$500 Bill Values Explained: How Much Are They Worth Today?

When was the last time you saw a $500 bill? Chances are, never! These rare pieces of American currency history have been out of circulation for over 50 years. But for collectors, the scarcity of $500 notes makes them highly sought-after treasures.

So how much is a $500 bill actually worth today? The answer may surprise you. Depending on their year, condition, and unique features, some $500 bills can sell for thousands or even millions of dollars!

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the most valuable types of $500 notes and reveal what makes them so special. Whether you‘re lucky enough to have one of these bills in your possession or simply fascinated by currency history, read on to discover the true value and legacy of America‘s $500 bills.

A Brief History of the $500 Bill

The story of U.S. $500 bills dates back to the American Civil War era. In 1861, the Confederate States of America began issuing $500 notes to help finance their secession. The Union soon followed suit, releasing its own $500 legal tender notes starting in 1862.

For the next century, $500 bills played an important role in the American economy, especially for large transactions between banks and government institutions. New $500 note designs were introduced in 1869, 1874, 1882, 1918, 1922, 1928, and 1934.

However, the practical need for high-denomination currency declined in the 20th century as electronic banking became more common. Concerns also grew that $500 bills were mainly being used for illegal or illicit purposes. As a result, the Federal Reserve officially discontinued $500 notes in 1969.

Editor‘s Note: The last $500 bills were printed in 1934, and featured a portrait of President William McKinley on the front. Over 900,000 of these notes were issued, but only a small fraction likely still exist today.

Why $500 Bills Are Rare and Valuable

Since 1969, the Federal Reserve has been destroying any $500 bill that makes its way back to their offices. This policy of removing $500 notes from circulation has dramatically reduced the number of bills still in existence.

It‘s unknown exactly how many $500 notes remain today, but estimates suggest far less than 1% of the original printing. This extreme scarcity, combined with their historical significance, makes $500 bills highly prized by collectors.

Even the most common types of $500 bills sell for at least a 50-100% premium over their face value. But the value of rarer $500 notes can soar much higher, easily reaching five or six figures in some cases.

Another factor driving demand is that all genuine U.S. $500 bills, regardless of age, are still considered legal tender. This means you could theoretically deposit a $500 bill at the bank for its full face value. Of course, that would be a huge waste for any note worth more than $500 to collectors!

Editor‘s Note: Although using a $500 bill to make an everyday purchase would certainly turn heads, the cashier would be required to accept it as legal payment. We definitely don‘t recommend this, though. Collector-worthy $500 notes are far too valuable to be spent like regular money!

Factors That Determine a $500 Bill‘s Value

Not all $500 bills are equally valuable. A variety of factors influence how much any particular note might be worth on the collector market. Here are the key characteristics to look for:

1. Year Produced

In general, the older a $500 bill is, the more valuable it‘s likely to be. That‘s because earlier notes are rarer, both due to their age and smaller original printing volumes.

$500 bills from the 1800s are especially scarce and can easily sell for six figures in top condition. More recent series from 1918 onward are relatively more common, but still command significant premiums over face value.

2. Seal Color and Signatures

Close inspection of the seals and signatures on a $500 bill can yield clues about its collectibility. Certain seal colors and signature combinations were used far less than others, making those varieties more rare and valuable.

For instance, 1882 $500 Gold Certificates featured four different signature types, some of which had print runs of less than 10,000 notes. An 1882 $500 bill with signatures from Napier and McClung is worth far more than one signed by Bruce and Gilfillan.

3. Issuance Type

The issuance type of a $500 bill can also greatly impact its value. Some varieties, like 1874 $500 Gold Certificates, had very limited distribution and are extremely rare today.

National Gold Bank Notes are another highly-prized category. These were issued by private banks in the 1870s and are among the most valuable types of U.S. currency.

On the other hand, 1934 $500 Federal Reserve Notes had a large print run of over 900,000. These are still collectible but more readily available than many earlier designs.

4. Serial Numbers

The serial number printed on a bill can be an important factor for collectors. Generally, the lower the serial number, the more valuable the note. Bills with serial numbers under 100 (called "low numbers") often sell for significant premiums.

Other notable serial numbers include repeated digits (333333), radar numbers (43788734), and solid blocks (555555555). Star notes, which have a star symbol in place of a serial letter, are also more rare and desirable.

5. Condition and Grade

As with any collectible, the condition of a $500 bill plays a huge role in its worth. Notes are graded on a 70-point scale, with 70 being a perfect Mint State specimen.

A heavily-circulated $500 bill with creases, tears, stains or other damage may only sell for a small premium over face value. The same note in crisp, uncirculated condition could be worth many times more.

For especially rare varieties, even notes in lower grades can bring impressive prices due to their scarcity. But in most cases, collectors place a high premium on condition and are willing to pay up for top-quality examples.

Most Valuable $500 Bill Types

With all these potential value factors in mind, let‘s take a look at some of the most collectible $500 bill varieties. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it covers several of the key series to know.

