With most of our currency now being transmitted through digital mediums, the idea of a physical dollar bill that is worth $500 will sound absurd to most. Save for the senior citizens amongst us; many may have never seen these larger bills or even know they existed.
However, for the first couple of centuries of the American monetary system, larger billings, including $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 dollar bills, played a small but crucial role in the economy.
In the absence of an electronic fund transfer system, these large bills provided an easier way to move substantial sums.
These notes were a lifesaver for large financial transactions by eminent personalities and institutions, especially banks, the federal reserve, the federal government, large-scale real estate, and other big business firms.
However, with the advent of the electronic money system, these large notes became obsolete and were duly retired by the Federal Reserve. Consequently, these bills became highly sought-after collector’s items, as their dwindling supply made them harder and harder to find.
The Federal Reserve began removing $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 dollar bills from circulation in 1969, after Congress passed legislation to end their use.
The Reserve bank began destroying all high-denomination bills it received, decimating the supply in circulation and increasing the rarity and value of the pieces held by collectors across the country.
With this new legislation, the $500 bill, which was already one of the least issued denomination notes, became even more rare and valuable.
How much, then, is a 500 dollar bill worth today?
Like most other rare currency types, the value of a $500 can vary significantly as you move from one specimen to another.
On average, expect most $500 notes to retail for at least a 50% to 100% premium, even with some defaced notes. Hence, you can expect random $500 bills to be worth between $750 and $1000.
However, this value can rise significantly for notes that fall into categories that make them even rarer.
Excellent condition notes are considerably harder to find and can sell for $2000 or higher. Bills produced in a year with relatively lower issuance rates will automatically be rarer and command higher prices on the collector’s market. Plus, notes with commemorative qualities—for being produced in a special year or being the first or last of a series—can attract dramatically higher premiums, retailing for north of $5000.
Although the $500 bill was removed from circulation by the Federal Reserve in 1969 (and it destroys every $500 bill it receives to this day,) this bill is still fully recognized as legal tender and will be accepted by both banks and individuals for everyday transactions.
However, it would be hard to find a reason to spend a $500 bill as any other regular note, considering you could get a significant premium on its face value if you sell it to collectors.
Do you have a note you suspect may be amongst the more valuable $500 bills? Stay tuned as we walk you through the most popular variants of this denomination and their current market value.
The $500 Bill’s History
Like most other large U.S. bills, the $500 note first appeared during wartime.
With war comes the need for large purchases to acquire all types of war supplies, and before the advent of electronic transfers, big bills were the perfect way to handle these transactions conveniently.
Consequently, the first $500 bill was one produced by the Province of North Carolina in 1780 during the heat of the American Revolutionary War. Similarly, other states also produced larger bills shortly after, with Virginia issuing a similar $500 bill in the same year.
The next boom for high denomination notes was during the war of 1812 and the American Civil War. During both tumultuous eras, forces on all sides began producing larger bills, including the $500, $1000, and $10,000 notes, to help ease the complexities of wartime transactions.
After the end of the wars, the $500 bill and other large denomination notes transitioned into a Federal Reserve tool for managing important large-scale transactions.
The Federal Reserve and banks used these notes (Treasury Notes and Gold Certificates) for inter and intr-bank transactions, issuing debt and interest, and transactions between governmental organizations.
Initially, these large bills were rarely handled by the general public, except for the wealthy and a handful of high-profile citizens in the top echelons of society.
The last $500 bill issued by the Federal Reserve was a 1934 Federal Reserve note—sporting a portrait of President William McKinley in front—which achieved much wider circulation than most notes of the same denomination released before it.
At this point, the rapid modernization of the banking system meant that larger bills were becoming obsolete as they were no longer necessary for moving substantial funds.
Hence, the Federal Reserve did not produce any new $500 bills until they were discontinued in 1969 and began being removed from circulation and destroyed.
This period marked the transformation of large bills like the $500 note into hot collector’s items, as their rapidly dwindling supply made savvy collectors begin to hoard them for their potential increase in value in the future.
$500 Bill Rarity
The discontinuation of the $500 in 1969 saw its rarity level increase dramatically. With notes that matched this criterion being destroyed rapidly by the Federal Reserve, the supply available to collectors fell drastically.
However, while all $500 bills are rare to a point, some special features can set certain specimens apart from the crowd, ensuring they command much higher prices on the open market.
If you have a $500 bill in hand, the chances are that it is the 1934 Federal Reserve note. This variant of the $500 note is the most popular in the wild—with the other variants occurring few a far between—and it is also the cheapest on the collector’s market. If your note isn’t one of these and you suspect it might be much rarer than most, these are the most important factors to consider.
