By Kristen Gough
Posted On: Mar 1, 2017
From the outside, the Money Museum looks like you might be walking right into a movie set for a mobster flick or Gringotts Wizarding Bank from Harry Potter fame. A huge stone sculpture of what must be Lady Liberty’s toga-festooned sister stands at that entrance holding a flame in one muscular arm and cradling a treasure box in the other.
I’d passed by the entrance at the corner of Superior Avenue and East 6th Street countless times and always meant to stop in. But since the museum is only open weekdays, Monday through Thursday from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM, it’s never quite worked out. I’ve always happened by after it’s already closed, so I decided to go one day on a whim, just me and my husband, for an impromptu afternoon date.
We passed through security and marveled at the iron gate which led both to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the Money Museum, which is positioned at the front of the building. Beyond the gate the hallway rises to a domed ceiling that’s checkered with painted panels, many with gold accents that add to that other-worldly feel. Walking under a seemingly over-sized chandelier, we joined a group whose tour guide was explaining the historical and architectural tidbits about the building. I marveled as she detailed how some of the sculptures outside were originally hollowed out to conceal artillery cannons that could be used in case robbers ever tried to get into the bank. Apparently, no one ever did.
The tour guide led us to the museum’s interactive exhibits, which help visitors understand how money really works. I fully admit, I breezed right past the one on bartering in favor of trying my hand at spotting counterfeit cash. My husband and I challenged each other on who could find the most fakes. I discovered there’d be a lot of counterfeit cash out there if I were in charge of authenticating money.
Next, came the money tree, which rises two stories and branches out into money leaves. Even though the money wasn’t real (at least, my rudimentary skills spied these counterfeits), the affect was still impressive.
Stairs led to the second floor and illustrated the power of compounding interest with each step; it’s a lesson I squirreled away in my head to share with my kids later.
By far my favorite part of the museum was having the chance to put my face on a dollar bill – literally. There’s a cut-out stand where you can give your best grin (or grimace) and snap a shot along with a digital version that you can print out and email to yourself. I did both.
We were on our way out when the tour guide reminded us not to forget our bag of cash. The museum offers bags of shredded money (the real stuff!) to give visitors as mementos.
For a fun afternoon, or even a peek at one of only 12 Federal Reserve Banks in the country, plan a visit to Cleveland’s Money Museum.