Those of you who are young may not remember a time before credit cards and ATMs, but before those conveniences existed, $5,000 bills were the largest denomination of currency in circulation. Yes, bank checks and wire transfers existed, but cash was still king. So, when you had to buy, say, a car at a dealership, the only way to pay for it was with a stack of Benjamins or Grant’s.
These bills haven’t been in circulation for over 60 years, which makes them rare and collectible. But there’s more to their value than just scarcity. These bills were also only issued for a short time, from 1861- 1969, making them historical artifacts as well. And of course, they feature presidents from our country’s past, including Grover Cleveland and James Madison.
Beyond collectability and history, the $5,000 bill also holds tremendous purchasing power. In today’s economy, $5,000 can buy a used car or cover a semester of college tuition. In the 1950s, it could have bought a brand-new Cadillac.
In this article, you are going to learn everything you need to know about $5,000 bills. How worth are they? How do you find one? And last but not least, how do you protect and preserve this valuable piece of American history?
The History of the $5,000 Bill
Since such a large bill has been unheard of for more than half a century, its story is particularly interesting. The first $5,000 bill was issued in 1861, during the Civil War. It featured a portrait of President James Madison on the front and an image of the United States Treasury building on the back.
During this time, inflation was rampant due to the war. And as prices rose, it became increasingly difficult for people to carry enough cash to make larger purchases. The solution? Create a larger bill.
But the $5,000 bill wasn’t just used by individuals; it was also favored by banks and businesses for large transactions. In fact, during World War II, the federal government even issued special $5,000 bills to foreign governments as part of the Lend-Lease program.
But as time went on, the need for such a large bill diminished. The rise of credit cards and electronic transfers made it easier to make big purchases without carrying around bulky cash. President Nixon was the one who put an end to the circulation of this bill, along with the $500, $1,000, and $10,000 bills in 1969. The reason? Larger bills were used by criminals all over the U.S. to launder money, leading to their ultimate demise.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll never have the chance to own one of these bills. The U.S. government still has a small number of $5,000 bills in its possession for “monetary purposes,” and they occasionally release them into circulation through auctions or giveaways. And of course, there are always older bills in circulation, passed down through the generations or sold by collectors.
Evaluating $5,000 Bills
So, how much is a $5,000 bill worth? The answer is: it depends. Too many factors are at play to give a definitive answer.
If you ever manage to get such a bill, the first thing you should do is make sure it’s authentic. Counterfeit bills, especially older ones, can easily fool inexperienced collectors. So take it to a reputable dealer or appraiser for verification.
Once authenticity is established, you can start evaluating it in depth. Here’s what you should look for:
- Grading — Grading a bill is usually done by professional appraisers. The reason is that it’s a subjective process and requires a trained eye. It involves assessing the bill’s condition by carefully analyzing it under a magnifying glass. Every tiny detail must be taken into account, from folds and creases to stains and tears. The higher the grade, the more valuable it is.
- Serial numbers — Certain serial numbers can significantly increase a bill’s value. This includes low numbers (00000100 or similar) and fancy numbers (repeating digits or patterns).
- Variations — If a bill has variations in its design, such as a misprint or mistake, it can be worth much more than a standard bill.
- Age — Age is directly correlated to a bill’s rarity. The older a bill is, the rarer it is. This is because they are more likely to have been lost, destroyed, or taken out of circulation.
- Demand — The demand for the bill also plays a role in its value. Collectors are always on the lookout for rare bills, so they may be willing to pay premium prices for them.
If you want to buy or sell a $5,000 bill, do your research first. Look for recent sales of similar bills to get an idea of its market value. And as always, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable and trustworthy buyer or seller.
Here’s a video that talks about these peculiar bills, and how to find out their worth, as well as their history:
But prepare for a painstaking research and a painstaking motion towards your wallet when you buy one. These bills don’t come cheap. We are going to see some prices soon to help you better understand what we’re dealing with here.
Grading a Dollar Bill
While laypeople can’t professionally grade a banknote, they can still assess its condition and determine if it’s worth more than face value.
Hold the bill up to a light source and look for any tears, holes, or missing corners. Check for creases or folds, as well as stains or discoloration.
Examine both sides under a magnifying glass, paying special attention to the serial numbers and the seal. Look for any imperfections, such as smudges or ink spots in the printing.
Overall, the bill should be crisp and clean with no major damage. The more wear and tear it shows, the lower its value will be to collectors.
The first distinction collectors make is between circulated and uncirculated bills. A circulated bill has been used in day-to-day transactions and will show lots of wear. An uncirculated bill, on the other hand, has never entered circulation and is in pristine condition.
Usually, circulated bills have not survived to the present days. Unlike coins, that are often kept as souvenirs or passed down through generations, bills are constantly being exchanged and used. Plus, they are simply sturdier because metal will always outlast paper an ink.
From there, professional appraisers use a grading scale to determine the bill’s exact condition. Grading ranges from poor (heavily worn with tears and damage) to uncirculated (perfect condition). Professional grading follows a standardized scale:
- Poor (PO) — The bill shows significant damage, such as holes or tears.
- Fair (FR) — The bill has some damage and heavy wear, but all the details are still visible.
- Good (G) — The bill shows average wear from circulation. All wording and numbers are clear.
- Very Good (VG) — The bill has only minor imperfections, such as light folds or creases.
- Fine (F) — The bill shows only slight wear and has all its original crispness.
- Very Fine (VF) — The bill shows minimal wear, with only minor folds or creases.
- Extremely Fine (EF) — The bill looks almost new, with only tiny imperfections from handling.
- About Uncirculated (AU) — The bill looks like it has never been used, but may have some minor imperfections from production or handling.
- Uncirculated (UNC) — The bill is in perfect condition, with no wear or imperfections.
Here’s a full grading list, should you want to go deeper into the subject.
Now that you know more about the grading process, let’s look at some examples of $5,000 bills and their current market values.
Buying a Vintage $5,000 Bill
Before rushing head first into purchasing one of these bills, be aware that they are also a popular target for counterfeiters. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable and trustworthy seller, and consider having the bill authenticated by a professional grading service before buying.
Due to the bill’s rarity and ease of counterfeiting, it’s best to exclusively deal with reputable auction houses such as Heritage Auction or Stack’s Bowers.
Due to the bill’s rarity and value—all of these bills still hold the same purchasing power as their face value— you won’t find any below the price of around $10,000.
For example, there is an auction going on eBay right now with a ‘buy now’ offer of $495,000. That’s a bit high but still fair price for an uncirculated $5,000 bill in great conditions. If you’re serious collector, be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for one of these bills.
Why Are These Bills So Valuable?
So why are these bills worth so much more than their face value? It all comes down to scarcity and demand. In 1969, the government stopped printing $5,000 and $10,000 bills as they were not being frequently used in everyday transactions.
Plus, because of their high value, these bills were often deposited into banks rather than circulated amongst the public. As time passed and more bills were destroyed, the remaining bills became increasingly rare.
Today, most $5,000 bills are held in private collections or have been permanently housed in museums.
If you’re lucky enough to come across one of these bills, hold onto it as it’s likely to increase in value over time. But if you do decide to sell it, make sure you are working with a reputable dealer and have the bill professionally authenticated before doing so. The rarity and demand for these bills make them highly valuable to collectors, and you want to make sure you get the best price possible for yours.
The next time you come across a $5,000 bill, remember its historical significance and scarcity in circulation. And who knows? It could end up being worth so much more than just its face value.
The Five Most Valuable $5,000 Bills
Paradoxically, while basically every $5,000 bill in circulation will command a very high price, their peak won’t be as high as those of smaller notes, like the $100 bill that went for over 2 million dollars.
Still, you will be hard pressed to find a $5,000 bill that sells for less than $100,000 nowadays. Such is the demand for these rare bills. But who knows, since all of these appear at auctions, the market is subject to change.
