Lucky 13, Stars, Pyramid, Heads of Eagle and President: Symbolic language, heraldics and humanistic tradition deciphered on the Dollar-bill - apart from conspiracy theories


The dollar may be the most common money on earth. Nevertheless, its imprint harbors many a secret. This podcast pursues the mystery of the number 13.

Come along with us on our journey through the world of money. Today we are stopping in the United States of America. We are in the present.


Is there anyone on Earth who has never seen a 1-dollar bill? Unlikely. This banknote may be the most well-known form of cash that exists in the world. But have you ever really looked at the dollar bill? It contains much to discover.


The Great Seal of the United States on the back of the bill in particular is full of symbols and allusions.


This has nothing to do with conspiracy theories, however, but rather with the time when it was created. On July 4th, 1776, the day on which the thirteen states declared their independence, a committee was founded to create this national symbol.


Educated men of the 18th century loved symbols. And all had learned Latin. So it’s no surprise that ancient gods appeared on the draft, namely Bellona, the goddess of war in a suit of armor, and Pax, the goddess of peace with a laurel branch. They were soon taken out, however. But count the stars above the coat of arms. There are thirteen, exactly as many stripes as the coat of arms has. Thirteen stands for the thirteen original colonies of the United States. Remember this number! We’ll keep running into it. 


The final design of the Great Seal can be traced back to Charles Thomson. He was one of the most important politicians during the founding period of the United States.

Out of the drafts, which were developed by three committees over six years, he created something new, namely the design which today certifies every official document of the United States.


It displays a heraldic eagle with a coat of arms. The white head characterizes it as a bald eagle, the national symbol of the United States.

The eagle is holding a band in its mouth on which the motto E PLVRIBUS VNVM can be seen. This is bad Latin. It should read EX PLVRIBVS. But count the letters…there are thirteen. Just like the thirteen stars above the Eagle’s head, the thirteen leaves on the laurel branch and the thirteen arrows in the eagle’s left claw.


About the arrows… they are from an ancient tale. A dying father urges his sons to create harmony amongst themselves. He demonstrates the benefit of this virtue with a bundle of arrows. While no one can break the whole bundle, any individual arrow can be easily bent. The message of the bundle of arrows in the eagle’s claw is: no one can defeat the United States as long as it sticks together.


The Great Seal of the United States, unlike all other seals in the world, has a rear side. It is an emblem, meaning a motto with a graphic representation. The motto is ANNUIT COEPTIS, translated: he has approved of the undertakings. Who is meant with “he” is shown by the triangular eye of God, which is depicted in the upper part of the pyramid. Count the numbers of the motto: again, there are 13 letters. And thirteen layers of stone make up the pyramid, the symbol of eternity, of perfection - yes, of the United States, which was created in 1776, as the Roman numeral at the foot of the pyramid states.


NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM is written underneath, meaning a new century. This quote originates from a poem by Vergil which extols the approach of a new era:


„Now is come the last age of the song of Cumae /

the great line of the centuries begins anew.“


The Roman Christians related this prophecy to the era which started with the birth of Jesus. The citizens of the United States had the same sense of mission. Everything would be better in their country. George Washington was its new messiah, who would lead the United States into a glorious future. The first president of the United States really earned his place on the dollar.


Now maybe you can better understand why the Americans staunchly refuse to give up the 1-dollar banknote in favor of the new 1-dollar coin. It will take young Indian girl Sacagawea a long time to achieve the same level of fame as George Washington and the Great Seal of the United States.


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