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February 13, 2023

The Presidents in Your Wallet

Because we celebrate President's Day this month, I thought it would be interesting to provide some facts, as well as some trivia, about presidents whose portraits have appeared on the country's currency and coin. Do you know the presidents who are currently on our currency? We have George Washington on the $1 bill, Thomas Jefferson on the $2 bill, Abraham Lincoln on the $5, Andrew Jackson on the $20, and Ulysses S. Grant on the $50. Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin were never presidents, but they are featured on the $10 and $100 bill, respectively.

What about the faces on currency no longer printed? If you visit the Atlanta Fed's Monetary Museum, you'll see these bills (and more), along with the answer to that question. Notes in the denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 were last printed in 1945 but were issued through 1969. All these bills except one featured presidents: William McKinley on the $500, Grover Cleveland on the $1,000, and James Madison on the $5,000. Salmon Chase, a nonpresident, was featured on the $10,000 bill; he was secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln and chief justice of the Supreme Court. President Woodrow Wilson, who signed the Federal Reserve Act into law, was featured on the $100,000 gold certificate, which was used to transfer balances between Federal Reserve Banks. Since it never entered circulation, it was never officially considered currency.

Some additional trivia:

  • It is technically illegal to have a $100,000 note as it was only produced to support transfers between Federal Reserve Banks.
  • Each note has two signatures on its face: those of the secretary of the Treasury and the US treasurer. In December 2022, for the first time, these signatures belonged to two women: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Treasurer Lynn Roberge Malerba.
  • All deceased presidents have been honored with their portrait on a coin as part of the Presidential $1 Coin programOff-site link. The coin honoring the latest deceased president, George H. W. Bush, was issued in 2020. The first president to appear on the $1 coin was Dwight Eisenhower.
  • The Treasury Department is planning to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 note with abolitionist and social activist Harriett Tubman by 2030 video fileOff-site link.
  • Only two presidents have been featured on more than one note. Grover Cleveland's portrait was on the $20 bill from its first issuance in 1914 until 1929 when it was replaced with Andrew Jackson. President Cleveland was also, as I noted above, on the $1,000 note. Andrew Jackson was on the $10,000 from its first issuance until the note was removed from circulation. His image was put on the $20 note in 1929.
  • According to figures from the Federal Reserve Economic DataOff-site link, maintained by the St. Louis Fed, the total amount of currency and coin in circulation as of December 29, 2022, was almost $2.3 trillion.
  • Coins and notes have numerous references to 13 elements relating to the original 13 colonies.
  • Where's George?Off-site link is a website that allows you to enter the serial number of a bill to track it or to see where it's been if it is already being tracked.
  • According to the Federal Reserve, the average lifespanOff-site link of the $5 note, at 4.7 years, the shortest of all the notes, while the lifespan of a $100 bill is almost 23 years. A $1 note has an average lifespan of 6.6 years.

Enjoy your President's Day holiday!