Currency Notes - History Of Large Denominations

Japanese bank notesCurrency notes and how to clean old paper money notes

A note has a value inscribed on it. For some people, a $50 has a high value while for other people $50 is not such a big amount of money. Even worldwide some notes have today a large face value. A 500 euro coin has a value of 813 AU$, which is not a small amount of money.

In the whole world, the biggest notes in circulation are 500 euro in the EU, 500 lats in Lithuania ($1152 AU). In Canada $1000 ($1063 AU) but was withdrawn not too long ago and of course Singapore, with the $10000, almost $7850 AU, but used only in inter-bank transactions.

But what would you do when someone gives you a note of $1,000,000? In the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century some countries had circulated note with large values.


In France, the largest note in 1914 was 1000 francs. The Banque de France exchanged it with no less than 50 gold coins of 20 francs, each with a weight of 6,45 g. A total of 322g of gold, more than 10 ounces today. If you want 1/3 of kilogram of gold today, you must pay $11,000 AU for it.

French bank note with 1000 francs on it


In Germany, the highest coin in circulation was a 20 mark gold coin, with a weight of 7.9g.

The largest note had a face value of 1000 mark, so 50 coins of 20 mark. The total is almost 400g of gold or 12 ounces.

1000 mark bank note


In England the Bank of England printed notes of 50 pounds, each pound with a weight of 7,9 g. and nicknamed the sovereign. The value of this note is the same with the note above.


In Russia, in 1898 and 1912 the 500 roubles note was printed. The largest note in the world, almost 6 times the size of a 5 dollar bill. No less then 100 coins of 5 roubles, each coin having a weight of 4,4g. The total - 440g of gold.

Each of these notes circulated in everyday life, despite the fact that not everyone was lucky to get one…. Moreover, like Russia or German notes inflation after 1918 depreciated the currency and so, for example, in 1920 one gram of gold was 4000 mark and not 1.5 mark as in 1914.

United States

Also, in some countries, high value notes were printed for banks only. In the 1920-1930’s the Federal Reserve printed notes from $500 to $100,000 US.

Until 1933, the $20 coin, or “the eagle” had a weight of one ounce of gold. So $100,000 had the value of 155kg of pure gold. Calculating the average salary of an American of that time, it will be around $1.5 million today.

These notes were printed for banks only and used only by them. For the 100000 note, President Wilson was chosen.

This note had face value but they weren’t legal tender. So the value of this note was valid only inside the Federal Reserve buildings or associated banks.

What are the chances of finding one of these notes in your house, in a box inherited from Grandma?

A report from 2009 shown that only 336 of the $10,000 bills were still in circulation (or collections); 342 of $5,000 bills; and 165,372 of $1,000 bills. You must be really lucky for a $500 or $1000 bill, both great rarities today. But for the $5,000 and $10,000 you haven’t got a chance.

100000 dollar us bank note

And until today, only one note of $100,000 is known. In 1978, for the first and last time in history, the Federal Reserve gave one bill to the Smithsonian Institute.

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