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Updated on Monday, February 11, 2019
If you went to the bank today to withdraw $500 in cash from your savings account, you’d be handed five $100 bills or perhaps 25 crisp $20 bills. But there was a time when much larger bills were in circulation, and the bank teller would have handed you just one $500 bill. Today, the now-rare $500 bill is worth somewhere between $650 and $850 but can be worth much more depending on their condition and other factors.
A brief history of the $500 bill
The Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) used to print paper notes for several large monetary denominations, including $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000.
The BEP would even eventually print a $100,000 Gold Certificate note, but these were only provided to Federal Reserve Banks and never put into circulation for public use. Today, the $100 is the largest monetary denomination printed and placed into circulation, which means that the possession of a $500 bill could mean you are holding something rare, and possibly of great value.
19th century: The first $500 note was printed by the BEP during the Civil War, and was issued well into the 1960s. Millions of $500 bills were printed over the note’s lifetime according to AntiqueMoney.com, a website run by paper money expert and long-time collector, Manning Garrett.
20th century: While the $500 bill could be found in the pockets of the very wealthy, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website states the bill was mostly used by banks for large payment transfers. Over time, the advancement of banking technology began to steer the higher-denomination paper currencies, including the $500 note, towards obsolescence, and the BEP printed the final $500 notes in 1945.
Discontinued in 1969: The note then stayed in circulation until the Federal Reserve inevitably discontinued the note on July 14, 1969, removing it from public circulation altogether. Since it’s discontinuation, the $500 bill has become a sought after item for currency collectors, with the value of some of these elusive bills reaching up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What a $500 bill is worth today
The possession of a $500 note means you are holding a rare piece of American history — and potentially even a substantial source of financial gain.
The worth of a $500 bill has grown since its years of public circulation. A money collector need only search online to find other collectors selling $500 bills for thousands of dollars on eBay.
However, determining the exact worth of a $500 note can be tricky, as there are a few key factors, such as rarity and the note’s physical condition need to be taken into consideration.
According to AntiqueMoney, most $500 bills are worth somewhere between $650 to $850, as long as they are in decent condition. But there are some $500 bills that are worth significantly more. The $500 gold certificate note printed in 1882 is typically considered to be more common, but depending on the seal type and signature on the bill, it’s possible for the note to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The $500 gold certificate note that was printed by the BEP in 1922 was the last large size $500 bill printed in the US. Most of these bills are now worth around $4,000 each, and if the bill is in especially great condition, its value can reach into the tens of thousands. The $500 gold certificate that was later printed in 1928 is even more valuable as it was printed during a year that gold certificates were issued in the country for the last time. With only 420,000 of these $500 notes printed, they are now worth anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000 each.
There is quite a variety of $500 notes that were printed during their time in circulation. With so many different variables at play when considering their current worth, the general rule of thumb is to always reach out to a qualified collector for an educated appraisal.
How many $500 bills are left?
With millions of $500 bills printed before their discontinuation, it is difficult to determine how many are still left today. Federal Reserve Banks are required to destroy any $500 notes (as well as any other notes that have been discontinued from public circulation) they receive, and it’s unclear how many $500 bills are being destroying on a regular basis. But with the increased monetary value of the bill over the years, consider yourself lucky to encounter one in everyday life.