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Buildings On United States Money Bills

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Pull out a fifty dollar bill and flip over to the back of the bill, do you recognize what building that is? Now, if you ask anyone except this year’s Miss North South Carolina (my apologies!), you probably could get it on your first couple guesses (it’s an identifiable building but it’s not something that everyone could pull off the top of their heads) and it would probably take a few more guesses to get what exactly happens in that building. If you were to do the same with the twenty, I bet a few more people would be able to guess what that is. Move up to the hundred and you’d probably get fewer people able to guess the building and what happens there… so I figured I’d give a recap.

$1 Bill

One Dollar Bill $1
The dollar bill doesn’t have a building on the back of the bill and one of the only two bills not to have a building on the back of it. The back of it features the two “sides” of the Great Seal of the United States: the coat of arms (the obverse) and the pyramid (the reverse). The obverse of the seal, the coat of arms, is used to authenticate documents issued by the US government and is stored in the Exhibit Hall of the US Department of State.

$2 Bill

Two Dollar Bill $2
The two dollar bill is the other bill without a building on the back, it’s actually a picture of the drafting committee presenting a draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress.

$5 Bill

Five Dollar Bill $5
Ahh, now we’re talking buildings. The back of the five spot is none other than the memorial to the face on the front, the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial itself doesn’t conduct any official business, since it’s a memorial, but that doesn’t mean a lot of important events haven’t happened there. Arguably the most significant event that has happened there was when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, 100 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Incidentally, the Lincoln Memorial also appears on the penny as well.

$10 Bill

Ten Dollar Bill $10
The back of the ten dollar bill is the Treasury Building, fitting since the front has the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. The Treasury Building is the home of the US Department of the Treasury, one of the Cabinet departments and is responsible for managing government revenue. Through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Mint, the Treasury prints and mints all the currency used in the US; and through the Internal Revenue Service, it collects all federal taxes. There are plenty of other responsibilities but I think you get the idea.

$20 Bill

Twenty Dollar Bill $20
The back of the twenty dollar bill is none other than the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW – The White House. I think that’s all that needs to be said about that building. 🙂

$50 Bill

Fifty Dollar Bill $50
The US Capitol building graces the back of the fifty dollar bill and it is the location of the legislative branch of the United States, the Congress. It contains two wings, one for the House of Representatives (south of the rotunda) and one for the Senate (north of the rotunda), in which all of the legislative business is handled and has done so since 1800’s. In fact, even the Supreme Court met in the Capitol until a building was constructed for the Judicial branch in 1935.

$100 Bill

Five Dollar Bill $5
Last but not least, Independence Hall is the building on the back of the hundred dollar bill and it’s another landmark building and the only one that isn’t in Washington D.C. Independence Hall is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed back in the late 18th century. In fact, in addition to the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution were all signed in Independence Hall. And as another piece of trivia, the Liberty Bell (the one with the crack) was the bell used in the hall’s bell tower (until the crack).

Larger Bills

None of the larger bills, all of which are no longer in circulation, have pictures of buildings on the backs and in fact none of them have anything other than the denomination repeated in larger numbers. Only the $5,000 bill and the $10000 bill has an image on the back. The $5,000 features George Washington resigning his commission to Congress and is taken from a painting by John Trumbull. The $10,000 has a picture of the Embarkation of the Pilgrims. 🙂

There you have it, a quick recap of all the buildings gracing the backs of our nation’s currency. I hope you picked up as much fun trivia as I did in writing this and have a great Labor Day!

Images of the $1 – $10 are courtesy of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the rest are courtesy of Wikipedia.

{ 16 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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16 Responses to “Buildings On United States Money Bills”

  1. Brca1 says:

    That’s Miss South Carolina, not North Carolina big difference. Though we (NC) may not have the best secondary education, our public and private universities are quite competitive.

  2. jim says:

    Hahaha, whoops, my apologies, my memory is not what it used to be. Either way, I didn’t mean to make it a broad over-reaching commentary about the education in either state… just taking a swipe at the poor girl. 🙂

  3. plonkee says:

    I had no idea you had two dollar bills over there. Amazing. I even recognised the building that Miss South Carolina couldn’t.

  4. saladdin says:

    2 dollar bills are considered “lucky.” In the past (less with current generation) people would give parents $2 bills when they had children.This may be a southern thing too but this tradition seems to be dying out.


  5. Brca1 says:

    Easy mistake to make, somehow in the South we are always seen as slack-jawed inbreds, then Miss South Carolina comes along. I finally caught the video man it just makes you want to cringe. As an amateur numismatist the history of money and our currency has always been a fascinating field. For instance, did you know that for a brief time, 1916, the quarter dollar bore a nude female torso? Or that we had a three-cent silver piece that people loathed as much as the dollar coins we have today. Ever see one dollar note with a star after the serial number? Hang on to those they are duplicate bills put into circulation after the original was destroyed, worth way more than a dollar.

  6. saladdin says:

    A little off subject but does anyone else register and follow bills on the website?


  7. saladdin says:

    The automobile in front of the Treasury Building on the back of the ten-spot is a Hupmobile.

  8. minimum wage says:

    That was a cool item – it was nice to see all the bills in one place as well as a little bit about the buildings and their significance.

    While we do have a $2 denomination, it rarely circulates. At work I can handle a few hundred $1 bills in one day, but it’s unusual to handle as many as a half dozen $2 bills in one month.

    Actually, the “star notes” (where the serial number ends with a star rather than a letter) are sufficiently common that they current issues don’t command any collector premium. The $1 star notes are pretty common – I’ll usually see a few every day at work – but star notes in higher denoninations are scarcer because far fewer are printed.

  9. minimum wage says:

    The “nude female torso” on the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter – SLQ – (there are also 1916 Barber quarters minted earlier in the year – no such luck) lasted into early 1917. Then a plate of chainmail was added to cover up the torso, and the position of the eagle and the stars on the reverse was also changed. So there is a “Type 1” 1917 SLQ with the nude torso and a “Type 2” with the chainmail.

    The 1916 SLQ is very rare, as production did not begin until December and only 52,000 were minted. SLQ minted before 1925 had dates which were easily worn off, so some of the 1916 quarters will never be found because their dates are unreadable. (Actually, the dates weren’t work off, but microscopic amounts of metal get moved when the coins are handled, and after sufficient handling, enough metal gets moved on top of the date to make it unreadable. That’s also why many Buffalo nickels have unreadable dates.)

  10. Dustin says:

    Since we are learning trivia…

    The Lincoln Memorial has been engraved with the phrase ‘I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King, Jr.’ at the place where he stood me make his speech. I have a picture of it around here somewhere.

  11. Mark says:

    Quite an enjoyable read! Having spent 3 years living in South Carolina, I have to say that not all of the girls are at her level. She’s truly a gem…

  12. The Dirkster says:

    Thanks! This was simply very cool!

  13. Rodrigo says:

    Now this states that the $5000 dollar bill has George washington resigning to Congress. I’ve seen another with the 5000 and a design behind it. And for the Embarkation of the Pilgrims on the 100,000 where I’ve seen it with a design behind it.

  14. Ryan Thompson says:

    That $5000 and $10,000 were older, large-size notes. Series 1928 and 1934, which were small size, had ornate designs rather than buildings or people.

  15. donna says:

    I heard the Hupmobile is on a $10 bill is this true?

  16. Ida says:

    Does anyone know exactly when the buildings above started appearing on the currency, or where I can find that information?

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