Who Is On Old $5 Bills?
A very generic question we often get asked is simply “Who is on the five dollar bill?” The short answer is Abraham Lincoln. The long answer is it depends. United States five dollar bills were first issued in 1861. Since that time eight different men have been featured as the central portrait.
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Abraham Lincoln – Today we closely associate Abraham Lincoln with the penny and the five dollar bill. However, he was one of the last people to show up on United States currency for that denomination. He first appeared on the five dollar bill in 1914 with red seal federal reserve notes. Lincoln was also featured on 1915 and 1918 federal reserve bank notes. Typically the most valuable Abraham Lincoln five dollar bill is the 1923 $5 silver certificate. Abraham Lincoln has been on all five dollar bills since 1928.
Alexander Hamilton – The modern ten dollar bill has a portrait of Alexander Hamilton. However, that tradition did not start until 1928. Sixty year earlier, in the 1860s, Hamilton had a small portrait on the bottom right corner of legal tender and demand notes. The portrait of Hamilton looks very different from the groomed image we see today. The early engravings show Hamilton with a ponytail; this leads casual observers to sometimes assume that the portrait is actually that of Thomas Jefferson. However, it is undeniably Alexander Hamilton.
Andrew Jackson – Andrew Jackson is on the modern twenty dollar bill that was first issued starting in 1928. However, Jackson actually made his first appearance on a five dollar bill in 1869. 1869 marked the redesign of several denominations of United States currency. The five dollar bill was one of the redesigned bills. Andrew Jackson would be featured on other five dollar bills from 1875, 1878, and 1880. Millions of 1907 $5 bills were printed. That year is where you are most likely to find a five dollar bill with Andrew Jackson.
Ben Harrison – Ben Harrison was only featured on one type of United States money, that being the series of 1902 $5 national bank note. These were printed started in 1902 and not discontinued until 1928. So a five dollar with Ben Harrison can have any year between 1902 and 1928 printed on it. Red seal fives with Ben Harrison are the most valuable of the type. Blue seals were also issued. They have a chance to be valuable.
Chief Onepapa – 1899 five dollar silver certificates have many different nicknames. They are most commonly called a chief or an Indian. The nickname obviously derives from the fact that the center of the bill features a Native American. In fact, the series of 1899 $5 silver certificate is the only piece of United States money to feature a Native American as the central figure. The person depicted is Chief Onepapa aka Running Antelope. He was a tribe chief of a branch of the Dakota Sioux Indians.
George Thomas – George Thomas is unquestionably the most obscure person ever featured on a large size five dollar bill. The casual collector often mistakenly identifies him as Ulysses Grant because of the thick beard and military uniform. Thomas can be found as the central figure on the 1890 and 1891 five dollar treasury notes.
James Garfield – James Garfield was pictured on the series of 1882 five dollar bill. This type of money was printed between 1882 and 1921. He was put on the five dollar bill just months after he was assassinated in late 1881. His last name, Garfield, is never printed on the actual bill. Due to the way money was printed back then, any year between 1882 and 1901 can appear on these five dollar bills. However, they will all say series of 1882.
Ulysses Grant – Today the fifty dollar bill features a portrait of Ulysses S Grant. However, Grant actually first appeared on United States currency in 1886. The five dollar silver certificate was first printed in 1886 and Grant was featured on these bills. The most memorable thing about the 1886 $5 bill is that the back of it has an engraving with a bunch of Morgan silver dollars. Today that issue is called a Morgan back five. If it had more traditional artwork it would likely be called a Grant five.
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