United States currency/$1 bill

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United States $1 bill

The USA $1 bill is a denomination of U.S. currency. It is the most common denomination in the United States currency. George Washington, painted by Gilbert Stuart, is currently featured on the obverse, and the Great Seal of the United States is featured on the reverse. The $1 bill has this design since 1963, when it first became a Federal Reserve Note.

Obverse of the $1 bill
Reverse of the $1 bill

The motto "In God We Trust" was added on the bill by law in 1957.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says the "average life" of a $1 bill in circulation is 21 months before it is replaced due to wear. ≈ 45% of U.S. currency produced today are $1 bills.

All $1 bills produced today are Federal Reserve Notes.

History:[edit | edit source]

Large size notes[edit | edit source]

(approximately 7.4218 x 3.125 in. ≅ 189 x 79 mm)

  • 1862: The first $1 bill was issued as Legal Tender Notes (United States Note) with a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury under Pres. Abraham Lincoln.
First $1 bill issued in 1862 as a Legal Tender Note.
  • 1869: The $1 United States Note was redesigned with a portrait of George Washington in the center and a vignette of Christopher Columbus sighting land to the left. The obverse featured green and blue tinting. Although a United States Note, TREASURY NOTE appeared on it instead.
  • 1874: The Series of 1869 United States Note was revised. Changes on the obverse include: removing the green and blue tinting, adding a red floral design around the word WASHINGTON D.C., and changing the term TREASURY NOTE to UNITED STATES NOTE. The reverse was completely redesigned. This note was also issued as Series of 1875 and 1878.
  • 1880: The red floral design around the words ONE DOLLAR and WASHINGTON D.C. on the United States Note was removed.
  • 1886: Martha Washington, the first woman to appear on U.S. currency was featured on the $1 Silver Certificate. The reverse featured an ornate design which occupied the entire note, excluding the borders.
  • 1890: One dollar Treasury or "Coin Notes" were issued for government purchases of silver bullion from the silver mining industry. The reverse featured the large word ONE in the center surrounded by an ornate design which occupied almost the entire note.
Series of 1886 $1 Silver Certificate featuring Martha Washington
  • 1891: The reverse of the Series of 1890 Treasury Note was redesigned because the treasury felt that it was too "busy" which would make it too easy to counterfeit. More open space was incorporated into the new design.
  • 1891: The reverse of the $1 Silver Certificate was redesigned. More open space was incorporated into the new design.
  • 1896: The famous "Educational Series" Silver Certificate was issued. The entire obverse was covered with artwork of allegorical figures representing "history instructing youth" in front of Washington D.C. The reverse featured portraits of George and Martha Washington surrounded by an ornate design which occupied almost the entire note.
  • 1899: The $1 Silver Certificate was again redesigned. The obverse featured a vignette of the U.S. Capitol building behind a Bald Eagle perched on an American Flag. Below that were small portraits of Abraham Lincoln to the left and Ulysses S. Grant to the right.
Famous 1896 "Educational Series" $1 Silver Certificate.
  • 1917: The obverse of the $1 United States Note was changed slightly with the removal of ornamental frames which surrounded the serial numbers.
  • 1918: The only large-sized, Federal Reserve Note-like $1 bill was issued as a Federal Reserve Bank Note. Each note was an obligation of the issuing Federal Reserve Bank and could only be redeemed at that corresponding bank. The obverse of the note featured a borderless portrait of George Washington to left and wording in the entire center. The reverse featured a Bald Eagle in flight clutching an American Flag.
  • 1923: Both the one dollar United States Note and Silver Certificate were redesigned. Both notes featured the same reverse and an almost identical obverse with the same border design and portrait of George Washington. The only difference between the two notes was the color of ink used for the numeral 1 crossed by the word DOLLAR, treasury seal, and serial numbers along with the wording of the obligations. These dollar bills were the first and only large size notes with a standardized design for different types of notes of the same denomination; this same concept would later be used on small size notes.