Like most other forms of collectible money, one of the key determinants of a $500 bill’s rarity level is its production year.
Older notes have had a longer period during which they were lost, damaged, or taken out of circulation. Hence, these notes are typically harder to find than newer iterations, especially when you only consider specimens of the highest quality. This rule applies here too.
The least expensive $500 bills are the newest ones produced in 1928 and 1934. If you find anything older (and in good condition), you could get at least four times its face value or even more on the collectors market.
However, notes from the 19th century are almost impossible to find, even for the most seasoned collectors. To put this in perspective, an elusive $500 note, an 1869 $500 “rainbow” note depicting President John Quincy Adams, sold for $1,440,000 in 2019.
Rainbow notes are 19th-century United States bills that feature considerably more color than was customary with notes from that era. These unique bills are printed on paper that contains markedly multicolor fibers, giving the end product a distinct, colorful look.
While nearly a hundred thousand of these bills were printed, only three known surviving specimens exist today.
These notes were printed on this unique paper as a measure to stem counterfeiting at the time.
Seal Color and Signature
Like with most other old note types, the way the Bureau of Engraving and Printing delineates one note type from another is via a variation of seal colors and signatures. These features are similar to the mint marks you get with United States coins that indicate the Mint facility that produced the coins.
Some $500 bills have rare variations in their seal types that can make them dramatically rarer than similar notes from that year’s issue.
A good example of this phenomenon is this 1882 $500 gold certificate discovered in 2013 that sports an uncharacteristic large red spiked seal in the middle of the note’s front. The unique piece sold for $900,000 in 2018.
With only 16,000 of this note type printed and only two known surviving specimens, this piece is several classes above your regular $500 bill in terms of rarity thanks to its unique seal, and there are a few other $500 note variants that fit this bill.
If you suspect your $500 bill has a strange-looking seal or signature, you should hold off on pawning it off for cheap, and consider getting an expert’s opinion on that note.
Other variations that might affect the rarity and price of a $500 bill include characteristics like:
- The note type—whether it is a gold certificate, Treasury note, Federal reserve note, state bank note, silver certificate, or interest-bearing note
- The note’s paper size (large note or small note,)
- Or the design (as some releases featured multiple design variations.
These dissimilarities can considerably affect the rarity levels of a piece, as some of these unique variants were limited releases while others were only used internally and between banks and government organizations and were never officially released to the public.
Star notes are notes produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as replacement notes for bills that were damaged or misprinted during production and were then tossed. While this added star does not confer any direct added value to the notes, the star adds another dimension of rarity levels for collectors.
There is a very small amount of known specimens of $500 bills that are star notes. These unique pieces will typically attract a slight premium over regular notes from the same series.
Serial numbers are always a big deal with collectible United States notes. A great serial number can make a specimen super rare, enabling it to sell for thousands more than the average price of that note type.
Collectors typically prefer bills that sport an extremely lower serial number (100 or lower,) and the consequent high demand for this small number of notes can add a considerable premium to their value on the collector’s market.
For older United States currencies, especially with notes, condition is often the great filter that divides the most valuable pieces from the rest.
With the last 500 dollar bill produced over 90 years ago, fewer and fewer notes remain that maintain their original (or close to their original) release condition. This situation means that there is a considerable premium for bills that are in the top percentile in terms of condition.
If you find a $500 bill in an uncirculated or near uncirculated state, you can confidently assume it is worth at least $2000 and probably much more. The rarest immaculate condition specimens can typically retail for $10,000 or higher irrespective of their production year or other defining characteristics.
Most Valuable $500 Bill Types (and Their Value)
There is a broad spectrum of $500 bill types that have existed throughout the United States monetary history.
Hence, it would be impractical to cover every single variant in this report, especially when you consider that a sizable percentage of these note types are either overprinted valueless notes or extremely rare and high-priced unavailable variants to even the most seasoned collectors.
A significant proportion of the $500 bills in American history are state-issued (mainly by states in the Confederacy) notes during wartime that was overprinting to inflation and often heavily counterfeited. Consequently, these notes do not hold much value even today, especially compared to the more mainstream Federal Reserve pieces.
Plus, since these specimens are not considered legal tender, they are unredeemable for their $500 face value. Hence, even if they did retain some value on the collector’s market for their nostalgia, it would probably be priced below its face value.
On the flip side, you have extremely rare (legal tender) $500 bills for which the specimens that exist are in the single digits. These bills are never available to collectors from the general public and are only sold in auctions, often for north of $500,000.
