Did the U.S. ever have a $200 bill?

Quick Answer

Yes, the U.S. did at one time issue a $200 bill, though it is no longer in circulation today. The $200 bill was part of a series of large denomination bills the U.S. Treasury printed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, the $200 note was short-lived and only issued between the years of 1862 to 1866. After 1866, it was discontinued as larger bills were deemed unnecessary for routine transactions. Today, the largest denomination of U.S. currency in circulation is the $100 bill.

When was the $200 bill first issued?

The $200 bill was first issued by the U.S. Treasury in 1862, early on during the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, the U.S. had avoided printing bills larger than $100. However, to help finance the Civil War, the government began issuing Demand Notes in 1861 in denominations of $5, $10, and $20. Demand Notes got their name because they were redeemable in gold or silver “on demand.”

In 1862, as demand for Demand Notes increased, larger denominations of $50, $100, $500, and $1000 were introduced. The $200 bill debuted later in August 1862 as part of this series of large denomination notes. Like other Demand Notes, the $200 bill was essentially an interest-free loan to the government that the public could redeem for its face value in gold or silver coins.

What did the $200 bill look like?

The first $200 Demand Notes featured a portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase on the front. Chase had a prominent beard, leading the denominations of Demand Notes to be nicknamed “Greenbacks” due to the green-hued ink used on the backs. The back design was elaborate and intricate, with a vignette of a bald eagle perched on a shield with arrows and olive branch in talons. The $200 note was printed with green tinting on the back, similar to today’s money.

In 1863, new $200 Legal Tender Notes were issued. These had a more standardized look with ornamental green Treasury Seals and serial numbers but no portraits. The intricate bald eagle design was still present on the back. One key distinguishing feature was the text which identified the note as a “Legal Tender” that citizens must accept as payment. Demand Notes lacked this text as they were meant to be redeemed on demand rather than circulate permanently.

Why were such large bills ever needed?

The main rationale behind issuing high denomination currency during the Civil War was to help the government cover the massive costs of waging the war against the Confederacy. These enormous bills also made it easier for banks and financial institutions to handle large transactions at a time when check writing was less common.

In the absence of a central bank, bills like the $200 note filled some of the same purpose as today’s electronic bank wire transfers in enabling large financial transactions. They could facilitate convenient bank-to-bank transfers and payments between institutions, the government, military purchasing agents, and various commercial vendors providing supplies to sustain the Union’s war effort.

How long was the $200 bill in circulation?

Despite their usefulness for large financial transactions, high denomination notes like the $200 bill had a relatively short lifespan in public circulation. They were issued starting in 1862, but by the end of the Civil War in 1865, the amount of paper money in circulation had skyrocketed, destabilizing the economy.

In an effort to contract the inflated currency, the government discontinued all denominations above $20 after 1866. The $200 bill and other larger notes were actively removed from circulation and replaced with new small-denomination National Bank Notes starting in the late 1860s. However, existing high-denomination bills technically remained legal tender redeemable in gold until 1900.

So in summary, the $200 bill only actively circulated for a brief 4-5 year window from 1862 until 1866. After it was discontinued in 1866 in favor of smaller bills, any $200 notes remaining in the public’s hands slowly faded from everyday use.

When did they stop printing $200 bills?

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced the last $200 Legal Tender Note in 1866. After that year, no more $200 bills were printed. Existing $200 bills were withdrawn from circulation but remained redeemable at banks until 1900.

In 1879, however, a related $200 note was issued – the $200 Gold Certificate. These new paper notes were backed by and redeemable for their full face value in gold coins. The Series 1879 $200 Gold Certificate featured ornate orange-gold engravings on the back with the denomination front and center in a bold gothic font. Gold Certificates were produced up until 1913 when the government ceased routine conversion of paper money into gold.

Could you still use a $200 bill today?

While no longer printed, any remaining $200 Demand Notes or Legal Tender Notes from the 1860s that survived in good physical condition could theoretically still be spent today. However, the collector value of these rare notes is far greater than their $200 face value.

Most $200 bills were redeemed or destroyed not long after they were discontinued in the 1860s. A small number of these early large denomination notes have survived in varying condition. Today, an original $200 Demand Note or Legal Tender Note in lightly circulated condition could be worth $50,000 to $100,000 or even more to a currency collector. So you likely wouldn’t want to casually spend one like you would a modern $20!

