Types of U.S. Currency

The United States has issued a number of different types of currency over the years; the main difference between them is the way in which each type was backed or guaranteed. Beginning with the first small-size notes in Series 1928, the different types of currency were distinguished by different-colored Treasury seals and serial numbers. (On the large-size currency prior to 1928, colors had no particular significance.) Five distinct types have been issued as small-size notes:

A number of additional types were issued prior to 1928:

Denominations of U.S. currency

U.S. currency has been issued in denominations ranging from three cents to $100,000. The chronologies of small-size and large-size notes show which types were issued in which denominations at various times. In general, most types were issued in a wider range of denominations during the large-size era than during the small-size era. For example, silver certificates of up to $1000 were issued in several series before 1900, but small-size silver certificates were printed only in the $1, $5, and $10 denominations. Aside from the Fractional Currency, however, the denominations printed as small-size notes are all those that the U.S. has ever issued: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1000, $5000, $10,000, and $100,000. (An 1865 law did allow for a $3 National Bank Note, and designs were engraved for a potential $3 Legal Tender Note around the same time, but in each case no $3 notes were ever actually printed for circulation.) Fractionals were issued in denominations of 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, and 50.

Denominations larger than $100 were withdrawn from circulation in 1969 due to lack of demand--indeed, none of these notes had been printed since the 1940s. Surviving high-denomination notes are still removed from circulation and destroyed whenever they reach the Federal Reserve or the Treasury, but most of those still in the hands of the public are held by collectors. The $100,000 note has never reached the public at all: It was issued only as a Series 1934 gold certificate, and that series was not authorised for release outside the Federal Reserve System, so none of these notes have ever entered general circulation.

Contrary to popular belief, the $2 note is still a circulating denomination. From 1928 to 1966, the $2 denomination was printed only as a United States Note, and in fact the $2 was discontinued in 1966 when small-denomination U.S. Notes went out of production. But a $2 Federal Reserve Note, with a different back design commemorating the Declaration of Independence, was introduced in 1976 for the Bicentennial, and $2 FRNs are still printed and issued as demand requires.

Main Page