The history of U.S. currency and coin is closely intertwined with the growth of our nation. From Colonial America to the establishment of the U.S. Constitution and into the modern era, money was produced to finance our bid for independence, signify our new nation, and establish a uniform national currency to create public confidence in our monetary system.
The Federal Reserve’s Centennial in 2013 marked 100 years of service in maintaining that confidence in U.S. currency. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was the foundation for the nation’s independent central bank, but the history of currency and coin in the United States has an even longer and more colorful past.
In 1690, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first to issue Colonial money to meet the high demand for trade between colonies and as a response to the shortage of foreign coins, which were the primary form of money at that time. To learn more about the history and progression of money in the United States, we invite you to tour the virtual American Currency Exhibit, which provides a history of currency by era and a visual showcase of historic currency notes.
The Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) began printing all United States Currency in 1877. The largest note ever printed by the BEP was the $100,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934. Printed from December 18, 1934, through January 9, 1935, these notes were not circulated with the general public. Instead, the Treasurer of the United States issued the $100,000 certificates for transactions between the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. To view an image of the $100,000 Gold Certificate and other current and historic currency designs, visit the BEP’s website.
Congress established the United States Mint under The Coinage Act in 1792. The first U.S. Mint building was constructed in Philadelphia, and it was also the first federal building erected under the Constitution. By 1793, the U.S. Mint began producing copper coins, which were its first circulating coins. To discover more U.S. Mint history, visit its education section.