What Do You Know about Defunct U.S. Currencies?

By Pam Reiss

Today, for the most part, we exchange bills that bear the visages of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin during financial transactions. Occasionally, you might also stumble upon a $2 bill adorned by Thomas Jefferson.
But did you know that the United States also had five larger currencies in circulation years ago? Though President Richard Nixon discontinued them in 1969—so as to discourage large scale black market transactions from occurring—they’re still legal tender. But because they’ve become collector’s items, it’s likely whoever has their hands on them won’t be letting go anytime soon.
Let’s briefly explore these five bills:
• The $500 bill had a few iterations, with Chief Justice John Marshall depicted on the 1918 version and a scene of Hernando de Soto’s 1541 discovery of the Mississippi River on the back. In 1928 and 1934, the bill was updated to feature President William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901.

• There were also two modern versions of the $1,000 bill that were circulated (other iterations were introduced in the 1800s). The first one was featured Hamilton on the front and a bald eagle on the back and was released in 1918. In 1934, President Grover Cleveland adorned the bill.

• America’s fourth president, James Madison, is featured on the $5,000 bill, which was printed in 1918 and 1934. The first printing’s backside featured a scene of Washington’s resignation.

• You might be surprised to that the $10,000 bill—the largest bill ever in public circulation—features a not-as-popularly-known figure in U.S. history, Salmon P. Chase, who was a senator, governor, treasury secretary and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The 1918 version of the bill’s backside featured a Pilgrim-related scene.

• The largest bill ever printed by the treasury was the $100,000 bill, a gold certificate featuring President Woodrow Wilson. The bills, which were only printed for three weeks, were used to facilitate large transactions between different Federal Reserve branches.

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