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Notes on a Note: The Anatomy of a $1 Bill
According to the Federal Reserve, more than 10 billion $1 bills were in circulation in 2012—nearly a third of the total paper notes in circulation. Read on to learn more about our most pervasive currency.
The Front: Identifying Information
- Presidential Portrait: The first president wasn’t actually the first to grace the $1 bill. That honor belongs to Lincoln's Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase, who appeared on the first $1 United States Notes issued in 1862. Washington didn’t make the cut until 1869, when historians finally unearthed the list of presidents before Fillmore.
- Federal Reserve District: All US currency is issued by a Federal Reserve Bank in one of 12 cities, each corresponding to a letter and number—for example, Boston is represented by the number 1 and the letter A—that appear individually in several places throughout the bill.
- US Treasury Seal: The seal of the US Treasury appears to the right of Washington. There are also two signatures of current officials: the US Treasurer on the left and the Secretary of the Treasury on the right. Since the design of the bill hasn't changed since 1963, when the first $1 Federal Reserve notes were issued, these signatures are the only major aesthetic difference among bills from the last 50 years.
The Back: A Symbolic Seal
- Great Seal of the US (obverse side): On the right side of the bill, an eagle holds an olive branch in its left talons and 13 arrows in its right. The number 13 appears, too, in the olive branch, stars, and stripes. Overhead, a banner flies the iconic phrase E Pluribus Unum, meaning "Out of many, one."
- Great Seal of the US (reverse side): On the left, the year 1776 in Roman numerals forms the base of the pyramid, whose 13 steps lead to an unfinished summit symbolizing the country's ever-evolving state. As for the two Latin phrases, Annuit Cœptis means “God has favored our undertakings,” while Novus Ordo Seclorum means “a new order has begun.”