Hence, we will focus more on valuing the more readily available $500 notes you can buy easily on the open market. Some of these relatively more easily obtainable $500 bills include:
1882 $500 Gold Certificate
The 1882 $500 gold certificate is the oldest $500 bill that is available to most everyday collectors across the country. The massive supply of this bill that was initially released into circulation meant that, even after the $500 was decommissioned, an abundance of this note’s specimens still existed in the wild.
Despite the bill being over 100 years old, you can still find relatively decent pieces retailing for just a few times their face value.
However, like with most other notes in the series, the market value for each specimen will depend heavily on its condition. The best condition 1882 $500 gold certificates can easily be auctioned in the tens to hundreds of thousands.
Furthermore, there are a few variants of this note that exist with a variety of seal types and signatures. These rarer variants typically sell for at least a few hundred dollars. Another important category is 1882 $500 gold certificates with serial numbers that are sub 100. These, too, could easily sell for north of $100,000.
If you find an 1882 $500 gold certificate, the chances are that it would be of the common variant.
However, if you notice any unique seal or signature variation or if the note is in a particularly immaculate condition, you may want to hold on to it and see a proper appraisal from a certified expert. If your hunch is right, you could be sitting on an ultra-rare piece like this one which sold for $900,000.
1918 $500 Federal Reserve Note
The first $500 federal reserve note on this list is also one of the most liked by collectors around the country, in part because many consider it to be the most beautiful piece in the series. One look at this note, and it is not hard to see why.
In front, while the note does have its aesthetic merits, its layout is similar to most other United States bills.
This obverse houses the main piece, a portrait of John Marshall, one time Secretary of State and the fourth Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 until his death in 1835. The headshot is nested inside a locket-style frame that is flanked by two stalks of wheat.
However, it is the small details that take the design to the next level. The entire note features small aesthetic touches and exquisite motifs that combine to create a clean, graceful look that is sure to impress.
Flipping the note over, you will find the crowning piece that catapults this bill to a level where it is in contention for the most aesthetically pleasing United States bill.
The reverse of the note sports a unique green design that is hard to rival. The image—which takes up most of the available space—shows Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto on the occasion of his discovery of the Mississippi.
However, the image is so picturesque that it could easily be a standalone art piece. Plus, the multiple shades of green hue that envelopes the scene helps to bolster its mystique further.
Completing the unique design is an intricate motif mirrored on both sides that flanks the image in the center, as if revealing it on a show stage to an on-looking audience.
Despite being one of the more accessible notes of this denomination, the 1918 $500 Federal Reserve Note’s unique design and consequent high demand from collectors helps to prop up its value on the open market.
While you can get decent specimens of this note for between $2000 to $3000, pieces in better condition can easily retail between $5000 and $8000, while circulated, near uncirculated, and rare variations of this note will easily surpass $10,000 on the collectors market.
1922 $500 Gold Certificate
Similar to the 1882 iteration of this gold certificate, the 1922 issue sports a design that shows President Abraham Lincoln on the left side of the obverse and a mural that shows the note’s face value “500” on the right-hand side.
In the center, you get an assortment of text indicating that the note was a receipt for the deposit of five hundred dollars in gold coins into the Treasury of the United States and that is payment was repayable on demand, a relic from the time when the United States dollar, like most major currencies before it was backed by gold.
On the note’s reverse, you will find an orange back that sports a heraldic eagle superimposed on the flag, serving as the main piece.
Unlike most other bills on this list, there are no known variations or star notes in this series. Hence, for the 1922 $500 Gold Certificate, the main determinants of price are the note’s condition and serial number.
In the rare case that you find a specimen with a serial under 100, you could be holding a note that is worth at least $20,000.
Uncirculated or near uncirculated 1922 $500 Gold Certificate will typically sell for north of $10,000, while slightly lower quality pieces will typically retail in the $5000 to $10,000 range.
1928 $500 Gold Certificate
The 1928 $500 Gold Certificate is one of the more peculiar entries on this list for several unrelated reasons that combine to make it surprisingly quite valuable.
The note’s design is fairly ordinary, featuring a portrait of William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States on the obverse and sporting an unembellished green back with only the note’s denomination and “The United States of America” gracing the reverse.
However, when you consider the statistics around the note’s issuance, things change dramatically.
The 1928 $500 gold certificate was the last gold certificate in this denomination ever produced because the United States Treasury stopped printing gold certificates in this denomination in the same year.
The only other year after this in which gold certificates were produced was in 1934. Still, the Federal Reserve only issued them in $100, $1000, and $10,000 denominations, and these notes were intended for inter and intra-bank use and were never circulated.
This fact already adds significant sentimental value to the 1928 $500 Gold Certificate and contributes to its relatively high price on the collector’s market.
