5 Famous Discontinued And Uncommon U.S. Currency Denominations

AAA

A completely cashless society sounds clean and convenient, and although we've made huge strides, we're not quite there yet. Despite the magic of PayPal, Square and credit cards, most of us need to carry around a handful of greenbacks. While we can choose from a rich array of singles, fins, sawbucks, Jacksons, $50s and Benjamins, there are several other denominations that the U.S. Treasury has discontinued. Here are the most notable ones.

$2 Bill

Excluding the decade from 1966 to 1976, $2 bills have been printed uninterruptedly since the Civil War. Yet, the average American who doesn't handle cash for a living can go years without seeing one. One unfortunate Baltimore man attempted to buy something at a local Best Buy using $2 bills, and got arrested for using "counterfeit" money. Three hours later, the police sheepishly let him go.

Aesthetically, the $2 bill is something to behold. The reverse side features one of the most famous paintings in American history: "Declaration of Independence" by John Trumbull.

But production of the $2 bill has been sporadic since its return. In fact, in most years the Bureau of Engraving and Printing doesn't produce any $2 bills. In a given year, barely 1% of the bills that roll off the presses are $2 bills. Yet, this intrepid little denomination could easily save you the trouble of carrying twice as many singles in your wallet.

$500 Bill

The Treasury minted several versions of the $500 bill, the most recent one featuring President William McKinley on the front. The last $500 bill rolled off the presses in 1945, and was formally discontinued 24 years later. The Treasury began receiving these bills from financial institutions and exchanging them for fresh bills of smaller denominations. Like all the bills featured here, the $500 bill remains legal tender. That being said, should you come into possession of a $500 bill, you'd be crazy to buy anything with it. Its market value far exceeds its face value, with even worn $500 bills commanding upward of a 40% premium on the open market.

$1,000 Bill

The original $1,000 bill featured Alexander Hamilton on the front. When someone presumably realized that it might be confusing to have the same former Secretary of the Treasury on multiple denominations, Hamilton's visage was replaced with that of another dead president: the 22nd and the 24th, Grover Cleveland. Like its smaller cousin the $500 bill, the $1,000 bill was also discontinued in 1969. And like the $500 bill, the $1,000 bill would seem to have a lot more use now than it did then.

Why? Inflation, of course! The Consumer Price Index was at 36.8 then, while it's at about 231 today, meaning that a $1,000 bill today would be the equivalent of a relatively modest $159 bill during the Summer of Love. Does it make any sense that we've lost larger denominations as the value of a dollar has gotten progressively smaller? The Treasury argues that keeping the denominations inconveniently small minimizes the possibility of money laundering. This statement could be interpreted as an argument for getting rid of the $50 and $100 bills while we're at it, but that's a topic for a different time.

That being said, hold onto a $1,000 bill that finds its way into your palm even more tightly than you would a $500 bill. There are only 165,372 of the former still in existence.

The Treasury insists that there's no need for bills larger than $100. Canada has halted the printing of $500 and $1,000 bills. The $500 bill is in circulation, while the $1,000 has been withdrawn. However, the $500 note has been around since that currency's inception. As for bills of even larger denominations than $1,000, they enjoyed a brief run in American history before being relegated to memory status.

$5,000 Bill

Also discontinued in 1969, the $5,000 bill was graced by a photo of James Madison, and finding one today takes pluck, luck and significantly more than $5,000. Fewer than 400 are believed to exist.

$10,000 Bill

Salmon P. Chase might be the most accomplished politician in our nation's history never to have served as president. But even though he was a governor of and senator from Ohio, secretary of the treasury under Abraham Lincoln, and chief justice of the United States, Chase is remembered by most people – to the extent that he is remembered at all – as "the guy on the $10,000 bill." The largest denomination ever printed for public consumption, the $10,000 bill never got much use. This lack of use is understandable, given that its value outstripped the net worth of the average American during most of the time the bill was available. The bill was part of the 1969 purge of large currencies, and like its $5,000 counterpart, only a few hundred authenticated samples survive.

  1. No results found.
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Procrastinator's Guide To Bill Payment

    Avoid punishing late fees and keep your credit score intact with these 10 tips.
  2. Budgeting

    8 Steps To An Organized Financial Life

    Disorganization makes planning difficult, and that can cost you big time.
  3. Options & Futures

    Automating Your Bill Payments

    Automation can be a painless (and free) way to remove the stress of bill scheduling from your life - if you do it right.
  4. Budgeting

    Should You Pay Your Bills On Autopilot?

    Now that you can sign up to have your bills paid automatically online, it it a smart way to make your life more efficient? A look at the pros and cons.
  5. Investing

    Bill of Exchange

    A bill of exchange is a document used in international trade to pay for goods or services. It is signed by the person promising to pay, and given to the person entitled to receive the money. ...
  6. Options & Futures

    20 Ways To Save On Medical Bills

    Handy tips to cut the cost of hospital bills, co-pays, prescription drugs and more.
  7. Bonds & Fixed Income

    How To Read A T-Bill Quote

    If you want buy and sell US Treasury bills, you need to learn to read the quotes.
  8. Insurance

    Do This If Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover Your Bills

    Health insurance doesn't pay enough to help the millions of consumers who are drowning in medical debt. Are there any other options to soften the blow?
  9. Investing

    Bye "Bin Laden" Bill: ECB to Stop Printing €500 Bills

    The ECB announced Wednesday that around the end of 2018 it will no longer issue €500 bills. The bank cited use by criminals, but there's another reason.
  10. Term

    Understanding Treasury Yield

    Treasury yield refers to the return on an investment in a U.S. government debt obligation, such as a bill, note or bond.
Hot Definitions
  1. Labor Market

    The labor market refers to the supply and demand for labor, in which employees provide the supply and employers the demand. ...
  2. Demand Curve

    The demand curve is a graphical representation of the relationship between the price of a good or service and the quantity ...
  3. Goldilocks Economy

    An economy that is not so hot that it causes inflation, and not so cold that it causes a recession. This term is used to ...
  4. White Squire

    Very similar to a "white knight", but instead of purchasing a majority interest, the squire purchases a lesser interest in ...
  5. MACD Technical Indicator

    Moving Average Convergence Divergence (or MACD) is a trend-following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between ...
  6. Over-The-Counter - OTC

    Over-The-Counter (or OTC) is a security traded in some context other than on a formal exchange such as the NYSE, TSX, AMEX, ...
Trading Center