The likelihood of coming across a $5,000 bill is infinitesimally minute. Banks don’t carry them, the US Department of the Treasury hasn’t produced any in more than 80 years and, besides, I personally can’t remember the last time I received more than 5K in change on a purchase.
Actually, the $5,000 bill, featuring diminutive Virginian James Madison, was recalled from circulation in 1969.
As with other large-denomination notes such as the $500, $1,000 and $10,000 bills, the $5,000 note served mainly for bank-transfer payments. With the arrival of more secure transfer technologies, however, they were no longer needed for that purpose, according to the US Department of the Treasury.
“While these notes are legal tender and may still be found in circulation today, the Federal Reserve Banks remove them from circulation and destroy them as they are received,” according to the Treasury website.
Not surprisingly, such notes tend to go for big bucks when offered for sale.
At a Heritage Auctions sale earlier this month, a $5,000 Federal Reserve Note printed in 1934 sold for $152,750, including the buyer’s premium.
The note was in pristine condition, one of the few $5,000 bills classified as “choice uncirculated.”
It was one of just 2,400 $5,000 notes printed at St. Louis in 1934. By comparison, more than 3 million $100 bills were produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, part of the Department of the Treasury, during Fiscal Year 2012.
The bill sold by Heritage on Aug. 11 came in at well under pre-auction estimates of $250,000, but still represents a nice markup from face value.
The chances of seeing such note in person are rare; fewer than 350 $5,000 bills are known to exist today.
Madison, for his role in the nation’s founding, probably deserves a better fate than to be relegated to an obsolete bit of currency.
Given the current trend toward subtracting early American leaders from currency, however, it’s unlikely Madison, despite his role in writing the US Constitution, is going to get a better position.