Large Denomination Currency: The $100,000 Bill

No, it’s not the gimmick bill that you can buy as a joke gift at your local store but has no actual value. It’s an actual banknote at a $100,000 denomination.

The 1934 $100,000 gold certificate features Woodrow Wilson on the obverse. Banks never circulated these bills, but instead used them for transactions by Federal Reserve Banks. They were printed from 1934 to 1935.

Elements of gold accent the bill’s otherwise monotone coloring.

In the 1960’s, use of the bill was stopped and the government found and destroyed many of them.

It’s common to find forgeries of this bill, often with certificates of “authenticity”. Be warned: these certificates can just as easily be forged! Find a professional to ensure that you have the real deal. You can find the real thing at the Smithsonian Institution and a handful of Federal Reserve Banks.

The $100,000 bill can still be used as legal tender today, but be aware: the bill will take much more in auction than its actual denomination. So while you could use it to buy 100,000 packs of gum, you could also sell it to a collector for a hefty price. Think of how many more packs of gum you could buy!

Farley’s Follies

James A. Farley was the Postmaster General during the 1930s, but that’s not the only thing he’s remembered for. In the stamp collecting world he’s known for his “Farley’s Follies.”

It’s worth mentioning that Farley himself was not a stamp collector, and so probably had no idea of the ruckus he was about to cause.

During his time as Postmaster General, Farley bought a number of imperforated and ungummed stamp sheets with his own money. He signed the margins of the sheets, as did President Roosevelt. The first sheet went to FDR himself, an avid stamp collector; another went to Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, also a stamp collector; and the rest went to Farley’s family as well as friends of the Administration.

James A. Farley during National Air Mail Week in 1938, marking the 20th anniversary of the first scheduled airmail service.

James A. Farley during National Air Mail Week in 1938, marking the 20th anniversary of the first scheduled airmail service.

Unfortunately for Farley, some of these sheets found their way to the market as high-priced rarities.

Enraged stamp collectors protested, as did political opponents. They spoke accusations of corruption and lobbied Congress.3cNewburgh

To prevent the pot from boiling over, Farley ordered the twenty sheets of unfinished stamps he’d signed to be reprinted and available for stamp collectors to buy. These sheets were printed in 1935, earning the nickname “Farley’s Follies.” The sheets are, however, far from rare.

Many years ago, Farley himself donated fifteen of the original signed sheets to the Smithsonian Institution for viewing.

A slight mess-up for an otherwise brilliant businessman, Farley quickly saved his reputation and created another story for the stamp collecting world.