C-note is a slang term for a $100 banknote in American currency. The "C" in C-note refers to the Roman numeral for 100, which was printed on $100 bills, and it can also refer to century. The term came to prominence in the 1920s and 1930s, and it was popularized in a number of gangster films.


C-note is used less frequently in contemporary slang, and it has been replaced by "Benjamin." This term comes from Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, whose portrait is on the front of the $100 banknote.

Evolution of C-Notes

The $100 bill had a capital "C" in its upper-left corner from 1869 to 1914. It was in 1914 the U.S. government introduced Federal Reserve notes to replace older Treasury notes. The 1878 and 1880 editions featured a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the left. The 1890 version of the C-note featured Adm. David Farragut to the right side. On the backs of the Farragut banknotes were two zeros that looked like watermelons, hence the nickname "watermelon notes."

Contemporary $100 Bills

Contemporary $100 bills show an enlarged portrait of Franklin on the front and a "100" in each corner. The "100" in the bottom right corner changes color depending on what angle the light hits it. A blue 3-D motion strip runs down the middle to try to prevent counterfeiting, and a watermarked portrait of Franklin appears on the right side when you hold the banknote up to the light.

Fun Facts

The estimated lifespan of a $100 bill is around 15 years if it stays in circulation for that long. The average lifespan of a $1 banknote is 5.8 years. Somewhere between one-half to two-thirds of the $100 bills in circulation stay overseas. At the end of 2015, there were approximately 10.8 billion $100 bills in circulation, worth a total of $1.08 trillion. Around 11.4 billion $1 bills were in circulation at that time, the only bill with higher circulation numbers. The number of C-notes in circulation has quintupled since 1995.

The Federal Reserve system distributes $100 bills as the need for this value of currency runs in cycles. Demand peaks around the winter holidays and Lunar, or Chinese, New Year because crisp C-notes serve as good gifts inside of greeting cards. When the redesigned $100 bills came out in 2013, 28 reserve bank cash offices stockpiled 3.5 billion of the banknotes. Those bills went to some 9,000 banks as the revamped C-notes entered circulation for the first time.

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