The Bureau of Engraving And Printing Tour in Washington DC

How to Tour the Bureau Of Engraving And Printing in Washington DC

The United States currency is one of the most complicated pieces of paper to print. It has more safeguards in it to prevent counterfeiting than is disclosed to the public.

But did you know you can watch it all being printed on a free tour at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington DC? I’m sharing all the details on their tours and what to expect when you visit.

DayTripper is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small commission. I never promote things I haven’t vetted myself.

How to get your tickets

Tickets are free and tours run Monday-Friday 9am-6pm. Tickets for this tour can only be picked up the day of your tour only. Unless you are coming in with a large party, they are on a first come first serve basis.

They open up the ticket booth 8 am and start handing out tickets until they run out. People will start lining up for tickets around 7:30.

When you get up to the booth, you can select what time you want to tickets for and request the number of tickets needed. They have a list of tour times still available on the window. Not every needed to be present at the booth.

Ticket holders can enter the gift shop about 30 minutes prior to the tour time. This allows everyone to get through security. It is similar to the airport with medal detectors, Xrays and works.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing website requires tickets through the summer season. Make sure to confirm on their web page when it’s needed as it changes all the time. Because of the nature of the facility, there is no self-guided tour. They also close on federal holidays.

in line at the Bureau Of Engraving And Printing

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing Tour

The tour takes you above the production floor. Everyone is gathered in a long hallway with windows on each side.

Depending on the space and the crowd, you may be two people deep. In most cases, there is action on both sides of the room.

It all depends on how much printing is happening that day. There are three different stops along the way, showing the process from start to finish.

Lucky 777 Notes
Gold Certificates at the Borough of Engraving and Printing

The process all starts with pre-cut sheets of paper. The paper enters the presses and receives layers of different specialty inks imprinted on them. Once the primary printing takes place, the sheets get stacked onto pallets and left to dry in a different room.

After a designated amount of time, they continue on to a second pass the employee’s pickup sheets of currency and rolls, drop and fluff up the sheets to get air in between each sheet.

This way when they go through the presses again, there will not stick and jam the machines. At one point, a printer was holding up over $200,000 in $5 bills and then used the top sheet to wipe the sweat from her brow.

After the last layer is put down, all of the money is cut into its standard size and warped up into bricks, each containing 4 sleeves of 1000 bills. When they are printing $20, that’s $80,000 in bricks.

What is most surprising is that it only takes a handful of bureau employees on the printing room floor to create millions of dollars.

How United States Currency Is Printed?

In the Washington DC location, they print $1’s, $2’s, $5’s, $10’s, and $20’s. All the bills created are replacing old currency that’s moved out of circulation.

Things like $2 bills are only made every few years because they don’t get circulated as much. But the rumor is, if you buy something at the food stand near the Jefferson Memorial, you’ll get change back in $2’s.

Gold Bars

The Tour Restrictions

The printing of United States paper currency is one of the most guarded secrets and for good reason. You are walking into one of the most secure buildings that and hold up to 600 million dollars at any one time. Their security is no laughing matter.

There is no photography on the tour. Thankfully they let guest bring their cameras and phones with them. Otherwise, you’d have to find someplace in DC to ditch them.

If you are spotted taking any pictures or touching your phone, you will be escorted off the property immediately. You may lose your camera or face further consequences. It’s for that reason, I’m not showing any pictures of the process.

The Visitor Center and Gift Shop

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s gift shops give you the chance to buy some limited quantity bills, like $1 bills with the serial code starting with 777.

They have other specialty bills too that are considered lucky. They also have novelties like bags of shredded bills. You can also take home uncut currency sheets.

The tour meets and ends in the gift shop, so don’t feel like you have to buy something right away.

Shredded Money

Tips for your visit to the Bureau of Engraving And Printing

Get your ticket for early in the day if possible. As far as the Mall goes, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is a couple of blocks away.

The only thing nearby was the Holocaust Museum and the paddle boats on the Tidal Basin. Trying to get a snack nearby was a 30-minute walk to get there and back. It was the only downside to getting the first tour of the day.

Tomas Jeffers Memorial

Since you can’t take pictures, just have fun with it. Instead of focusing on capturing the moment, just enjoy watching more money than you’ve ever seen fly by your face.

I don’t care how much money you have in the bank; this will probably be the only time you’ll get to see that much money in one place.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is something I have learned now that I’m no longer in my 20’s . The tour guides know so much about the process.

If you are looking for a fun read about the lengths people have gone to counterfeit our currency, The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter by Jason Kersten is a great read. It’s a true story about a counterfeiter that never felt like he had enough.

Would I do it again?

Going to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is one of those things that everyone should experience once in their life if nothing more to say you’ve seen millions of dollars.

But on my visit, I learned something kind of interesting; printing money is not much different than printing the mail. If you loved watching Mr. Rogers how it’s made clips, you’ll have a blast on this tour! I did.

Also check out some of the other free tours in Washington DC, like Tips for Visiting the Library of Congress in Washington DC or An Unforgettable Self Guided Bike Tour Of DC Monuments at Night.

Pin it for later

Watching money being made inside the Bureau Of Engraving And Printing.

Similar Posts