Understanding the $5,000 Bill and Why It’s so Rare

A $5,000 dollar bill sounds outrageous. Can you imagine walking around with a single bill that could buy a used car? What if you lose it? Now that would be a bad day.

You may think that I’m joking about a five thousand dollar bill, but keep reading and you’ll find out that it’s very real.

Yes, a $5,000 Bill Really Exists

It’s true—there’s legal US tender worth $5,000, but they’re rare as can be.

When I said rare, I meant it. It is thought that no more than 342 $5,000 dollar notes have escaped destruction. Most of these are now in the hands of museums and private collectors.

Who is on the $5,000 dollar bill?

James Madison is on the $5,000 dollar bill. He is a Founding Father and the 4th President of the United States.

Here is a picture of a $5,000 dollar note:

A picture of a $5,000 dollar bill with James Madison's face

As you can see, the backside of the bill is pretty interesting too. It depicts George Washington resigning his commission as commander-in-chief.

How much is a $5,000 worth?

As I mentioned earlier, there are only about 342 $5,000 dollar bills still around. Which means they’re worth much more than their printed value.

Even a $5,000 dollar bill in poor condition can fetch upwards of $30,000. A bill in pristine condition could fetch 2 or 3 times that amount.

Where can you buy a $5,000 dollar bill?

You won’t find a $5,000 dollar bill at your local pawn shop. These bills are almost only available at auctions or through private dealers.

Your best bet is to find a professional currency dealer/collector who will be able to put you in touch with someone willing to sell their $5,000 dollar bill.

Why We Got Rid of High Denomination Bills in Common Circulation

We stopped producing $5,000 bills back in 1945, and when you think about the time span, that’s crazy. Back then, $100 was the equivalent to nearly $1,400 today, meaning a $5,000 bill was only for the very rich and powerful. They weren’t being used often, so they stopped making them.

The initial goal was to make high-scale transactions easier without having to individually count out smaller bills. Counterfeiting was a rarity back then, so it was technically a safe way to handle business, but it wasn’t worth it to actually print them out. Nowadays it would be strikingly simple to counterfeit a $5,000 bill.

In Short

It’s completely true that a $5,000 bill was made at one point in time, and that they’re still considered legal tender. 

They’re actually worth upwards of $30,000 depending on the condition since they’ve been out of print for so long. We put James Madison on the bill, and while it was intended to help banks out, it only made things more difficult.

Did you know there’s also a $500 dollar bill, a $1,000 dollar bill, a $10,000 dollar bill, and even a $100,000 dollar bill?


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