Editor’s note: In her September monthly Coin World cover
feature, Michele Orzano told the story of small-size notes and how
they changed American paper money. This is one of a series of
articles from this feature that will appear online at CoinWorld.com.
Read the first posts in the series:
The year 1929 introduced many changes to the American way of life.
Perhaps the best known is the Great Depression, triggered by the Oct.
29, 1929, stock market collapse.
But another change occurred a few months before that and is still
evident today for those who use or collect paper money. Small-size
notes made their debut in the summer of 1929. The decision to downsize
paper money and the immediate and long-term effects of the decision
are interesting to explore.
During the preparation to transition from large- to
small-size notes, Treasury officials made a decision to standardize
portraits and link them to specific denominations:
- George Washington on $1 notes.
- Thomas Jefferson on
- Abraham Lincoln on $5 notes.
Hamilton on $10 notes.
- Andrew Jackson on $20 notes.
- Ulysses S. Grant on $50 notes.
- Benjamin Franklin on
- William McKinley on $500 notes.
Cleveland on $1,000 notes.
- James Madison on $5,000
- Salmon P. Chase on $10,000 notes.
Officials also decided to standardize designs, a departure from past
practices when different types of notes differed radically in design.
Between 1861 and 1929, 11 types of notes (silver certificates, gold
certificates, national bank notes and so on) were produced. All had
different designs, with some types going through multiple design
changes. Each type required different inks and printing plates.
Only six of those types would be printed in small-size versions:
United States (legal tender) notes, silver certificates, national bank
notes, Federal Reserve Bank notes, Federal Reserve notes, and gold
Large-size legal tender notes, later named
United States notes, were first issued in 1862 and continued through
five issues total, culminating in Series 1901 notes. Several series of
small-size United States notes were issued before they were abolished
Small-size silver certificates were issued in denominations of $1,
$5 and $10 between 1928 and 1953. The Act of June 4, 1963, abolished
production of silver certificates.
bank notes were first issued in 1863 during the Civil War.
The nation desperately needed an organized system of paper
money to make up for the wartime shortage of coinage. Small-size
versions of these notes were issued from July 1929 to May 1935, when
production of national bank notes ceased.
certificates were short-lived due to the Gold Reserve Act of 1933,
which required the surrender of all gold certificates both large- and
small-size. On April 24, 1964, all restrictions on the acquisition or
holding of gold certificates were removed.
gold certificates were given a gold Treasury seal and gold serial
numbers on the face, and the back was printed in green ink.
The Federal Reserve Acts of Dec. 23, 1913, and April 23, 1918,
set into motion the process for introducing large- and small-size
Federal Reserve Bank notes and Federal Reserve notes.
Federal Reserve banks opened for business Nov. 16, 1914. Small-size
Federal Reserve notes have been printed in denominations of $1 through
$10,000 amongst the various types, though not all denominations were
used in every type of note.
Today, the $100 note is the
largest denomination printed. The small-size Federal Reserve notes
were first printed in 1929 with a series date of 1928 in multiple
denominations, the lowest of which was the $5 issue. In 1963, the
Federal Reserve Act was amended to authorize the issuance of $1 and $2
FRNs; the first $1 issues were released that same year, with the first
$2 FRNs issued in 1976.
More of Michele Orzano's story on small-size notes is on the way!
Check back with CoinWorld.com for the latest, or better yet, let us
tell you when a new post is up: