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FAQs

What’s the difference between the BEP and the Mint?
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is the Nation’s sole producer of U.S. paper currency.  The BEP advises other federal agencies on document security matters and also produces engraved documents such as military commissions and award certificates, and special security documents for a variety of government agencies.

The United States Mint is the Nation’s sole manufacturer of circulating coins.  The Mint also produces numismatic coins and coin-related products, including proof, uncirculated, and commemorative coins; medals; and silver and gold bullion coins.

 

Does the BEP appraise old currency?
The BEP does not appraise or estimate numismatic values.  We suggest you contact dealers in old or rare currencies for an opinion.  Dealers' names are likely to be found online.  You may also refer to numismatic publications, which contain pictures of the various notes and list suggested prices.

 

I have a $1,000 currency note from the Bank of the United States.  It is dated December 15, 1840 and has the serial number "8894." Can you tell me what it is worth now and where I can cash it in?
This is a currency note from the Bank of the United States and is not an obligation of the United States government.  The Treasury Department did not issue notes intended for circulation as currency until 1862.

It is likely, though, that the note is part of a series of antiqued reproductions issued in various denominations and forms for use in advertising campaigns.  The most popular of these bear the serial number 8894.  These notes are so widespread that they were the subject of an August 5, 1970, article in the monthly numismatic publication, Coin World.

 

What is currency paper made of?
Currency paper is composed of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.

 

How durable is paper currency?
It would take about 4,000 double folds (first forward and then backwards) before a note will tear.

 

What is the weight of a note?
The approximate weight of a note, regardless of denomination is one gram.

 

Why is green ink used to print U.S. currency?
The reason for the selection of green as the color for the backs of U.S. currency has long been among the more popular questions put to the BEP.  No definite explanation can be made for the original choice; however, it is known that at the time of the introduction of small-sized notes in 1929, the use of green was continued because pigment of that color was readily available in large quantities, the color was relatively high in its resistance to chemical and physical changes, and green was psychologically identified with the strong and stable credit of the government.

 

What is legal tender?
31 USC 5103.  Legal Tender United States coins and currency (including Federal Reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal Reserve Banks and National banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes and dues.  Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.

However, there is no federal statute which mandates that private businesses must accept cash as a form of payment.  Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a state law which says otherwise.

 

What was the highest denomination note ever printed?
The largest note ever printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was the $100,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934.  These notes were printed from December 18, 1934, through January 9, 1935, and 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.  The notes were used for transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and were not circulated among the general public.

 

Is there a $1 million dollar note?
The U.S. government has never issued a $1 million note.  There are, however, “Platinum Certificates” or "One Million Dollar Special Issue Notes.”  These notes are non-negotiable and are not considered legal tender.  Many of these types of notes originated from a special limited copyrighted art series sold by a Canadian firm for $1 each.  Various designs of these types of notes have appeared over the years.  Such items are not redeemable by the Department of the Treasury and are not considered a legal obligation of the United States government.

 

What is a Celebrity Note?
A celebrity note is a note upon which the portraits of well-known personalities (such as Santa Claus and movie stars) are temporarily affixed.  They, for the most part, are found to be genuine United States currency.  Private businesses produce these novelty items by purchasing new currency notes from banks and subsequently apply the picture of a well-known personality over the engraved portrait on the note by means of a pressure-sensitive adhesive.  These businesses then charge their customers premium prices.

There are at least two statutes, 18 USC 333 and 18 USC 475, which may apply to celebrity notes. 18 USC 333 prescribes criminal penalties against anyone who "mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve Bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued".

Additionally, 18 USC 475 prescribes criminal penalties against anyone who "designs, engraves, prints, makes, or executes, or utters, issues, distributes, circulates, or uses any business or professional card, notice, placard, circular, handbill, or advertisement in the likeness or similitude of any obligation or security of the United States issued under or authorized by any Act of Congress or writes, prints, or otherwise impresses upon or attaches to any such instrument; obligation, or security, or any coin of the United States, any business or professional card, notice, or advertisement, or any notice or advertisement whatever". The prohibition contained in section 475 may apply when a celebrity note is being used as a form of commercial advertising.

The BEP’s position regarding this matter is that this and other similar treatments of United States currency are demeaning. This type of enterprise is neither endorsed nor authorized by officials at BEP.

 

Will there be a recall or devaluation of U.S. currency?
There will be no recall or devaluation of any current or older-series notes, which will be removed from circulation as they wear out. Older worn notes will be replaced with the new notes.

 

Was Confederate currency printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing?
The BEP has exclusively designed, engraved and printed all United States paper money since 1862. However, Confederate States Notes were not produced by BEP and are not obligations of the United States government. If genuine and in good condition, Confederate Notes may be of interest to collectors of old currencies. The names and addresses of collectors and dealers are likely to be found online or at your local library.

 

What is a United States Note?
United States Notes (characterized by a red seal and serial number), originally issued in 1862, were the first National currency. Federal Reserve notes were not issued until the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Both types of notes were redeemable in gold until 1933, when the United States abandoned the gold standard. Since then, both currencies have served essentially the same purpose, and have had the same value. Because United States Notes serve no function that is not already adequately served by Federal Reserve notes, their issuance was discontinued, and none have been placed into circulation since January 21, 1971.