Small size notes[edit | edit source]

(6.14 x 2.61 x 0.0043 in. ≅ 155.956 x 66.294 x 0.10922 mm)

First small-sized $1 bill which was issued as a Silver Certificate
Common reverse of $1 Silver Certificates (Series of 1928-1934) and $1 United States Notes (Series of 1928).
  • 1929: All currency was changed to its current size. Initially, the one dollar bill was issued as Silver Certificate only under Series of 1928. The treasury seal and serial numbers on it were dark blue. The obverse was nearly identical to the Series of 1923 $1 Silver Certificate, but the treasury seal featured spikes around it and a large gray ONE to the left replaced the blue "1 DOLLAR". The reverse, too, had the same border design as the Series of 1923 $1 bill, but the center featured a large ornate ONE superimposed by ONE DOLLAR. These $1 Silver Certificates were issued until 1934.
  • 1933: $1 United States Notes were issued to supplement the supply of $1 Silver Certificates. Its treasury seal and serial numbers were red. However, a month after their production, it was realized that there would be no real need for these notes and production was stopped. A small number of these $1 bills entered circulation and the rest were kept in treasury vaults until 1949 when they were issued in Puerto Rico.
  • 1934: The design of the $1 Silver Certificate was changed to reflect the Silver Purchase Act of 1934. Under Washington's portrait, ONE SILVER DOLLAR was changed to ONE DOLLAR due to the fact that Silver Certificates could be redeemed for silver bullion. The treasury seal was moved to the right and superimposed over ONE, and a blue numeral 1 was added to the left. The reverse remained the same.
  • 1935: Again, the design of the one dollar changed. On the obverse, the blue numeral 1 was changed to gray and made smaller, the gray ONE to the left was removed, the treasury seal was made smaller and superimposed by WASHINGTON D.C., and a stylized ONE DOLLAR was added over the treasury seal. The reverse was also changed to its current design, except for the absence of IN GOD WE TRUST.
  • 1942: WWII brought about specials issues of one dollar bills. Special $1 Silver Certificates were issued for Hawaii in case of Japanese invasion. HAWAII was printed vertically on the left and right side of the obverse and also horizontally across the reverse. The seal and serial numbers were changed to brown. Special Silver Certificates were also issued as payment for Allied troops in North Africa about to begin their assault into Europe. The only difference on these one dollar bills was a yellow instead of blue seal. Both of these types of notes could be declared worthless if they fell into enemy hands.
    Special issue $1 Silver Certificate for Allied troops in North Africa.
  • 1957: The next change came when the $1 bill became the first piece of U.S. currency to bear the motto IN GOD WE TRUST; it was added over the word ONE on the reverse. Initially the BEP began printing the motto on notes which were printed with the new 32 note press, but soon Series of 1935G bills printed on a 16 note press featured the motto.
  • 1963: The final production of $1 Silver Certificates occurred. The redemption of Silver Certificates for silver coin ended and in 1968 the redemption of Silver Certificates for silver billion ended.
  • Late 1963: Production of one dollar Federal Reserve Notes was undertaken to replace the soon-to-be obsolete $1 Silver Certificate. The design on the reverse remained the same, but the border design on the obverse was completely redesigned and the serial numbers and treasury seal were printed in green ink. This was the first time the one dollar bill was printed as a Federal Reserve Note.
  • 1969: The $1 began using the new treasury seal with wording in English instead of Latin. Excluding the signatures and series date, the design of the one dollar bill has remained the same ever since then.
  • 1995: Though bill denominations of $5 and higher have been redesigned twice as part of ongoing anti-counterfeiting efforts, there are currently no plans to redesign the $1 bill.

Experimental issues[edit | edit source]

Over numerous years the one dollar bill has served as the exclusive circulating denomination of several experiments.

The first experiment was conducted in January and February of 1933 to test different ratios of cotton and linen used in the paper of dollar bills. Series of 1928A and 1928B $1 Silver Certificates with serial number block letters X-B and Y-B were used as the experimental group; the Z-B block was used as the control group. Test results were inconclusive.

