What is the Lowest Value of Paper Money Without the Portrait of a U.S President?

What is the lowest value of paper money without the portrait of a U.S president? First of all, there are 2 American bills that do not contain portraits of American presidents. If you are surprised, you are not alone!

Many people would be surprised by the fact that not all portraits in the various values of the U.S paper money represent U.S presidents.

In fact, research conducted to find out how well Americans recognize the names of American presidents showed that a significant percentage erroneously identified famous men including Hubert Humphrey, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton as presidents of the U.S.

See where I am coming from?

This post highlights the lowest value American bill without a president’s portrait and sheds light on who appears on it and other similar bills.

Further, we will find out who the portraits on all American paper money belong to, who makes the decisions about them as well as the lowest value of American paper money.

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t put a spotlight on other American money denominations you probably didn’t know existed. Let’s dive in!

What is the Lowest Value of Paper Money without the Portrait of a U.S President?

What is the Lowest Value of Paper Money without the Portrait of a U.S President?

The 10-dollar bill is the lowest value of paper money without the portrait of a U.S president.

The $10-bill has the face of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, on the front and the U.S. Treasury Building on the back among other security features that accompany the making of money.

The printing of the $10 bill started in 1861 and has been in circulation till the present. However, it has undergone numerous transformations and several other portraits along the way before the adoption of the Alexander Hamilton portrait back in 1929. The note has since been in circulation, while the bill was last designed in 2006!

The portrait was sourced from John Trumbull, an American artist’s, 1805 painting.

Other paper money with a higher value without the portrait of a U.S. president is the $100-dollar bill.

The $100-bill has the face of Benjamin Franklin on the front and a vignette of the Independence Hall on the back.

Just like the 10-dollar bill, the 100-dollar bill was launched in 1861 but only adopted the portrait of Benjamin Franklin in 1914

The History of the $10 Bill  

The history of the $10 bill is a long one. The first appearance of the $10 bill in 1861 was used as a demand note.

Demand notes would be redeemed for the amount indicated on them. This bill had the portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the left side and an artistic form on the right of the front side.

Long before the $10 bill became a Federal Reserve Note, between 1861 and 1929, it took several forms and was referred to by various names including the United States Note, Interest Bearing Note, silver Certificate, gold certificate, and Federal Reserve Bank Note among others.

During the same period, the bill went through various transformations in physical attributes, design, and security features.

More specifically, at various points, the note featured the portraits of other notable figures in American history including:

  • Salmon P. Chase
  • Daniel Webster
  • Robert Morris
  • Thomas A.Hendricks
  • Phillip Sheridan
  • Meriwether Lewis
  • William Clark
  • Michael Hillegas, and
  • Andrew Jackson

The first $10 bills issued by the Federal Reserve were released in 1914 after its establishment as the Nation’s Central Bank in 1913. At this time, the bill bore the portrait of President Andrew Jackson.

It was not until 1929 that the bill adopted its current size and the portrait of Andrew Jackson was replaced with that of Alexander Hamilton. 

Other transformations of the 10-dollar bill have since followed.

One complete redesign is dated May 24, 2000, which included a security thread and microprinting for security.

It also involved the revision of the portrait of Alexander Hamilton and the vignette of the U.S. Treasury Building, and the inclusion of features to help the visually impaired.

The 2oo6 redesign, which was mainly done to combat counterfeiting is still in use today.

The Current $10 Bill

One of the changes in the $10 bill from 2000 to 2006, which is in use today, was the addition of Hamilton’s watermarked portrait to the right of the $10 bill visible on both sides and the inclusion of the Statue of Liberty’s torch.

Other security features of the current 10-dollar bill include:

  • Color-shifting ink which is used to print the number 10 on the back corner of the bill
  • Security thread that glows orange under ultra-violet rays and imprinted USA TEN and a flag in an alternative pattern
  • Microprinting with texts UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TEN DOLLARS
  • Raised printing that can be felt with your finger
  • EURion constellation in form of small yellow 10s

Other features include orange, yellow, and red in the background, serials numbers, the treasury seal, and the Federal Reserve System Seal.

Two Interesting Facts: Did you know that the $10 bill is the only paper money in the U.S that has the portrait of a person that is neither born in the United States nor the United Kingdom? Now you do!

Also, did you know that The $10 bill is the only dollar bill that has the portrait of a person facing the left? Every other portrait on the U.S currency either coin or banknote faces the right. I thought you should know!

The U.S Currency

The United States of America (USA) uses the dollar and cents as a medium of financial exchange. The American currency has been called different nicknames such as greenback, eagle, deuce, fin, and bill. 

However, the U.S currency has its official symbol and code. This is either written as a symbol ($) or code (USD). The cent (¢) is often called a penny. It takes 100 cents to make a dollar. While cents are in coin form, the seven dollar denominations are in paper form. 

The United States’ seven paper money denominations are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

Whose Portrait is On U.S Paper Money?

Five of these American paper money denominations ($1, $2, $5, $20, $50) have the faces of U.S presidents.

As earlier noted, two out of the seven paper money denominations ($10 and $100) are without the portraits of U.S presidents

The table below lists the portraits of American bills:

Dollar billPortraitDetails of the Public Figure Depicted In the Portrait
$100Benjamin Franklina founding father of America, a diplomat, inventor, and the 6th president of the Pennsylvanian State Government.
$50Ulysses S.Granta commanding general in the American Civil war, an American military officer, and the 18th president of the U.S.
$20Andrew Jacksonan American lawyer, general, statesman, and the 7th president of the U.S.
$10Alexander Hamiltonthe first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, a founding father, an architect of the American financial system, and an American revolutionary.
$5Abraham Lincolna national hero, a self-taught lawyer, an opponent of slavery, and the 16th president of the U.S.
$2Thomas Jeffersona founding father, the second vice president under John Adams, the first U.S. Secretary of State, and the 3rd president of the U.S.
$1George Washingtona statesman, American military officer, founding father, and the 1st president of the U.S.

