The Face of U.S. Currency

Have you ever inspected the money in your pocket — not just a quick glance to see if it's a $20 bill, but a good hard look at what's printed on it?

Virtually all currency in circulation is in the form of Federal Reserve notes, that is bills printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the Department of Treasury and issued by the Federal Reserve Banks. In this unit we'll first study the "face" of the bill—the side with the portrait. Later, you'll see the opposite side.

Making the Money

Federal Reserve notes are printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing at facilities in Washington, D.C., and Fort Worth, Texas. Bills printed in Fort Worth have the small letters "FW" in the lower right hand corner, to the immediate left of the plate serial number.

photo of legal statement  

Legal Statement

This phrase is essential and appears on every bill. It ensures the bill can be used to repay debts and provide a standard to measure what is owed.

 

photo of signature  

Signature

All currency is signed by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States. The people in these positions change, so not every bill has the same name on it. Look at a bill you have in your pocket. Whose names are on it?


Series

(See picture above) The series marks the year in which the design of a bill was first used. Small design changes are indicated by a letter after the year (for example—1990B). The series year is not necessarily the year the bill was printed.

photo of serial number  

Serial Number

Serial numbers are in the upper right and lower left part of a bill. No two notes of the same series and denomination have the same serial number.


You probably know who is on the $1 bill, but do you know who is on the $50 bill? Below is a chart of who and what is on the front and back of bills printed in the United States.

 

Face

Back

$1

front of $1 bill
back of $1 bill
back of $1 bill

 

George Washington
Great Seal of the United States

$5

front of $5 bill
back of $5 bill

 

Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln Memorial

$10

front of $10 bill
back of $10 bill

 

Alexander Hamilton
U.S. Treasury Building

$20

front of $20 bill
back of $20 bill

 

Andrew Jackson
White House

$50

front of $50 bill
back of $50 bill

 

Ulysses S. Grant
U.S. Capitol

$100

front of $100 bill
back of $100 bill
 
Benjamin Franklin
Independence Hall

The Series 1963A $2 note bore Thomas Jefferson on its face and Monticello on the reverse. The Series 1976 note features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson painted in the early 1800s by Gilbert Stuart and the back design is a vignette based on an engraved reduction of the painting, "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence," by John Trumbull.

photo of a federal reserve bank seal  

Federal Reserve Bank Seal

U.S. money is distributed for circulation by the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. These institutions act as "banks for the banks." To find out more about the what the Federal Reserve does, see The Fed: Our Central Bank.


Before 1996, a seal from a Federal Reserve Bank is printed on each bill. Beginning with the $100 bill in 1996, a general seal that represents the Federal Reserve System will replace individual bank seals. Currently, the letter on the seal matches the district number of that bank. The district number is located in the four corners of the bill.

(For more on the changes made to newly issued currency see New Money or the U.S. Currency Facebook page.)

Federal Reserve Banks are located in the following 12 cities:

City Letter Number
Boston
A
1
New York
B
2
Philadelphia
C
3
Cleveland
D
4
Richmond
E
5
Atlanta
F
6
Chicago
G
7
St. Louis
H
8
Minneapolis
I
9
Kansas City
J
10
Dallas
K
11
San Francisco
L
12


Which Federal Reserve Bank seal is on the money in your pocket?

 
Federal Reserve Education Logo