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Currency and the US Presidents


23 US Presidents have appeared on US coin and paper currency (as of Aug. 26, 2010). Below we have compiled a chart of the US currency with presidential portraits that includes the President's term in office, when the portrait was added to currency, and the number of years after the President's death he appeared on the currency.

By law (US Code, Title 31, Section 5114(b)), "only the portrait of a deceased individual may appear on United States currency." The US Secretary of the Treasury usually determines which people and which of their portraits appear on US currency, however legislation passed by Congress can also determine currency design.

Republican lawmakers have led various efforts to have Ronald Reagan's image on US currency; however, none of those efforts have been successful to date. On Nov. 21, 2003, Representative Mark Souder (R-IN) introduced the "Ronald Reagan Dime Act" (H.R. 3633) to have Reagan's likeness replace Franklin Roosevelt's portrait. Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL) followed suit with the "Ronald Wilson Reagan Half Dollar Act" (H.R. 4525), introduced on June 8, 2004, to put Reagan's portrait on the fifty cent piece.

Representative John David Hayworth (R-AZ) introduced two pieces of legislation, both titled the "President Ronald Reagan $10 Bill Act," H.R. 4528 on June 9, 2004 and H.R. 329 on Jan. 25, 2005, to replace Alexander Hamilton with Reagan. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) sponsored the "President Ronald Reagan $20 Bill Act" (H.R. 4563) on June 14, 2004 to put Reagan's portrait on the $20 bill.

Two legislative attempts were made to replace Ulysses Grant with Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. The first was by Representative John Kline (R-MN) with the "President Ronald Reagan $50 Bill Act" (H.R. 766) on Feb. 10, 2005. The second bill, H.R.4705, had the same name and was introduced by Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) on Feb. 25, 2010.
Denomination Face of Currency
(click to enlarge)
Name of President Term When Added to Currency # of Years after Death That President Appeared on Currency
Coins
Penny Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865 1909 44
Nickel Thomas Jefferson 1801-1809 1938 112
Dime Franklin Roosevelt 1933-1945 1946 1
Quarter George Washington 1789-1797 1932 133
Half Dollar John Kennedy 1961-1963 1964 1
Dollar Dwight Eisenhower 1953-1961 1971 2

Dollar




George Washington

John Adams

Thomas Jefferson

James Madison
1789-1797

1797-1801

1801-1809

1809-1817
2007 208

181

181

171

Dollar




James Monroe

John Quincy Adams

Andrew Jackson

Martin Van Buren
1817-1825

1825-1829

1829-1837

1837-1841
2008 177

160

163

146

Dollar




William Harrison

John Tyler

James Polk

Zachary Taylor
1841

1841-1845

1845-1849

1849-1850
2009
168

147

160

159

Dollar




Millard Fillmore

Franklin Pierce

James Buchanan

Abraham Lincoln
1850-1853

1853-1857

1857-1861

1861-1865
2010 136

141

142

145
Paper
$1 George Washington 1789-1797 1869 70
$2 Thomas Jefferson 1801-1809 1869 43
$5 Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865 1914 49
$20 Andrew Jackson 1829-1837 1915 70
$50 Ulysses Grant 1869-1877 1914 29
$500 William McKinley 1897-1901 1928 27
$1,000 Grover Cleveland 1885-1889 1928 20
$5,000 James Madison 1809-1817 1918 82
$100,000* Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921 1934 10
Non-Presidents that have appeared on US currency include: Benjamin Franklin (US founding father, $100 bill), Alexander Hamilton (first US Secretary of Treasury, $10 bill), John Marshall (US Supreme Court Chief Justice, 1801-1835), Salmon Chase (US Secretary of Treasury, 1861-1864), Susan B. Anthony (American suffragist), and Sacagawea (Shoshone interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition).

On July 14, 1969, the US stopped distributing $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills because, with more secure banking technologies, denominations over $100 were no longer needed for bank transfers. While these bills are still legal tender and may be found in circulation, the Federal Reserve Banks remove them from circulation and destroy them as they are received.

* The $100,000 Gold Certificate is the largest denomination of currency ever produced. It was used only for official transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and was not circulated among the general public. This note cannot be legally held by currency note collectors.


Sources: "Reagan the New Face of the $10 Bill?," money.cnn.com, June 11, 2004; Richard Simon, "Proposal Would Put Ronald Reagan's Face on the $50 Bill," articles.latimes.com, Mar. 3, 2010; "U.S. Currency," Bureau of Engraving and Printing, US Department of the Treasury website (accessed July 20, 2010); "Historian's Corner," US Mint, US Department of the Treasury website (accessed July 21, 2010); "About U.S. Coins," www.coinworld.com (accessed July 22, 2010)