Fr. 2221-K $5,000 1934 Federal Reserve Note. PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ — $312,000.00
This bill was already rare when it got introduced, as only 2,400 of these notes were issued. But what sets this note apart is its excellent condition, earning it the EPQ (Exceptional Paper Quality) designation from PMG grading service, which, combined with the Uncirculated 64 grade, give the bill extra value.
This bill is part of the BREA collection – a renowned and highly valuable collection of rare federal reserve notes compiled by the brothers Brad and Rob Eldier.
Editor’s note: This bill has had quite the turbulent life recently, because while the auction price we indicated in the title comes from January 2022, this bill got sold again in May 2022 for a lower price of $264,000.
Fr. 2221-G $5,000 1934 Federal Reserve Note. PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ — $300,000
Another Fr. 2221 series $5,000 note, this bill also boasts the coveted EPQ designation and a high Uncirculated grade of 64, which is why it fetched at a comparable price to the Fr. 2221-K bill above.
The main difference is the district that issued the 2 bills. The 2221-K comes from Dallas, while this one hails from Chicago.
Fr. 2220-F $5,000 1928 Federal Reserve Note. PMG Choice Very Fine 35 — $216,000
The third most valuable $5,000 bill on our list earned a PMG Choice Very Fine 35 grade, lower than the 2221 series notes above. However, it’s still in pretty good condition considering its age and rarity. It’s also the only 1928 note on this list, as the other 4 are all from 1934.
One thing to note is that this note has undergone a minor restoration, which means it’s not exactly in its original condition but has been professionally restored to improve its appearance. This naturally affects the value of the bill, although it’s still worth a hefty sum.
Fr. 2221-E $5,000 1934 Federal Reserve Note. PMG Choice Uncirculated 63 — $204,000
This is a Richmond Fed note, which means it was issued by the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Virginia. Like the two 2221 series notes above it, this bill boasts a PMG Choice Uncirculated grade of 63 and does not have an EPQ designation.
Heritage House claims this is likely a high denomination replacement note. A high denomination replacement note is one that was printed as a replacement for a damaged bill, but in higher denomination. In this case, it’s possible that the original note was a $500 or even a $1,000 bill that got replaced with this rarer and more valuable $5,000 note.
We can’t know for sure, but that doesn’t subtract from the value of this bill.
Fr. 2221-H $5,000 1934 Federal Reserve Note. PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 — $168,000
Rounding out our top five list is this Fr. 2221-H series Federal Reserve Note from the St. Louis district, with a PMG Choice Uncirculated grade of 64.
There are only about a dozen Gem Uncirculated $5,000 bills surviving in private hands, making this one of the rarest and most valuable bills you can add to your collection.
There you have it – the top five most valuable $5,000 bills currently in circulation. But keep in mind that prices at auctions can fluctuate, so if you’re looking to invest in one of these rare bills, it’s best to do your research and keep an eye out for any interesting sales. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with a valuable gem in your collection one day.
Can I spend these bills at a store?
Technically, yes, they are still legal tender. In practice, no. You won’t find a merchant who accepts them. These bills are collector’s items and not in circulation.
Where can I find more information on rare currency?
You can check out resources like the Professional Currency Dealers Association or the American Numismatic Association for more information on collecting rare currency.
How can I determine the value of a rare bill in my possession?
It’s best to consult with a professional currency dealer or have your bill graded by a third-party grading service like PMG or PCGS. They will be able to give you an accurate assessment of the value of your bill.
The value of old $5,000 bills can vary greatly depending on the rarity and condition of the specific bill in question. That being said, some of the most valuable ones currently on the market are 1934 Federal Reserve Notes from various districts, with PMG grades in the Choice Uncirculated range and prices reaching up to $300,000.
What’s fascinating about $5,000 bills is that they sound like they are an April’s fools joke — who would use such a high denomination bill in daily life? Imagine forgetting your wallet with one of these bad boys at a café.
But they were actually used by banks and large corporations for major transactions before being discontinued in 1969.
If you have one of these rare bills in your possession, it’s worth doing some research and potentially consulting with a professional to determine its value. Who knows, you may have quite the valuable collector’s item on your hands.