On the US Treasury's site for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, you can pay 45 US dollars for a big sack containing $10,000. The catch? The money has been shredded to confetti.
The BEP shreds currency that is either worn beyond the point of usability or that got screwed up during the printing process; the latter bills are removed from circulation before they even hit the Federal reserve. But it turns out there are plenty of people who can still use this confettied currency—and recently FOIA'ed documents posted by governmentattic.org show all the various ways people have found to turn a shredded buck.
Spanning the last several years, these 37 written requests are from people who've required more than the 5-pound, $45 bags the BEP sells on its website. Those can be bought by anyone, but bigger projects require written approval from the Treasury's Office of Compliance.
Several requests are from police departments (names and locations have been redacted) to help train narcotics dogs in their bureaus. One such request explains: "The currency residue will be used to proof the narcotics canines...by using both untainted and tainted residue during training which shows that they do not alert on money...By using these two items during money scans it proves that if the canine alerts to money, that currency must be tainted with the odor of narcotics."
Another request comes from a healthcare consultant planning a conference in Las Vegas for healthcare executives. "At a designated point in the presentation, we thought it would be a fun prop on cost management in healthcare (and emblematic of our Las Vegas setting) to have shredded money falling from the ceiling." Considering how much healthcare costs in this country, it's an interesting choice for a "fun prop."
But the most common reason people need bulk amounts of shredded currency, it turns out, is for art projects. One artist with the Venus of Willendorf on her letterhead needs it for a piece in a show entitled "Women and Money." Another artist, an MFA candidate, needs it for a "work on identity" that is "dealing with the commodification of human value." Several of the artists seem to be working on similar projects, using the money to create paper-mache sculptures of the human form.
Some of the proposed uses have scientific merit. One hopeful recipient wants to "experiment with different DNA extraction methods on currency," but was worried all currency produced by the BEP had already been handled at some point during the manufacturing process. "Maybe there are trimmed pieces...that have not been handled...In any case, I would like to explore these investigations with pristine currency paper."
Other requests deal with using the money for teaching aids, gift bag stuffing ("I'm throwing a 16th birthday party for my daughter and the theme is money"), tabletop decoration, and creating novelty products for resale. But my favorite letter is one likely written by a child, and doesn't request a specific amount nor state an intended purpose. God only knows what that kid had planned.