If you live in the U.S., you’re likely accustomed to always seeing the same currency notes circulating, with an exception of some minor changes intended to hinder counterfeiters. But even as recently as during the last few decades, there have been various currencies in circulation for a short time that are no longer in print. The coins and paper currency which we are currently using have come after a long process of trial and error by our government over the last century or so.
These out-of-print denominations are rare to find but may still floating around out there. These rare printed notes are still considered to be legal tender, but their actual worth is, in fact, higher than their printed value. Should you be lucky enough to come across one, you may be able to offer them to a collector who would be willing to pay more for your rare U.S. currency note.
Before you run and check your cash on hand, read on for a list of U.S. currencies which were once printed but have been discontinued by the government.
The $2 note has a picture of Thomas Jefferson on one side and the other side has the famous painting by John Trumbull named the “Declaration of Independence”. This note is still recognised as legal tender by the government, and although you would rarely come across the note in your daily business, they have been known to delight younger Americans by making their way into many a birthday card.
Silver Currency Notes
During their printing run of 1878-1964, these silver certificates could be exchanged for their equivalent value of silver coins. These silver certificates of $1 are truly one of a kind in U.S. paper currency, as they are to this day the only bills to display the picture of a woman. Silver currency notes feature the influential Martha Washington, wife of the President of United States of America George Washington (who is represented on the $1 bill we still use today).
These old silver certificates are rare now and have been replaced by silver bonds which come with a memo stating “One dollar in silver payable to the bearer on demand.”
$ 500 Bill
The last $500 bill was printed in 1945. This bill had quite a few versions with our President William McKinley’s face printed on one side. Though these notes are still considered to be legal tender, you would only find it with collectors and currency dealers. The face value of this $500 bill is way more than the denomination printed on it, making it a rare addition to any collection.
During the American Revolutionary War in 1775, the rebellious 13 Colonies started issuing their own paper currency to fund the military expenses. These colonies would soon become independent states. Realizing that, the highest political Continental Congress started issuing Continental currency in June 1775, as a single currency for all the 13 colonies.
The Congress did not keep a tab on the notes which were issued and soon these were being counterfeited en masse, causing their depreciation in value. Towards the end of the American Revolutionary War, there was a huge debt on the government’s head due to the discontinuation of this currency in May 1781.
$ 1,000 Bill
It may seem ironic that our country issued $1,000 bills in 1945, whereas today this denomination would be handier to use. These bills were issued with the face of our President Grover Cleveland on one side, and were taken out of circulation along with the $500 bills. It is said that these notes are rare to come by and only seen in collections of exhibitors and by the Numismatic Society.
$ 100,000 Bill
There was a time during the Great Depression when Americans were hoarding gold in all forms. The people were refusing to accept paper currency and were collecting gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates.
Franklin Roosevelt, then President, issued an order and made all such Americans hand over the gold to the Government. Paper money began to circulate and gained popularity. This was the time when the highest denomination $100,000 bill was issued so that large federal transactions could be completed easily.
This note features Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of America, and cannot be legally held by any collector as they were never issued for public use. They are only available at select federal and government museums for educational purposes.
The $10,000 bill was the highest denomination bill issued by the Government for public use. This note features one of our country’s famous politicians, Salmon P Chase, and was printed in 1935. At that point in time, such a large bill was not very useful for the majority of Americans, leading to the government pulling it out of circulation in 1965. There are a few hundred of these notes which are still available with collectors and currency dealers.
$ 5,000 Bill
The government required funds to finance the American Revolutionary War, and it was at this time when the $5,000 notes featuring James Madison were issued. They were pulled out of circulation in 1965 along with the other large denomination notes. Money laundering and counterfeit money were on a high and the country was being flooded by the fake currency; this is what prompted President Richard Nixon’s ban on this bill.
By the year 1973 copper had become very expensive, and the printing of pennies in copper was turning out to be a costly affair. Aluminium was available in abundance and was cheaper than copper; the government started issuing cents made of aluminium. But as we all know the quality of aluminium is sub-standard, and the government had to withdraw these coins in 1974.
These notes were specially printed to pay off the Treasury, who sold their silver to the U.S. government following the Legal Tender Act passed on the 14th July in 1890. The government issued notes in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $1000 bills. The treasury notes are highly valued today and are a part of high-end collector’s exhibits.
Eagle Gold Coins
These $ 20 gold coins were issued between 1907 and 1932, and were removed from circulation by President Roosevelt in 1933. The President issued orders banning all American citizens from holding gold; in 1937 all these gold coins were melted into bullion and kept with the government.
These coins had an eagle on one side and the Lady Liberty on the opposite side. But even more rare and valuable is the misprinted Double Eagle, which looks just as the name would imply: it’s missing Lady Liberty and an eagle is printed on both sides. In 2002, a Double Eagle auctioned for $7,590,020!
The Civil War was a period when citizens were hoarding gold and silver coins; the government issued coins valued between 1 and 50 cents. This currency ended a few years later in 1876.
The period of the Civil War saw high inflation in the country due to hoarding of gold and silver coins by the Americans. To combat this Secretary of Treasury Salmon P Chase issued the first paper currency against which the citizens were made to exchange their gold and silver coins. These demand notes were then replaced by the current dollar which cannot be exchanged for bullion.
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