Another test was done in 1937 which was similar in style to the 1933 experiment. Series 1935 one dollar bills were used once again. The particular notes used in this experiment can be identified by their serial numbers. Notes ranging from A00000001B–A06180000B and B00000001B–B03300000B were the experimental group and notes ranging from C00000001B–C03300000B were part of the control group. No conclusive results were found.

A more well-known test was done in 1942 during World War II to test alternative types of paper; this was a precautionary measure in case the current type of paper supply could not be maintained. Series 1935A notes made of the special paper were printed with a red "S" to the right of the treasury seal and notes of the control group were printed with a red "R". Fake red S's and R's have been applied to regular Series 1935A notes to try and pass them at a higher value; checking a note's serial numbers can prevent this. Serial numbers of the R group range from S70884001C–S7206800C and serial numbers of the S group range from S73884001C–S7506800C.

One dollar bills were again the subject of experimentation in May 1992 when the BEP began to test a web-fed press. Instead of printing one side of a square sheet of 32 notes at a time, a web-fed press used 96 plates to print both sides of notes from a continuous roll of paper. The notes were issued in Series 1988A, 1993, and 1995. Because of mechanical problems as well as the sometimes poor quality of the notes, the test was ended in July 1996. Web notes can be identified by the back plate number next to IN GOD WE TRUST and the removal of face check letters and quadrant numbers.

Reverse of current $1 bill[edit | edit source]

Detail of the Great Seal (reverse) as it appears on the one-dollar bill

The reverse of the one dollar bill has an ornate design which incorporates the Great Seal of the United States, and it is of noted interest to historians and numerologists for the symbols contained therein.

To the left is the reverse of the seal which portrays an unfinished pyramid. The separated cap of the pyramid, portraying the all-seeing eye, symbolizes that the United States is still far from finished. The shadow cast by the pyramid from the rising sun represents the undiscovered lands to the west. The sun, which is rising, represents that a new nation has begun. The Latin phrase Annuit Cœptis is located above the pyramid. Taken from the Latin words annuere ("to nod, approve") and cœpere ("to begin, undertake"), it literally means "he/it favors the things having been begun." The official translation given by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Mint, and the U.S. Treasury is "He (God) has favored our undertakings."

Novus Ordo Seclorum is shown on a ribbon below the pyramid and is a phrase taken from the fourth Ecologue of Virgil. In English, the Latin seclorum is the genitive plural form of the word saeculum, meaning "generation, century, or age." Thus the motto can be translated as "a new order of the ages". Written at the base of the pyramid in Roman Numerals is MDCCLXXVI (1776), the year the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.

The eye above the pyramid is popular among conspiracy theorists, and alleged to have connections with the Illuminati secret society. The history of the dollar bill was featured on The History Channel's "Decoding The Past" program.

In Rich Hall's books of sniglets, the pyramid is known as a "pyramonster" and described as "that thing with one big eye on the back of a dollar bill."

To the right is the obverse of the Great Seal portraying a heraldic Bald Eagle. In front of the eagle is an unsupported shield which symbolizes the fledgling country's ability to stand on its own, unified by congress; this is symbolized by the blue bar on top of the shield. Above the eagle's head is a glory with 13 stars. The star points to the letters M, A, S, O, N when transposed onto the pyramid section. Clutched in the eagle's beak is a ribbon which reads "E PLURIBUS UNUM" ("From many, one"). It also holds an olive branch (which the head always points towards) and arrows in its claws, symbolizing the desire of peace, but the readiness to fight.

President Franklin Roosevelt's conditional approval of the one-dollar bill's design in 1935, requiring that the appearance of the sides of the Great Seal be reversed, and together, captioned.

The number thirteen, symbolizing the 13 original colonies, shows up numerous times:

  • 13 total letters/digits in both 1776 (4) and its Roman Numeral equivalent MDCCLXXVI (9)
  • 13 stars above the eagle
  • 13 steps on the Pyramid
  • 13 letters in ANNUIT CŒPTIS
  • 13 letters in E PLURIBUS UNUM
  • 13 vertical bars on the shield
  • 13 horizontal stripes at the top of the shield
  • 13 leaves on the olive branch
  • 13 berries on the olive branch
  • 13 arrows
  • 13 hats