Large Denominations Banknotes

Today, the currency of the United States, the U.S. dollar, is printed in bills in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

At one time, however, it also included five larger denominations. Shown here is a $100,000 Gold certificate from 1934.

High-denomination currency was prevalent from the very beginning of U.S. Government issue (1861). $500, $1,000, and $5,000 interest bearing notes were issued in 1861, and $10,000 gold certificates arrived in 1865. There are many different designs and types of high-denomination notes.

The high-denomination bills were issued in a small size in 1929, along with the $1 through $100 denominations.

Series 1928 or 1934
Obverse: William McKinley

Series 1928 or 1934
Obverse: Grover Cleveland

Series 1918
Obverse: James Madison

Series 1918
Obverse: Salmon P. Chase

Series 1934
Obverse: Woodrow Wilson

The reverse designs featured abstract scrollwork with ornate denomination identifiers. All were printed in green, except for the $100,000. The $100,000 is an odd bill, in that it was not generally issued, and printed only as a gold certificate of Series of 1934. These gold certificates (of denominations $100, $1,000, $10,000, and $100,000) were issued after the gold standard was repealed and gold was compulsorily purchased by presidential order of Franklin Roosevelt on March 9, 1933 (see United States Executive Order 6102), and thus were used only for intra-government transactions. They are printed in orange on the reverse, and are illegal to own. All known pieces are in government museums. This series was discontinued in 1940. The other bills are printed in black and green as shown by the $10,000 example (pictured at right).

Although they are still technically legal tender in the United States, high-denomination bills were last printed in 1945 and officially discontinued on July 14, 1969, by the Federal Reserve System.[1] The $5,000 and $10,000 effectively disappeared well before then: there are only about 200 $5,000 and 300 $10,000 bills known, of all series since 1861. Of the $10,000 bills, 100 were preserved for many years by Benny Binion, the owner of Binion's Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they were displayed in a glass case. The case is no longer there, and the bills were sold to collectors.

Circulation of high-denomination bills was halted in 1969 by executive order of President Richard Nixon, in an effort to combat organized crime.

For the most part, these bills were used by banks and the Federal Government for large financial transactions. This was especially true for gold certificates from 1865 to 1934. However, the introduction of the electronic money system has made large-scale cash transactions obsolete; when combined with concerns about counterfeiting and the use of cash in unlawful activities such as the illegal drug trade, it is unlikely that the U.S. government will re-issue large denomination currency in the near future. According to the US Department of Treasury:

"The present denominations of our currency in production are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100... Neither the Department of the Treasury nor the Federal Reserve System has any plans to change the denominations in use today."
FAQ: Currency, US Dept. of Treasury website