The Big Bills Are Pulled

Once upon a time, the US Treasury issued $100,000 currency notes. These were the highest denomination banknotes ever issued by the government.  The notes were not placed in general circulation; they were intended for internal transactions, like bank transfers.

Images are clickable.

Images are clickable.

The $100,000 notes were only printed from December 18, 1934 until January 9, 1935.  At the time, they were only used within the Federal Reserve Banks against equal amounts of gold bullion held by the Treasury.  None of these were ever circulated to the general public. In fact it is illegal for a private citizen to own them.


Meantime, the defunct $10,000 bill was the largest denomination banknote ever placed into general circulation in the US.  The portrait on the obverse side of the note is of the man largely responsible for our current system of banknotes.  Salmon P. Chase was Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln.  Chase was in charge of designing and popularizing the newly authorized greenback notes in 1861.

During his tenure, Chase helped institute the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to bigbills-5000enable the issuance of the greenback currency notes.  It’s also noteworthy that Chase also oversaw the creation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (later renamed the Internal Revenue Service). He also administered the first US Income Tax in order to help finance the Union forces during the American Civil War.   After the war, the ambitious Chase was Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court during the Reconstruction years.bigbills-1000

Meantime, the US Treasury was legally enabled to issue bills in the denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000.  The highest denomination bills were last printed on December 27, 1945. If you can find any, they are still legal tender, but you’d be much smarter to trade the currency to a well-heeled collector.  The collectors’ value is usually much higher than the face value of the note.

President Richard Nixon issued an executive order to cease production of and remove from circulation, Federal Reserve Currency notes of $500 and higher on bigbills-500July 14, 1969.  He believed that removing the large bills would combat organized crime in the US. The Feds started actually taking the high-denomination notes out of circulation that year.  For example, if you have a $5,000 bill and wish to deposit it into your checking account, your bank is obligated to surrender the note to the Federal Reserve, which, in turn, will destroy it.

If you actually have a $5,000 bill, you should probably hang onto it. Because only 342 of these bills are known to even exist, you can imagine that a single $5,000 bill is quite valuable to the collecting community.

As a general rule, a large denomination bill, in good condition is valued at least 20% over the face value.  Generally speaking, a well-preserved, uncirculated bill will bring at least twice the face value. This rule of thumb changes radically if the banknote has a star symbol following the serial number. Such star notes are extremely rare.

The demise of the largest denomination bills was sealed with the advent of today’s electronic transaction technology. There is no longer any need to carry around large amounts of cash, especially bills of any denomination larger than $100. It seems unlikely that the big bills will ever be reissued.

bigbills-millionThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes that the politically ambitious Salmon Chase selected his own portrait for the first greenback $1 bills.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Big Bills Are Pulled

  1. Love this!!! I am a huge fan of “factoids,” and could read them every day. This was very well worth the read. Thank you for such a great job. Looking forward to subscribing to your blog.

    • swabby429 says:

      I may have to resume posting these types of posts again. I had tapered back due to a lack of general interest in such subject matter. Your comments remind me of where my blog has been in the past and that I should touch base with such topics again.

      • There are a lot of us out there who like to read the type of blogs you write. Once you reach them, you will see. I always reblog to at least one address.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.