Exploring the Storied Past and Incredible Value of the Rare $10,000 Bill


In the world of rare currency collecting, few notes garner as much excitement and mystique as the $10,000 bill. With only a small number known to exist and values routinely soaring into the mid-six figures, this denomination represents a true Holy Grail for paper money enthusiasts.

As a seasoned currency collector and researcher, I have always been fascinated by the $10,000 bill. Its history offers a glimpse into early 20th century American banking, while its rarity and immense value speak to the passionate world of currency collecting.

Join me as we embark on a deep dive into the past, present, and future of this incredible currency note. We‘ll explore its origins, examine the surviving examples, and provide expert guidance for collectors lucky enough to encounter one of these rarities.

Historical Context – The Rise and Fall of the $10,000 Bill

To understand the $10,000 bill, we must travel back to the early 20th century United States. In an era before electronic banking, institutions often had to physically transport large sums of cash to complete major transactions.

The U.S. government introduced high denomination notes like the $10,000 bill in 1918 to make these large institutional transfers more efficient and secure. Rather than shipping trunks filled with thousands of smaller notes, banks could transact with just a handful of high denomination bills.

Fascinatingly, the $10,000 bill was actually not the largest denomination U.S. currency note ever issued. That title goes to the Series 1934 $100,000 Gold Certificate. However, these $100,000 notes were never publicly circulated and were only used for internal transactions between Federal Reserve Banks.

The $10,000 bill was the highest denomination note ever issued for public circulation, although very few ever actually made it into the hands of the general public. They were mostly used by banks and large institutions.

During the early to mid-20th century, several different series of the $10,000 bill were issued. The main series years were 1918, 1928, and 1934. Each series carried different signature combinations of the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury.

In 1969, the Federal Reserve began removing high denomination notes like the $10,000 bill from circulation. The government cited concerns that these large bills were being used to facilitate criminal activities such as counterfeiting, tax evasion, and the illegal drug trade.

As of today, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing no longer produces any currency note larger than the $100 bill. Any $10,000 bills that make their way back to a bank or the Federal Reserve are removed from circulation and destroyed.

This policy has made the surviving $10,000 notes incredibly rare and valuable. Since they are still technically considered legal tender, they carry a minimum value of their $10,000 face. However, most examples are worth far more than that to currency collectors.

Let‘s take a closer look at each major series of the $10,000 bill, examining the design, rarity, and value of these incredible currency notes.

The 1918 $10,000 Federal Reserve Note – The Stuff of Legend

The story of the 1918 series $10,000 Federal Reserve Note is one of the most fascinating and tantalizing in all of numismatics. Frustratingly for collectors, it is a note shrouded in mystery and essentially impossible to own.

According to official government records, only five 1918 $10,000 bills are definitively known to survive to the present day. Shockingly, not a single one is in private hands.

Four of the surviving notes are held in the collections of Federal Reserve Banks:

  • Two at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Two at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

The fifth resides in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The known serial numbers of these five notes are recorded as:

  • B1A
  • B420A
  • D1A
  • L204
  • L1957A

These five serial numbers have taken on an almost mythical status among currency collectors. If even one additional example was to somehow surface, it would undoubtedly be a seven figure numismatic event.

Sadly, since the five known surviving 1918 series notes are permanently held in government collections, it appears essentially impossible that a collector could ever dream of owning one.

They remain true numismatic legends, priceless notes that we can only admire from afar through old photographs and museum exhibits. One can only imagine the frenzy if an additional example was to somehow be discovered. For now, that remains the stuff of collectors‘ dreams.

The 1928 $10,000 Federal Reserve Note – Ultra-Rare and Immensely Valuable

For collectors hoping to actually own a piece of $10,000 bill history, the 1928 series notes represent the earliest realistic possibility. However, that is not to say owning one is easy or affordable.

The 1928 $10,000 bills are still exceptionally rare, with only around 10 examples estimated to exist in total. Of those, only about 8 are thought to be in private hands and potentially attainable for well-heeled collectors.

The remaining two 1928 notes reside in museum collections and are not available for private ownership. The most famous is held by Binion‘s Gambling Hall and Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a highlight of their multi-million dollar currency and precious metals display.

Acquiring a 1928 $10,000 bill requires immense patience and very deep pockets. They only surface for sale occasionally, and when they do they routinely sell for mid-six figure prices, even for circulated examples.

Here are some significant recent auction results for 1928 series $10,000 bills:

Grade Realization Auction Date
Almost Uncirculated 58 $504,000 October 2022
Extremely Fine 40 $384,000 April 2013
About Uncirculated 50 $241,500 June 2005

These impressive results demonstrate that any 1928 $10,000 bill is an immense numismatic rarity. Even an impaired or low grade example would almost certainly sell for over $200,000 if offered today.

A pristine uncirculated note could potentially even break the $1 million threshold. However, with so few notes available to collectors and held tightly in world-class collections, it may be years between public offerings.

The 1934 $10,000 Federal Reserve Note – The Final Issue

1934 marks the final year that $10,000 bills were issued by the United States government. After the 1934 series, no more notes of this denomination were produced for circulation.

The 1934 series $10,000 bills are the most "common" of this denomination, although the term is relative. They are still exceptionally rare, with only an estimated 328 examples known to exist.

While that may sound like a large number compared to the 1918 and 1928 notes, it is still a tiny surviving fraction of the original print run. According to Bureau of Engraving and Printing records, 60,000 Series 1934 $10,000 bills were originally produced.

