my first guess.

Do you notice the smell when comparing Dollars to Euros? Because Euros (and before, the Deutsche Mark) are also made from cotton, and thus survive a trip through the washing machine.

It’s not a cocaine smell. I’ve smelt cocaine before (but I didn’t inhale!)

I’ve never noticed any particular smell from Euros.

Hmm, just did an experiment. I have a few US bills, a few Euros, Oz and Singaporean in my wallet. So the result? US bills did smell a tiny bit, and yes a recognisable smell. But the Euro had a similar but more muted smell. The Singapore and Oz bills are both plastic. Both also had tiny bit of the smell. The US bills were pretty new, in fact I think the $100 was practically mint. Maybe this is why it was a muted smell. But it has been in my wallet for ages.

The smell? To me the overall smell, is maybe the smell of being in a leather wallet. It isn’t the same smell as the wallet, but I wonder if the bills selectively absord some part of the smell.

My wallet is a US made wallet. It seems doubtful, but maybe there is some difference to the processes it underwent relative to other countries. Or maybe the US paper absorbs differently, or has some subtle chemical interaction difference. Actually, at least one other bit of paper that has been in the wallet for years also has a bit of the charateristic smell.

So that is my theory.

It’s not just an urban legend, but these are incredibly tiny amounts of cocaine and probably not enough to produce any kind of smell. And if the smell is strongest on new bills - which I agree it is - that doesn’t support a cocaine-related explanation.