All outstanding United States Notes, which were issued in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000, may be redeemed at face value by the U.S. Treasury Department. Payment would be made in the form of a Treasury check.

 

What is “Checkbook” currency?
At one time, private bindery companies would bind genuine currency notes in a “checkbook” fashion to be torn out as needed. However, BEP does not offer currency as a bound product. To acquire such an item, it is suggested that you acquire new currency notes from a bank and locate a bindery company capable of providing such a service. Such companies can be located on the internet or in your local telephone directory under the headings for “printers” and “bookbinders.”

 

Who is featured in the portraits on U.S. paper currency?

  • $1 Note - George Washington, 1st U.S. President; (Back) - The Great Seal of the United States
  • $2 Note - Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President; (Back) - The Declaration of Independence
  • $5 Note - Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President; (Back) - Lincoln Memorial
  • $10 Note - Alexander Hamilton, 1st Secretary of the Treasury; (Back) - U.S. Treasury Building
  • $20 Note - Andrew Jackson, 7th U.S. President; (Back) - White House
  • $50 Note - Ulysses Grant, 18th U.S. President; (Back) - U.S. Capitol
  • $100 Note - Ben Franklin, Statesman; (Back) - Independence Hall
  • $500 Note* - William McKinley, 25th U.S. President; (Back) - Numeral 500 and the ornamental phrase "Five Hundred Dollars"
  • $1000 Note* - Grover Cleveland, 22nd & 24th U.S. President; (Back) - Numeral 1000 and the ornamental phrase "One Thousand Dollars"
  • $5000 Note* - James Madison, 4th U.S. President; (Back) - Numeral 5000 and the ornamental phrase "Five Thousand Dollars"
  • $10,000 Note* - Salmon Chase, U.S. Treasury Secretary under Lincoln; (Back) - Numeral 10,000 and the ornamental phrase "Ten Thousand Dollars"
  • $100,000 Note* - Woodrow Wilson, 28th U.S. President; (Back) - Numeral 100,000 and the ornamental phrase "One Hundred Thousand Dollars". This note never appeared in general circulation, and was only used in transactions between Federal Reserve Banks

* = Notes no longer in print or circulation

 

Which of our Founding Fathers are found on the U.S. currency we use today and why?
Many denominations of today's Federal Reserve notes feature portraits of men regarded as Founding Fathers of the country because of their roles in creating and developing the new nation of the United States of America. Some of the accomplishments of the Founding Fathers that appear on U.S. paper money are listed below.

George Washington (1732-1799) $1 Federal Reserve Note

  • Member of the First and Second Continental Congresses (1774-1775)
  • Commander-in-Chief of the American Revolutionary Army (1775-1783)
  • President of the Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • First President of the United States (1789-1797)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) $2 Federal Reserve Note

  • Member of the Second Continental Congress (1775-1776)
  • Author/Signer of the Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • First Secretary of State (1790-1793)
  • Third President of the United States (1801-1809)

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) $10 Federal Reserve Note

  • Served in the American Revolutionary Army (1775-1781)
  • Member of the Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • Signer of the U.S. Constitution (1787)
  • First Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795)

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) $100 Federal Reserve Note

  • Served in the Second Continental Congress (1775-1776)
  • Member of the Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • Negotiated peace treaty with Great Britain (1781-1783)
  • Signer of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution (1776/1787)

 

Have any African Americans been pictured on U.S. currency?
There are no African Americans pictured on U.S. currency. There were four African American Registers of the Treasury, however, whose signatures appeared on the currency. They were Blanche K. Bruce, Judson W. Lyons, William T. Vernon and James C. Napier. Until the series 1923 currency, the two signatures on almost all currency (except Fractional Currency and Demand Notes) were of the Treasurer and the Register. During this period four of the 17 registers were African American. The fifth African American whose signature appeared on currency was Azie Taylor Morton. Ms. Morton was the 36th Treasurer of the United States. She served from September 12, 1977, to January 20, 1981.

 

Has a woman ever been pictured on U.S. currency?
Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. It appeared on the face of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891, and the back of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1896.

 

What is the origin of the $ sign?
The origin of the "$" sign has been variously accounted for. However, the most widely accepted explanation is that the symbol is the result of evolution, independently in different places, of the Mexican or Spanish "Ps" for pesos, or piastres, or pieces of eight. The theory, derived from a study of old manuscripts, is that the "S" gradually came to be written over the "P," developing a close equivalent of the "$" mark. It was widely used before the adoption of the United States dollar in 1785

 

What is the significance of the Great Seal of the United States on paper currency?
The face (obverse) of the Great Seal first appeared on the back (reverse) of the $20 Gold Certificate, Series 1905. In 1935, both the face and back of the seal appeared for the first time on paper money on $1 Silver Certificates.

