Battle of the Bills

Here's the complete list of all 16 bills that competed in the Battle of the Bills. For your convenience, we also present this information in a PDF brochure.

ARTISTRY

Grand Watermelon Note

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Grand Watermelon Note front
Grand Watermelon Note back
  • The note's front, or obverse, features a portrait of Union General George Meade and was engraved by Charles Burt, a 19th century engraver for the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • Its nickname is derived from the color and shape of the zeros on the back, or reverse, and the ornate design there was designed to deter counterfeiting.
  • Treasury Notes were only redeemable in coin. The authority for the Treasury to issue these notes came from the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.
  • Considered one of the most valuable and rare Treasury notes still in existence, a Grand Watermelon note sold for $3.29 million in January 2014.

HISTORY

Federal Reserve Note

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Federal Reserve Note front
Federal Reserve Note back
  • This note is from the first series of Federal Reserve Notes issued beginning in 1914.
  • President Andrew Jackson's portrait is featured on the front, or obverse, of the note.
  • The back, or reverse, of the note features a farmer driving a horse-drawn wagon and carrying sheaves of wheat on the left and a factory with smokestacks running adjacent to a railroad. This image signified U.S. agrarian and industrial economic activity.
  • This note was signed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was appointed by President Warren G. Harding in 1921 and went on to serve through the presidential administrations of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

ARTISTRY

National Bank Note Series $100 Bill

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National Bank Note Series $100 Bill front
National Bank Note Series $100 Bill back
  • The National Bank Note Series features engraved vignettes of historically themed oil paintings hanging in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
  • This $100 note features an engraving of John Trumbull's oil painting Declaration of Independence on the back, or reverse. The engraving features 42 of the 56 signers and five additional patriots.
  • Liberty stands guard over "The Union" next to the phrase "Maintain It" on the right side of the note’s front, or obverse.
  • John Trumbull's painting Declaration of Independence is also featured on the back, or reverse, of the today's $2 bill.

ECONOMIC ROLE

Demand Note

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Demand Note front
Demand Note back
  • "Greenbacks" remains a common nickname for U.S. currency. The term originated with these first Demand Notes because of the ink used in printing.
  • First issued August 10, 1861, these notes were issued to help finance the Civil War.
  • The Treasury Department was authorized to issue non–interest bearing Demand Notes.
  • The front, or obverse, of the note features an off-center portrait of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, and the Statue of Freedom, which has stood atop the Capitol Dome in Washington DC since 1863.

ARTISTRY

1896 Silver Certificate

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1896 Silver Certificate front
1896 Silver Certificate back
  • The back, or reverse, of this note features portraits of George and Martha Washington. Martha is the only woman whose portrait appeared on U.S. currency. Her portrait also appeared on the $1 silver certificate of 1886 and 1891.
  • Titled History Instructing Youth, this note is from the 1896 silver certificate series nicknamed the "educational series" because the allegorical motifs were used to commemorate 120 years of U.S. achievements.
  • The note's front, or obverse, features a classically robed female representing history. She instructs a young boy about the U.S. Constitution, to which she is pointing. The background is a landscape of Washington DC featuring the Capitol Dome and the Washington Monument.
  • The note is framed with the names of famous Americans such as Lincoln, Hamilton, Morse, Sherman, Jefferson, Longfellow, Clay, Farragut, and Emerson.

ECONOMIC ROLE

$100,000 Gold Certificate

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$100,000 Gold Certificate front
$100,000 Gold Certificate back
  • The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced this series during a three-week stretch from December 18, 1934, through January 9, 1935. These notes were used only for official transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and the U.S. Treasury.
  • The notes were issued by the Treasurer of the United States to Federal Reserve Banks only against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Treasury Department.
  • The note features a portrait of President Wilson, who signed the Federal Reserve Act on December 23, 1913.
  • These notes never circulated among the general public and remain unlawful for collectors to possess.

ECONOMIC ROLE

Compound Interest Treasury Note

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Compound Interest Treasury Note front
Compound Interest Treasury Note back
  • Congress authorized these notes in March 1863, and the Treasury Department put them into general circulation in 1863 and 1864. Their issuance helped finance the Union effort during the Civil War.
  • The notes were considered legal tender at face value. They paid compound interest of 6 percent per year payable at the end of three years from the date of issuance.
  • The front, or obverse, features an off-center portrait of Salmon P. Chase, President Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury; a center portrait of a bald eagle in front of the U.S. Capitol; and, to the right of center, Peace.
  • The back, or reverse, of the note includes a table listing the value of the notes at six-month intervals until the end of its three-year maturity.

ECONOMIC ROLE

The Continental

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The Continental front
The Continental back
  • The Continental Dollar was first issued in 1775 by the Continental Congress to finance the American Revolution.
  • Continentals were issued in large denominations as zero-interest bearer bond notes with fixed future redemption dates. Prior to 1777, half of the notes issued were used to pay soldiers. Congress hoped soldiers would hold their Continental Dollars for future redemption. They were not intended to be used as a circulating currency.
  • By mid-1777, as Congress increasingly used Continentals to pay for war supplies, the notes began to circulate as a medium of exchange. Ultimately, British counterfeiting and inflationary pressures led to the coining of the phrase "not worth a continental." Eventually, they became worthless.
  • Public confidence in paper currency was so eroded during the American Revolution that it wouldn't be until the need to fund the Civil War that the federal government would again issue paper money for circulation among the general public.

