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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.
Face of Currency (click to enlarge)
Name of President
When Added to Currency
# of Years after Death That President Appeared on Currency
John Quincy Adams
Martin Van Buren
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)