Archive for May 3rd, 2009

Big Bills in the US

May 3, 2009

100000-cornerAfter reading Denise’s post on large amounts of money, I started to wonder what the largest bill in circulation is.    I started with the US.

The largest bill I knew of was the $100 bill.   Ben Franklin invented the carriage odometer.

$100 bill.  Ben Franklin invented the carriage odometer.

I figured there were a few bills above that, getting into the $1000s, but it turns out that this is the largest denomination in circulation in the US.

There used to be a $500 bill.   A 1918 version had John Marshall on it, but the 1928 and 1934 runs had William McKinley.  The man who shot William McKinley was executed in Auburn, not far from here.

$500 bill.  The man who shot William McKinley was executed in Auburn, not far from here.

And there used to be a $1000 bill, in 1918 with Alexander Hamilton and in 1928 with Grover Cleveland.  We have two cards for Grover Cleveland in our Deck of US Presidents since he served non-consecutive terms.

$1000 bill.  We have two cards for Grover Cleveland in our Deck of US Presidents since he served non-consecutive terms.

There’s a $5000 bill with James Madison.  His wife’s sister’s husband’s uncle was George Washington.

$5000 bill.  James Madison's wife's sister's husband's uncle was George Washington.

There’s even a $10,000 bill with Salmon Portland Chase.  He was Secretary of the Treasury in 1862 when the first bills were printed and he put his own picture on some early bills although this one was designed after he died.

$10,000 bill.  Salmon Portland Chase designed money, and he put his own face on early bills although this one was designed after he died.

That’s it for bills, although there was a $100,000 gold certificate with Woodrow Wilson.  In 1915 Woodrow Wilson became the first sitting president to go to a World Series baseball game; a year later he thew the opening ball.

$100,000 bill.  In 1915 Woodrow Wilson became the first sitting president to go to a World Series baseball game; a year later he thew the opening ball.

“So what happened to all that fine money?” you may be wondering.  Well, bills just weren’t all that popular.  OK, I’m sure they were popular in the  sense that no one would turn them down, but there weren’t a lot of them in circulation.    The $100,000 bill [with a buying power today over over $1.5 million] was never in public circulation — it was only for Official Transactions between Federal Reserve Banks [and apparently it’s illegal to for collectors to even have one], and the others haven’t been printed in more than 60 years.  Indeed, in 1969 the Federal Reserve said something along the lines of “Enough of this” and discontinued them.  I think that means that they stopped giving them out as change, although they’re still officially legal tender so those of you who have them in your wallet are still OK.

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