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What Was the Most Valuable Banknote Ever Printed by the U.S. Government?

In 1928, the United States changed the size of its paper money -- making bills an inch shorter, and a half-inch narrower -- and issued some banknotes in significantly larger denominations, mostly to make transactions between financial institutions easier. In addition to common banknotes up to $100 USD, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing churned out new bills in $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 denominations. And for a short time in 1934, $100,000 gold certificates (featuring the image of Woodrow Wilson) were also printed, although they were used only among Federal Reserve banks. The Treasury stopped issuing the larger-denomination notes in 1969 because they were sparsely circulated.

Can you break a $10,000?

  • The likenesses of U.S. Presidents William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, and James Madison appeared on the $100, $500 and $1,000 bills. The image of Salmon P. Chase, a former Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was on the $10,000 bill.

  • Chase was Secretary of the Treasury in the 1860s, when greenbacks were printed for the first time, and his image was featured on the first $1 bill. Chase National Bank (later called Chase Manhattan Bank) was named in his honor.

  • In 2009, Slate reported that there were still 336 $10,000 bills in circulation, most held by collectors. A flawless $10,000 bill can bring as much as $140,000 on the open market.

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