Mandated by the First Continental Congress in 1776, the Great Seal took many years of work by multiple individuals and committees before final adoption in 1782. The Department of State is the official keeper of the seal. A description and explanation of both the obverse and reverse of the seal comes from the Department of State pamphlet The Great Seal of the United States (September 1996):

Obverse Side of the Great Seal: The most prominent feature is the American bald eagle supporting the shield, or escutcheon, which is composed of 13 red and white stripes, representing the original States, and a blue top which unites the shield and represents Congress. The motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one), alludes to this union. The olive branch and 13 arrows denote the power of peace and war, which is exclusively vested in Congress. The constellation of stars denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.

Reverse Side of the Great Seal: The pyramid signifies strength and duration: The eye over it and the motto Annuit Coeptis (He [God] has favored our undertakings) allude to the many interventions of Providence in favor of the American cause. The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words under it, Novus Ordo Seclorum (a new order of the ages), signify the beginning of the new American era in 1776.

 

Why is the phrase In God We Trust on U.S. currency?
The use of the national motto on both U.S. coins and notes is required by two statutes, 31 U.S.C. 5112(d) (1) and 5114(b), respectively. The motto was not adopted for use on U.S. paper money until 1957. It first appeared on some 1935G Series $1 Silver Certificates, but didn't appear on U.S. Federal Reserve notes until the Series 1963 currency. This use of the national motto has been challenged in court many times over the years that it has been in use and has been consistently upheld by the various courts of this country, including the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 1977.

The Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice intend to actively defend against challenges to the use of the national motto. In 1992, a challenge was filed and successfully defeated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

 

Why is U.S. currency redesigned?
The primary reason currency is redesigned is to address potential and current counterfeiting threats.

 

What drives the redesign timeline and sequence of denominations?
The redesign timeline is driven by security – primarily security feature development.  Typically, the aesthetics (look) are completed after the security features are ready.  The redesign sequence for denominations is driven by current and potential security threats.

 

What is the approximate timeline for the upcoming redesign?
In 2013, the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD) Steering Committee – which monitors currency security issues and provides recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury – indicated that the $10 note would be the next note to be redesigned and it is expected that it will happen in approximately 2026, followed by the $50 (2028), $20 (2030), $5 (2032-2035), and $100 (2034-2038) notes, pending any new developments in counterfeiting threats or technology issues.

 

What security features will be incorporated?
To keep our banknotes secure, three levels of security features are incorporated into them:  covert features, features for banknote equipment manufacturers, and public features.  The public security features are of critical importance since it is our first line of defense.  BEP continues to work on developing robust security features that must be seamlessly integrated into the banknote design, be manufacturable at high volume, and work flawlessly in daily commerce.

 

How do I report or learn more about money that I suspect is counterfeit?
Visit this United States Secret Service webpage to learn about counterfeit investigation and how to report counterfeit currency.

Why are BEP products being sold on the U.S. Mint’s website?
BEP and United States Mint formed a strategic partnership to sell BEP products through the Mint’s e-commerce system.  This collaboration offers collectors, gift-givers, and other customers a better experience and greater variety of numismatic currency products.

 

I used to purchase products directly from BEP.  What should I know now that I’m purchasing BEP products from the Mint?

  1. The purchase of BEP products from catalog.usmint.gov or 1-800-USA-MINT are subject to U.S. Mint Terms and Conditions.
  2. The Mint charges a nominal fee to cover shipment and the return policy window is within 7 days of receiving your product.  See the Mint’s Shipping and Returns Policy for more information.
  3. Ordering and paying for purchases at the Mint:
    1. The Mint does not accept orders by mail or fax.
    2. The Mint does not accept payment by check.  However, PayPal is accepted, which has the option to fund payments from a checking account.
    3. For more information about ordering and paying for products, see Mint FAQs on Order and Payment Processing.
  4. All registered customers who make three or more purchases within a calendar year qualify for the U.S. Mint’s Loyalty Program.  For more information, see the Mint’s Loyalty Program Fact Sheet.

 

Why can’t I use my BEP customer account on the Mint’s website?
BEP customer accounts were not transferred to the U.S. Mint.  Current BEP customers are encouraged to set up a new account on the Mint’s website.  Although purchases can be made from the U.S. Mint without setting up an account, doing so will allow customers to take advantage of benefits like the Mint’s Loyalty Program, product notifications, easier order tracking, and paying with PayPal.  Opening an account on the Mint website is easy and takes only a few minutes.

 

I am a BEP bulk customer.  What do I do now?
BEP bulk sale customers should continue to place orders through BEP at 1-800-456-3408.

 

How can I become a BEP bulk customer?
Please contact BEP’s bulk program directly at 1-800-456-3408.

 

Following the transition, how can I return a product I purchased at a BEP retail location?
If you purchased a product at a BEP retail location, you can return it to that same location.  The Mint does not accept or process returns for products purchased from BEP retail locations through its website or call center.

 

How can I access my past BEP order history?
If you need to access your order history from BEP for products you purchased through its website prior to September 17, 2018, please contact BEP directly at 1-800-456-3408 or by email at Moneyfactory.sales@bep.gov.

I still have more questions, who can I call?

If you have additional questions regarding the transition or BEP product orders placed prior to September 17, 2018, please contact BEP’s Mail Order Sales Department by telephone at 1-800-456-3408 or by email at Moneyfactory.sales@bep.gov.