Many of the surviving 1934 $10,000 notes are in private hands, giving collectors a somewhat greater chance of acquiring one compared to the earlier series. However, they still command massive premiums and routinely sell for solid six-figure sums.

Recent auction results for 1934 series $10,000 bills include:

Grade Realization Auction Date
Choice Uncirculated 64 $276,000 January 2022
About New 58 $264,000 August 2022
About Uncirculated 55 $240,000 January 2022
Extremely Fine 40 $192,000 October 2018
Very Fine 35 $114,000 March 2019

As these results show, even a moderately circulated 1934 $10,000 bill like the Very Fine 35 note sold in 2019 will cost well into the six figures. Higher grade examples routinely sell for over a quarter million dollars each.

These immense values make the 1934 series notes the domain of only the most serious collectors and investors. They are true numismatic trophies and will likely always be in demand from top-tier collectors.

Design and Features of the 1928 and 1934 $10,000 Bills

The 1928 and 1934 series $10,000 Federal Reserve Notes share a common overall design, with some variation in signature combinations and seal colors.

The central portrait on the front depicts Salmon P. Chase. A Republican from Ohio, Chase had a long and distinguished political career as a U.S. Senator, Governor of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln, and finally as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Chase‘s portrait is larger and more prominent on the $10,000 bill compared to the current $10 bill, which also features his portrait. This reflects the much greater face value of the $10,000 note.

To the left of Chase‘s portrait is a large, ornate engraving of the denomination as "TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS". On original notes, this denomination is printed in a rich, dark green ink.

The serial numbers flank Chase‘s portrait on both sides. Original serial numbers typically match the green color of the treasury seal. Some known misprints have serial numbers in a lighter green.

The reverse of the note features elaborate, highly detailed engraving work. A large "10000" is prominently displayed within an ornamental frame, along with "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and "TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS".

Other interesting features are found in the fine details of the engraving work. The border design incorporates small eagles and the initials "U.S.", while intricate scrollwork serves as a security feature against counterfeiting.

Some 1934 gold seal notes feature mismatched serial numbers and plate numbers, creating rare mules. These errors can add to the desirability for collectors.

Collecting $10,000 Bills – Authentication, Grading, and Storage

For the fortunate few collectors able to acquire a $10,000 bill, some expert advice on authentication, grading, and storage is very beneficial.

Given the extreme value of these notes, authentication by a trusted expert is essential. Sadly, counterfeit examples are known to exist that target unsuspecting buyers.

Luckily, major third-party grading services like PCGS Currency and PMG have extensive experience in authentication and grading of $10,000 bills. Reputable auction firms can also provide expert opinions.

When acquiring any high value note like a $10,000 bill, I always recommend buying a certified example graded by a reputable service. This will give peace of mind that the note is genuine and accurately graded.

Proper storage is also critical to protect your investment. I suggest a high-quality, inert currency holder, preferably custom-sized for the larger dimensions of the $10,000 bill. Look for holders and albums that are archival quality and provide protection from UV light and environmental damage.

Of course, securing your collection is paramount with notes of this value. A bank safe deposit box is an excellent option. If storing at home, invest in a high quality safe that is well-hidden and firmly mounted.

Lastly, insurance coverage is a smart idea for any collection with items as valuable as a $10,000 bill. Consult with your insurance provider on how to best document and protect your numismatic holdings.

Cultural Impact of the $10,000 Bill

Beyond its numismatic value and historical significance, the $10,000 bill has also made a cultural impact. It is often used as a symbol of immense wealth or excess.

In popular media, the $10,000 bill sometimes makes appearances to indicate a character‘s affluence or status as a high roller. Films like Rush Hour 2 and The Gambler have featured the note.

The $10,000 bill has also been the subject of some outlandish urban legends over the years. One popular myth is that the U.S. government keeps $10,000 bills in circulation specifically to aid mobsters and criminals.

In reality, the government has not produced any $10,000 bills since 1934 and has destroyed any that make their way back to banks or the Federal Reserve. Still, these legends persist and add to the mystique of the note.

Salmon P. Chase, whose portrait is featured on the $10,000 bill, has an interesting personal legacy. Some historians believe his influential relationship with President Abraham Lincoln was instrumental in the Union‘s anti-slavery stance and the eventual issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Chase‘s ideals are reflected in the motto he chose for our nation‘s coinage during his term as Secretary of the Treasury – "In God We Trust". This motto remains on our coinage to this day as a result of Chase‘s influence.


The $10,000 bill stands as a true icon of paper money collecting. Its history offers a fascinating lens into early 20th century American banking and politics.

Today, the staggering rarity and immense value of surviving notes make them the ultimate trophy for high-end collectors. Owning any example is a privilege reserved for an elite few.

For most of us, these notes will remain numismatic legends. The almost mythical status of the 1918 series, the exceptional rarity of the 1928 notes, and the impressive values commanded by surviving 1934 examples are the stuff of collectors‘ dreams.

Still, the $10,000 bill will always capture our imaginations as a tangible link to a bygone era of American currency production. It is a reminder of a time when cash was king and a humble slip of green paper could be worth a genuine fortune.

As a collector and scholar of paper money, I will never cease to be fascinated by the $10,000 bill. It is a true privilege to study, admire, and preserve these notes for future generations to appreciate.

While most of us will never hold one in our hands, we can still marvel at the history, artistry, and legacy of this true American numismatic treasure. The $10,000 bill is a currency icon that will continue to captivate and inspire us as collectors and historians for generations to come.

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