HISTORY

Legal Tender Note

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Legal Tender Note front
Legal Tender Note back
  • Nicknamed the "Woodchopper Bill," the bill's central portrait is a vignette featuring a man with an axe, his dog, wife, and baby. They represent a pioneer family making their way west.
  • Unlike traditional notes that featured portraits of statesmen, generals, and politicians in the middle of the front or obverse of the note, the Legal Tender Notes featured vignettes of different topics with an off-center portrait, such as this one of President Andrew Jackson.
  • The Legal Tender Act of 1862 authorized the issuance of the first U.S. Legal Tender Notes. These paper notes helped finance the Union effort and were not backed by gold or silver.
  • These Legal Tender Notes were also called United States Notes or greenbacks because of the green ink on the back, or reverse, of the notes. From the 1907 series, this is the last of the large or "horse blanket" notes.

SYMBOLS

Interest-Bearing Treasury Note

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Interest-Bearing Treasury Note front
Interest-Bearing Treasury Note back
  • This $50 interest-bearing Treasury note was part of a series first issued in March 1863 by an act of the U.S. Treasury to help fund the Civil War.
  • The note features three allegorical females: Caduceus (left), Justice (center), and Loyalty (right).
  • This note was acceptable as legal tender and paid the bearer 5 percent interest per year for two years and face value at maturity.
  • The date stamped in red on this note represents the payable date.

HISTORY

Hawaii Overprint Note

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Hawaii Overprint Note front
Hawaii Overprint Note back
  • Issued for use by American armed forces after the Pearl Harbor attack, these notes could be declared worthless in the event of a Japanese invasion of Hawaii, thus preventing large quantities of U.S. currency from falling into enemy hands.
  • Silver certificates and Federal Reserve Notes already in circulation had HAWAII overprinted on them: twice on the front, or obverse, and more prominently on the back, or reverse.
  • The U.S. Treasury Building is featured on the back, or reverse, of the note.
  • Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary, is featured on the note’s front, or obverse.

HISTORY

National Bank Note

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National Bank Note front
National Bank Note back
  • An off-center portrait on the front, or obverse, of this note features President James Garfield with the name of the national bank printed in the middle. The back, or reverse, is printed in brown with a blue center instead of the more common green.
  • President Garfield was assassinated in 1881, two decades before the U.S. Secret Service began providing presidential protection.
  • The First National Bank of the City of New York agreed to pay the bearer, on demand, five dollars.
  • National banknotes were secured by U.S. Treasury bonds deposited with the Treasurer of the United States.

SYMBOLS

The Bison Note

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The Bison Note front
The Bison Note back
  • This note was nicknamed the bison note or buffalo bill because of the center portrait.
  • First issued in 1901, this large-size legal tender note was the first time the center portrait depicted a mammal, an American bison believed to be modeled after either a bison named Black Diamond in the Central Park Zoo or one who lived at the Washington Zoo.
  • The front, or obverse, of the note features the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on either side of the bison.
  • The back, or reverse, of the note features a female figure, Columbia, standing between two pillars.

ARTISTRY

National Bank Note Series $50 Bill

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National Bank Note Series $50 Bill front
National Bank Note Series $50 Bill back
  • The National Bank Note Series features engraved vignettes of historically themed oil paintings hanging in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
  • The back, or reverse, of this $50 note features an engraving of Robert Walter Weir's painting Embarkation of the Pilgrim. The painting was installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in 1843.
  • The painting on the back, or reverse, depicts the Pilgrims leaving Holland for their voyage across the Atlantic in search of religious freedom. The image is intended to evoke a sense of the solemnity of the Pilgrims' journey.
  • The front, or obverse, of the note depicts General George Washington crossing the Delaware River (on the left) and General Washington at prayer (on the right).

SYMBOLS

$1 Bill

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$1 Bill front
$1 Bill back
  • Featured on the back, or reverse, of the $1 bill is the Great Seal of the United States, which was designed by Charles Thomson, a prominent Philadelphia merchant and secretary of the Continental Congress. Thomson submitted his design to the Continental Congress on June 13, 1782.
  • The Great Seal features an unfinished pyramid with 13 rows of blocks to represent the 13 states and symbolize their strength and duration.
  • The top of the pyramid features an eye with rays emanating in all directions and the Latin motto Annuit Coeptis (Providence Has Favored Our Undertakings).
  • The Great Seal was added to the back of the $1 bill during the Great Depression, in the 1935 series of silver certificates after Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace interpreted the phrase Novo Ordo Seculorum in a banner below the pyramid to mean The New Deal of the Ages. Wallace and President Franklin D. Roosevelt were Freemasons, to whom the eye symbolizes the Great Architect of the Universe.

SYMBOLS

The Continental

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The Continental front
The Continental back
  • This note, known as the Continental, was issued to help finance the American Revolution and was designed by Benjamin Franklin, who liked to pair Latin phrases with symbols. It was printed by Hall & Sellers in Philadelphia in 1776, and the paper contains thin blue threads and mica flakes to deter counterfeiting.
  • The symbol featured on the front, or obverse, of the Continental is a sun shining on a sundial with the Latin word "Fugio" and the English words "Mind Your Business." When combined, they create the motto "Time flies, so mind your business."
  • The denomination of this note is depicted by the two ornaments in the top corners of the sundial frame representing one-sixth of a dollar each, to indicate the note's value of one-third of a dollar.
  • The 13 linked rings featured on the back, or reverse, represent the 13 colonies and the mottos We are One and American Congress to represent their new union.