However, with 420,000 pieces of this bill released into circulation (one of the highest of the $500 notes) and with the note being relatively newer than most, you would expect an abundance of specimens would be available today.
Nevertheless, the reverse is the case, as there are only around 100 known specimens of this note that have appeared on the collector’s market since. This scarcity is due in part to a temporary ban on the ownership of gold and gold certificates that was placed a few years after the release of this note, during the Roosevelt Administration.
The ban on the ownership of all gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates and an enforced depositing of all three into the Federal Reserve was placed in 1933 via executive order as part of the efforts of the Roosevelt Administration to counteract the hoarding and shipment of gold overseas that was ramping up during the heat of the Great Depression.
With many owners of the recently issued 1928 gold certificates fearing they would become obsolete, they surrendered their notes to the government, effectively retiring them permanently.
However, this legislation was eventually rescinded in 1964 by Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, allowing collectors to own gold certificates again, although they were no longer redeemable for gold but rather for their face value in dollars.
Consequently, only a few 1928 $500 gold certificates survived that period and made it to become collector’s items today.
With such a small supply of these bills available today, it is no surprise that they attract a considerable premium on the open market. Good condition notes will set you back between $5000 and $10,000, depending on their grade, while uncirculated notes will typically be auctioned for much higher.
With only 13 known uncirculated specimens and only four of these certified by PMG as Gem Uncirculated 65, it is no surprise that prices for uncirculated pieces will often start at over $15,000. One of the four gem rated pieces sold at auction for $96,000 in 2018.
1928 $500 Federal Reserve Note
The 1928 $500 Federal Reserve note mirrors the same design as the 1928 $500 Gold certificate. The only changes to their design being the obverse on the Reserve note sporting a brighter hue and the replacement of annotations that indicated gold certificate status with those you would find on a regular dollar.
However, despite sharing similar aesthetics, both notes are priced quite differently on the open market.
A regular circulated 1928 $500 Federal Reserve Note will typically retail for between $1000 and $1500. For uncirculated notes, you can expect a higher premium, with these bills retailing for $2000 or higher.
However, several different factors can influence the final price of 1928 $500 Federal Reserve Notes.
Notes bearing a light-colored seal typically retail for slightly more here than its regular counterparts. In addition, a sizable amount of star notes were released as part of this series, and they also retail for premium.
On average you should expect these special notes to retail for between $1500 and $5000.
However, in rare cases, where you have a confluence of factors, such as an uncirculated note with a sub-100 serial number and a light-colored seal, you could have specimens that sell for north of $10,000. For example, this very fine specimen with a light seal sold for $28,800 earlier this year.
1934 $500 Federal Reserve Note
If you have a $500 denominated bill in hand, the chances are that it is this one.
With close to a million of these notes printed, it is one of the most abundant $500 bills ever. Experts estimate that at least 150,000 of these notes still exist today. Hence, finding one for cheap to add to your collection should be quite easy.
The note, which mirrors the exact design of the 1928 Federal Reserve note, is readily available on collector websites even in its uncirculated condition.
Expect uncirculated specimens of the 1934 $500 Federal Reserve Note to sell for between $1500 and $2000. Star notes in pristine condition can sell for significantly higher, while circulated notes can retail from $1500 to as low as face value, depending on the physical condition of that particular specimen.
$500 Bill Worth (Value Chart)
Need to find the estimated value of your $500 bill at a glance? This chart gives you an uncomplicated visual guide on the average price range you should expect for specific $500 note variants.
Remember to use the table as an approximate estimate of the market value of $500 notes and as a general guide for making better market decisions.
|NOTE⬇\AVERAGE QUALITY➜||Poor Quality (tears, stains, nicks, etc)||Good||Very Fine||Uncirculated (MS 63)|
|1882 $500 Gold Certificate||Less than $10,000||$10,000 – $20,000||$30,000 – $40,000||$50,000+|
|1918 $500 Federal Reserve Note||Less than $2000||$2000 – $3000||$5000 – $6000||$10,000+|
|1922 $500 Gold Certificate||Less than $2000||$3000 – $4000||$5000 – $6000||$10,000+|
|1928 $500 Gold Certificate||$1500 – $2000||$5000 – $8000||$8000 – $10,000||$15,000 – $100,000|
|1928 $500 Federal Reserve Note||Face Value – $1300||$1000 – $1200||$1300 – $1500||$2000 – $15000|
|1934 $500 Federal Reserve Note||–||$600 – $1000||$1000 – $1200||$1500 – $2000|
|1934 $500 Federal Reserve Note||–||–||–||$1500 – $4000|