Santa Dollars

Have you ever see a U.S. dollar bill with the image of a smiling Santa Claus, instead of the usual George Washington portrait? These banknotes are called ‘Santa Dollars’ or ‘Santa Claus Dollars’, and are regular dollar bills on which a seal (or sticker) with Santa’s image is attached.

The Santa Dollar is legal tender and both bankable and spendable, approved by the Department of the Treasury of the United States Secret Service on February 19, 1986 and January 13, 1994 under Statue 333 USCA and is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office No. 1674185. Over the years, the dollars and greeting cards have become popular Christmas Collectibles.

The Santa Dollar program is an interesting way for companies to work with charities of their choice.The business selling the Santa Dollars receives a package from Marketing Productions which includes santa stickers, Santa Dollar cards, and envelope. It is then on the business to retrieve uncirculated dollar bills from the bank and attach the santa sticker on the dollar bill atop Washington. For customers at the business, it cost $2.50 to purchase the Santa Dollar.  The $2.50 breakdowns as follows: $1 is given back to the business who initially supplied the dollar bill made into the Santa Dollar, $1 is given to the charity, and .50 cents goes to Marketing Productions who distributes the package materiels.

Since 1985, Santa Dollars have raised tens of millions of dollars for various charities across the United States. Corporate leaders, as well as small businesses, have worked to raise funds for the needs of their communities. They have joined hands to form a network of hope. The efforts of all these dedicated people have created the “magic” that has fueled the Santa Dollar program. Some of these charities include American Cancer Society, Boys & Girls Club of America, Humane Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation, March of Dimes, St. Jude Hospital, and hundreds more.

The company has since expanded to other holidays with Angelic Notes, Bunny Bucks, Cupids Cash, and Birthday Buck a Roos.

Currency of Hawaii

The dollar or dala was the currency of Hawaii between 1847 and 1898. It was equal to the United States dollar and was divided into 100 cents or keneta. Only sporadic issues were made, which circulated alongside United States currency.

King Kamehameha III

The creation of large plantations and the adoption of a Western style economy beginning about the 1820s created a demand for coined money. At first, this money consisted of coins carried in from a variety of countries having interests in the islands. This source proved unreliable, and coins were in chronically short supply. As dissatisfaction grew, King Kamehameha III (1825-54) set out to rectify this shortage by including a provision for a Hawaiian monetary system in his new legal code of 1846. The first official coinage issued by the Kingdom of Hawai’i was in 1847. This coin was a copper cent bearing the portrait of King Kamehameha III on its obverse.

It was originally anticipated that the 100,000 pieces included in this initial delivery were to be just the first of many, yet the overwhelming rejection of the copper coinage meant that no more would be struck.  The King Kamehameha III copper cent proved to be unpopular due to the King’s portrait being of poor quality. After 1862, the Hawaiian Treasury seized disbursing the unwanted cents, and a mere 11,595 pieces remained outstanding at that time.

In 1883, Kingdom of Hawai’i official silver coinage were issued in the denominations of one dime (umi keneta in Hawaiian), quarter dollar (hapaha), half dollar (hapalua) and one dollar (akahi dala). 26 proof sets were struck by the Philadelphia Mint and contained the umi keneta, hapaha, hapalua, and akahi dala. 20 proof specimens in the denomination of an eight dollar (hapawalu) were also struck. The Kingdom of Hawai’i desired to conform to the United States silver coinage denominations and selected the umi keneta over the hapawalu. The silver coins issued for circulation in the Kingdom was struck by the San Francisco Mint

Hawaii 1883 One Dollar silver coin with effigy of King Kalākaua

Hawaiian coins continued to circulate for several years after the 1898 annexation to the United States. In 1903, an act of Congress demonetized Hawaiian coins, and most were withdrawn and melted, with a sizable percentage of surviving examples made into jewelry.

How Coins are Made

Coins are everywhere.  In fact, I’m willing to bet there are some hiding inside or under the couch or chair you are sitting in right now.  Have you ever stopped to think about how these round pieces of metal we absentmindedly set on top of our dresser , lose in the couch, or stash in a jar for a rainy day come to be?

The process can be explained in 7 steps:

  1. Blanking: In the United States, coins are minted in one of 4 cities (Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point).   Sheets of metal measuring 13 inches wide and 1500 feet long are rolled into coils.  These coils are fed through a blanking press, which is basically a large cookie cutter that punches out coin sized discs that are blank.


    Photo: Pat Loeb via CBS Loca

  2. Heating and Washing:  The blank coins are heated to 1500 degrees fahrenheit  in a furnace to make them soft.  They are then washed and dried.
  3. Riddling: The blanks get run through a “riddler” that pulls out any that are the wrong size.
  4. Upsetting: The coins that pass the size and shape test are run through an “upsetting” mill which gives each blank a raised rim.  Once a blank has made it to this point in the process, it is called a planchet. 

    By Dqfn13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], 

  5. Striking: The planchets are now are ready to become coins.  Large stamps  (called dies) give them the proper design and inscription to make them an official US coins. dies-for-gold-proof
  6. Inspection: The newly minted coins are spot checked for any blemishes or striking errors.  They are once again run through a sizer which gets rid of any bent or dented coins.
  7. Bagging and dispersing: The coins are counted (via machine) into large canvas bags, loaded onto pallets and shipped to the federal reserve. The reserve banks send them to your local banks where they are dispersed to local stores and eventually end up in your pocket or under your couch cushions.


Coins being counted and bagged

All the U.S Mint locations provide tours so you can see this process first hand. In the event that you are unable to make it to one of these facilities in your lifetime, do not worry!  The U.S mint has provided a virtual tour on their website.

Today, the equipment they use to make coins can pump out up to 75 million coins in a 24 hour period.  That’s a lot of coins and explains why they can be found almost everywhere! Next time you empty your pockets, or lift up your couch cushions take a closer look at those coins you find and consider all the work that went in to their creation.

Stay tuned next week when we talk about what happens when this process goes awry and error coins are produced!



Sources:” Fact Monster.
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