Paper Money Denominations No Longer in Use

Some banknotes are either rarely used or have been discontinued.

While larger denominations such as $500, $1000, $5,000, and $10,000 banknotes have been discontinued (these high-denomination notes were authorized by Congress on July 17, 1861). The smaller denomination like the $2 banknote with the portrait of Thomas Jefferson is rarely used. However, the notes are still regarded as legal tender.

Here is what you should know about these discontinued banknote denominations; 

  • $500 – has the portrait of William Mckinley. It was discontinued in 1969. 
  • $1000 – has the portrait of Grover Cleveland. It was discontinued in 1969. 
  • $5,000 – has the portrait of James Madison. It was discontinued in 1969 
  • $10,000 – has the portrait of Salmon P. Chase. The 10,000-dollar bill was first printed in 1918. It was later discontinued in 1968. 
  • $100,000 – has the portrait of Wooden Wilson. The 100,000-dollar bill was printed in 1934 and not for public use. 

Who Decides the Faces of U.S Currency? 

In deciding whose face, among all the founding fathers and heroes of Americas, should be on any currency, the secretary of the Treasury Department plays a significant role. 

There is however some standard that must be met before a person’s portrait can appear on the dollar bill.

Moreover, Federal Law prohibits the depiction of the face of a living person on U.S. Government Securities. Equally, all the faces on United States currency are public figures, people of remarkable impact. 

Why is Alexander Hamilton on the $10 Bill? 

Hamilton was born in the 1750s in the West Indies and died in the early 1800s. He moved to America in 1772. The decision to have Alexander Hamilton appear on the $10 paper bill was a result of his contributions to the founding of the United States.

Though he was not an American native, his contributions, first as a speaker and writer about the pursuit of American Independence and later, as a person in positions of influence made a great impact.  

He was a close advisor of General George Washington who after becoming the first president of the United States named Hamilton the first United States Secretary of the treasury. He held this office from September 11, 1789, to January 31, 1795. 

From 1797 to 1800, Hamilton was the senior officer of the United States Army. He remarkably took part in several American Revolutionary Wars and the Quasi-war. He also played a significant role in the drafting of the U.S constitution. 

Alexander Hamilton had his portrait on the 1918 $1,000 Federal Reserve Note which was later replaced with that of the 22nd, who was also the 24th president of the States Grover Cleveland. His portrait also appeared on 1861 $5 Demand Note and 1878 $20 Legal Tender Note.

To date, America still enjoys Hamilton’s tremendous contributions and developments, one of which is the co-founding of the Bank of New York, currently BNY Mellon, back in 1784.

He is the youngest (short-lived) person who has his portrait on the U.S currency, be it a banknote or coin. Hamilton was only 47 years old when he was murdered. 

NOTE: Alexander Hamilton is the only non-native American that appears on a currency. 

What Determines the Value of Paper Money in the U.S?

The value of a currency is based on the financial digit ascribed to it by the government and related authorities.

Paper money has no intrinsic value, meaning that far from being declared legal tender, it has no value on its own. Its value is determined by the demand for it- the higher the demand, the higher the value.

It is also worth noting that the portrait of the U.S currency does not determine the value of the currency. With this in mind, the $10 bill might be the lowest paper money without the portrait of a U.S president, but it is not the lowest value paper money.   

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. When Did the U.S Start Using Paper Money? 

The existence of money in the U.S started using paper money as far back as 1690. This wasn’t paper money as we know it today but a kind of currency substitute referred to as bills of credit.

There was first issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony to help fund military action and enable soldiers to spend the colony’s silver and gold with ease. 

2. How is the U.S Paper Money Printed? 

U.S. paper money is printed on a special type of paper made of a mixture of cotton and linen.

Metal plates engraved with the already determined designs for the various bills are used to print on the paper in two different printing techniques, offset printing, and intaglio printing.

Special inks are used for the purposes of enhancing appearance, security, and durability. Once the sheets of paper money are dry, overprinting is done to add serial numbers, identification numbers, and seals. 

3. What is the Largest Denomination of U.S Currency? 

The largest denomination of U.S currency is the 100,000 dollar bill. This banknote is not for use by the public but can be seen in a museum and the Federal Treasury. 

The largest denomination that is in circulation is the 100-dollar note. The $10,000 would have been the largest domination but it was discontinued in 1968 and soon followed by the other large denominations.

What is the Lowest Value of Paper Money?

What is the lowest dollar bill? The $1 note is the lowest value of paper. It is also the only dollar denomination that comes in both paper and coin.

What US Dollar Does not Have a President on It?

The $10 and $100 bills do not have portraits of presidents on them. They contain the portraits of Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin respectively. These are notable men in American history.


The lowest value of paper money without the portrait of a U.S. president is the $10 bill. You already know so much of what there is to know about it now. We have also identified that the $100 bill does not have a president on it.

Further, now you know who else is on the American dollars and at a glance, a few things that bought their ticket, albeit post-humously, to be the faces we are now so familiar with.

What about the American currency and the bills no longer in use?

I can almost bet that you have learned at least one thing you didn’t know before- I know I did! This is the part where I invite you to tell us all about it below.