1869 $500 Legal Tender Note

Issued during the Reconstruction era, 1869 $500 Legal Tender Notes are exceedingly rare. Nicknamed "Rainbow notes" for their colorful tinted paper, only a few examples have ever come to auction.

1869 0 Rainbow Note

In 2019, a Rainbow $500 bill in good condition sold for a record-breaking price of $1.44 million! An earlier specimen fetched $621,000 back in 2014. These legendary notes are the holy grail for many high-end currency collectors.

1882 $500 Gold Certificate

1882 $500 Gold Certificates are among the "most common" of the early $500 bill series. Of course, that‘s a relative term – less than 100 examples are estimated to still exist today.

1882 $500 Gold Certificate

Prices for these notes start around $50,000-75,000 for circulated specimens. One extraordinarily well-preserved example graded About New 50 by PMG sold for a remarkable $2.16 million in 2015.

1928 $500 Gold Certificate

The 1928 series $500 Gold Certificate was the last gold-backed note of this denomination issued by the U.S. government. Over 400,000 were originally printed, but nearly all were recalled and destroyed after the 1930s.

1928 0 Gold Certificate

Today, even lower grade 1928 $500 Gold Certificates often bring $3,000-5,000. Uncirculated examples are significantly more valuable, ranging from around $15,000 all the way up to nearly $100,000 for pristine specimens.

1934 $500 Federal Reserve Note

Series 1934 $500 Federal Reserve Notes are the most recent and widely available type of $500 bill. Featuring a portrait of William McKinley, these were the last $500 notes printed for public circulation.

1934 0 Federal Reserve Note

Most lightly circulated 1934 $500 FRNs sell for around face value to a 20% premium. Notes in new condition typically bring $1,500-2,500, with the best examples approaching the $5,000 mark.

Certain star notes and other scarce varieties can be worth $5,000-10,000 or more in uncirculated condition. So it definitely pays to look for those special serial numbers!

$500 Bill Values Chart

To sum up, here‘s a quick reference chart showing the typical price ranges for some of the most widely collected $500 bill types in various grades.

Note that values can vary widely based on specific factors like seal type, signature variety, serial numbers, etc. Extremely rare varieties will also bring much higher premiums.

$500 Bill Type Circulated (Fine) Extremely Fine (XF) About Uncirculated (AU) Uncirculated (MS 60)
1918 Federal Reserve Note $600-1,000 $1,500-2,000 $2,500-4,000 $5,000-7,500
1922 Gold Certificate $2,000-3,000 $3,500-5,000 $6,000-10,000 $12,500-20,000
1928 Gold Certificate $3,000-4,000 $5,000-7,500 $10,000-15,000 $20,000-50,000+
1928 Federal Reserve Note $750-1,000 $1,250-2,000 $2,500-4,000 $5,000-10,000+
1934 Federal Reserve Note $500-600 $750-1,000 $1,250-1,750 $2,000-4,000

How to Sell Your $500 Bills

Have a $500 bill you‘re looking to sell? To get the best price possible, follow these tips:

  1. Identify your note‘s series, seal type, and signatures. Consult a currency guidebook or online reference to determine its relative scarcity.

  2. Assess the condition carefully. Creases, folds, stains, tears and other imperfections all lower the grade and value. If possible, have the note professionally certified by a respected grading service like PMG or PCGS Currency.

  3. Shop around to different currency dealers and auction houses to compare offers. Selling directly to a dealer is often the fastest and simplest option. For especially rare notes, a well-publicized auction may bring the highest price.

  4. Consider holding onto the rarest varieties for the long term. Over time, as collectors compete for the few surviving examples, values for the scarcest $500 bills are likely to keep rising.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are $500 bills still in circulation?

A: No, $500 bills have not been produced since 1934 and officially left circulation in 1969. Most have been destroyed by the Federal Reserve, leaving only a small number in private hands.

Q: Can I spend a $500 bill?

A: Technically yes, all genuine U.S. $500 bills are still considered legal tender. That said, it‘s generally not a good idea to spend one unless it‘s very heavily circulated and not collectible. Nearly all $500 bills are worth more than their face value to collectors.

Q: How can I tell if my $500 bill is genuine?

A: Spotting fake currency takes practice, but there are a few key things to look for. All genuine $500 bills are intricately printed on special banknote paper with colored fibers, watermarks, and other embedded security features. The designs should be crisp and detailed with no blurry areas. If in doubt, have the note authenticated by an expert.

Q: Where can I buy collectible $500 bills?

A: The best places to find valuable $500 bills are through specialty currency dealers and auction firms. Well-established dealers will have notes authenticated and graded by a respected service like PMG. For the rarest examples, look for important currency auctions by Heritage and Stacks Bowers that cater to high-end collectors.

Whether you‘re an experienced currency collector or just stumbled across an old $500 bill, these fascinating pieces of American history are sure to impress. Rare and valuable, $500 notes are the crown jewels of paper money collecting. Cherish them as remarkable artifacts from a bygone era – and know that in the right condition, they can be worth a small fortune!

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