All About the 500 Dollar Bill: History, Value & Controversy


When it comes to American currency, most people are familiar with the usual suspects: the one dollar bill, the five, the ten, and so on. But what about the 500 dollar bill? This rare and elusive piece of currency has a long and fascinating history, from its origins in the late 1800s to its controversial role in modern times. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the 500 dollar bill, including its value, history, and controversies.

President William McKinley on 500 Dollar Bill

History of the 500 Dollar Bill:

The $500 bill was first introduced in the late 1800s, during a time when large denominations were common in American currency. At the time, the bill featured a portrait of President William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901. In the years that followed, the design of the 500 dollar bill would change several times, with notable figures such as William Tecumseh Sherman, John Quincy Adams, and James Madison appearing on different versions of the bill.

By the 1920s, however, large denominations like the 500 dollar bill had fallen out of favor. The government stopped printing the bill in 1945, and it was officially discontinued in 1969 as part of a larger effort to phase out high-value currency. Today, the $500 bill is considered rare and highly collectible, with many examples selling for tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

William Tecumseh Sherman on 500 Dollar Bill

Value of the 500 Dollar Bill:

So, just how much is a 500 dollar bill worth today? The answer, as with most things related to collectibles, is “it depends.” Factors such as the age, condition, and rarity of the bill can all impact its value, as can the current market demand for that particular bill. As of 2023, the approximate value of a $500 bill in good condition ranges from $1,500 to $10,000.

Controversy Surrounding the 500 Dollar Bill:

Despite its rarity and value, the $500 bill has been the subject of controversy in recent years. Some critics argue that the bill’s high value makes it an attractive target for money launderers and other criminals, while others suggest that it serves as a symbol of economic inequality in a society where many struggle to make ends meet.

As a result, some lawmakers and advocacy groups have called for the elimination of the $500 bill and other high-value denominations. In 2016, the European Central Bank announced that it would stop producing the 500 euro note, citing concerns about its use in illicit activities. Similar discussions have taken place in the United States, though so far no concrete action has been taken to remove the $500 bill from circulation.

John Quincy Adams on 500 dollar bill


Q: Can you still use a $500 bill?

A: Yes, the $500 bill is still considered legal tender in the United States, though they are extremely rare and are primarily held by collectors.

Q: Why was the $500 bill discontinued?

A: The government discontinued the $500 bill and other high-value denominations in the late 1960s as part of an effort to combat money laundering and other illicit activities.

Q: What is the most valuable $500 bill?

A: The most valuable $500 bill is the 1934A Hawaii Five Hundred Dollar bill, which features the portrait of William McKinley and has a serial number that ends in the letter “A”. These bills are extremely rare and can sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

Q: Can I still purchase a $500 bill?

A: Yes, you can purchase a 500 dollar bill from a reputable currency dealer or auction house. However, due to their rarity and high value, be prepared to pay a premium price.

Q: How many $500 bills are still in circulation?

A: It’s difficult to say exactly how many 500 dollar bills are still in circulation, as they are primarily held by collectors and are not commonly used in everyday transactions. However, according to the Federal Reserve, there were approximately 342,000 $500 bills in circulation as of 2021.

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In conclusion, the 500 dollar bill is a rare and fascinating piece of American currency with a long and complex history. Despite its value and collectibility, the bill has also been the subject of controversy and debate in recent years, with some calling for its elimination due to concerns about its use in illicit activities. Whether you’re a collector, a historian, or simply curious about the world of currency, the $500 bill is a fascinating subject that is sure to captivate and intrigue.