The later Gold Certificates are more common but still collectible, with an 1879 $200 Gold Certificate typically selling for around $2,000 to $4,000 or more depending on condition. Certain star note varieties can fetch even higher prices from collectors. But like the Demand Notes, their collectibility vastly exceeds their long obsolete face value.

Why are there no more $200 bills today?

The U.S. discontinued issuing large denomination currency in the late 1860s and has never brought such bills back. There are several reasons why we only have smaller bills today:

Large bills facilitate crime

Authorities expressed concern over the years that very large denomination bills could facilitate money laundering, organized crime, and other illegal activities. Carrying and transferring massive sums of cash becomes more convenient with $500, $1000 or $10,000 bills. This is why the Treasury aimed to conduct transactions electronically or via smaller bills once the crisis of the Civil War had passed.

No routine need for big bills

For everyday transactions among average citizens, carrying around gigantic denominations is unnecessary. Even expensive purchases like cars or appliances can be handled with smaller bills. And today’s prevalent use of credit/debit cards, smart phone payments, checks, and electronic banking provide easy options for legal large transactions that don’t require hundreds or thousands in physical cash.

Discourages counterfeiting

The U.S. Secret Service has had great success in combating counterfeiting by phasing out larger denominations. Counterfeiting tiny bills is not lucrative enough to incentivize criminal effort. But fake $100s or larger notes would clearly pose a bigger problem. Avoiding huge denominations helps keep counterfeiting down.

Promotes convenience and hygiene

Carrying wallets full of smaller bills is more convenient and discreet than lugging around briefcases of large notes. Lower denominations also encourage spending and economic activity among all classes. Lastly, using more smaller bills facilitates hygiene and sanitation, as germs spread less easily off of lower denomination notes that change hands frequently.

What’s the largest U.S. bill today?

Ever since 1969, the $100 bill has been the highest value denomination of U.S. currency. $100 notes account for about 80% of the value of paper money in circulation globally. The average life span of a $100 bill is approximately 15 years before it wears out and needs replacement.

While no larger denomination Federal Reserve Notes have been produced, the $100 bill has itself undergone an evolution:

Series 1914 $100 Federal Reserve Note

This was the first $100 note issued under the oversight of the newly created Federal Reserve System. Prior to 1914, most large denomination currency was in the form of Gold Certificates. Series 1914 $100 bills featured a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.

Series 1928 $100 Gold Certificate

As Gold Certificates were phased out in the 1920s, the next $100 bill design introduced was a Series 1928 Federal Reserve Note, with a portrait of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

Series 1934 $100 Federal Reserve Note

With the U.S. moving fully off the gold standard in 1934, this next $100 bill series depicted Hamilton again, but as a Federal Reserve Note with more standardized design.

Series 1996 $100 Federal Reserve Note

The first major redesign of the $100 bill in over 60 years, these notes introduced modern anti-counterfeiting features like watermarks, security threads, microprinting, and color-shifting ink.

Series 2004A $100 Federal Reserve Note

This update incorporated more sophisticated security features like ultraviolet patterns, 3D security ribbons, raised printing, and enhanced portraits visible under magnification.

Series 2009 $100 Federal Reserve Note

The most recent $100 bill design adds even more advanced anti-counterfeiting technology, keeping the Benjamin Franklin portrait but with added graphics of Independence Hall and a quill pen.

While the $100 today buys less than it used to, it remains America’s highest value banknote for everyday transactions. And with electronic payments so convenient, $100 bills are less critical for commerce than in the past. The U.S. Treasury sees no need to resurrect super-sized denominations.


In summary, while $200 bills were briefly issued for a short period in the 1860s, they have not been in circulation for over 150 years. The $200 note had usefulness for bank transfers and government transactions during the extraordinary fiscal circumstances of the Civil War but proved unnecessary for peacetime commerce. Any $200 bills from the 19th century still in existence today are worth far more as collector’s items than their face value. The U.S. discontinued large denomination bills for a variety of compelling economic, law enforcement, and practical reasons. For most Americans, the $100 bill is now the largest paper currency used in routine transactions. And with electronic payments so ubiquitous, having bigger bills is no longer a necessity. So while the $200 bill once helped fund the Civil War’s monetary demands, it remains a historical curiosity unlikely to ever return to circulation.

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