The History of American Currency

American currency has come a long way since paper money began being issued in 1690. Over the years paper bills were redesigned for many reasons, one of the main reasons, to avoid counterfeiting. With modern redesigns including 3-D security ribbons and subtle water marks, the paper bill could be considered a work of art.

Le’s take a look at the history of American currency and how much it’s changed over time.

This bill is from 1776 and we can see that American colonies were still using British currency denominations.

Starting in the 1800’s paper bills started to come more intricate. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Fransisco this bill was in circulation during the Free Banking Era.

This 10 dollar note circulated in 1861, paper currency also known as “demand notes” was issued by the Congress in order to finance the Civil War. These bills are also known as “greenbacks” due to their green hue, this name is still used today.

Bills larger than $100 were discontinued in 1969, but this note was in circulation around 1918 when larger denominations were introduced to U.S. currency. The 10,000 dollar bill features Salmon Chase on the front who was the Secretary of Treasure during the Civil War.



Photo: Federal Reserve Bank of San Fransisco


The 100 dollar bill doesn’t seem to have changed much until recently. The first bill was in circulation around 1928, the second is the design that is circulating now. In 1929 the Federal Reserve notes were made smaller and standard designs were implemented to cut down on manufacturing costs. According to U.S. Currency it wasn’t until around 1996 that American Currency started to be redesigned. They started with the 100 dollar bill and continued on.

American Currency has come a long way since paper bills were first issued. Over the years they have slowly become more intricate, adding subtle attributes to make them harder to counterfeit. One thing we can’t deny, paper currency is truly a work of art.