Of all U.S. paper money, the large-size notes issued before 1929 offer the greatest variety of beautiful, artistic designs, subject matter, and history. Their unique themes and symbolic design elements make them prized by collectors worldwide. Large-size notes measure a big 7‑3/8 x 3‑1/8 inches, and were affectionately nicknamed "Horseblankets" because of their huge size! The highly detailed designs on large-size notes are considered some of the finest examples of the art of engraving. Those who have seen a large-size note up close can truly appreciate the magnificent work of these skilled 19th‑century engravers. As works of art, they truly are masterpieces!
Large-Size Legal Tender Notes 1862-1923
Legal Tender Notes (also known as United States Notes) were first authorized in 1862, and are the longest-lived type of U.S. paper money. Because of their distinctive designs, many Legal Tender Notes have been given popular nicknames by collectors.
$10 Legal Tender "Rainbow" Note – Series 1869
The face of this note has several eye-catching features. First is the unusual coloration, which earned it the "Rainbow" nickname. Then, there's the engraved portrait of Daniel Webster, a famous statesman, and also a vignette depicting the Indian princess Pocahontas. Finally, even the small eagle on the bottom of the note is unusual. If you turn the note upside down, the eagle engraving looks like the head of a donkey or "jackass," which is another nickname these notes are known by. On the back is a highly intricate engraved design. The note shown is from Series 1869, and has a large red seal and serial numbers.
$10 Legal Tender "Bison" Note – Series 1901
The face of this famous note pictures an American bison between portraits of the two famous explorers of the western United States, Lewis and Clark. A female figure symbolizing Columbia is on the back. The note shown is from Series 1901, and has a red scalloped seal and serial numbers.
$5 Legal Tender "Woodchopper" Note – Series 1875
The face of this note features the famous "Woodchopper" vignette, plus a portrait of Andrew Jackson. There is an ornately engraved design on the back. The note shown is from Series 1875 and has a red scalloped seal and serial numbers.
$1 Legal Tender Note with "Sawhorse" back – Series 1875
The face of this note has a portrait of George Washington and a vignette titled Christopher Columbus in Sight of Land, while the back features the famous "Sawhorse" design. The note shown, from Series 1875, has a red seal and serial numbers.
Large-Size Silver Certificates 1878-1923
Due to the discovery of silver in the American West, and surplus of that metal, in 1878, Congress authorized silver dollars as backing for U.S. paper currency. Known as Silver Certificates, these notes were backed by an equivalent dollar amount of silver deposited into the U.S. Treasury, and was payable to the bearer upon demand for the note's face value in the precious metal. Their attractive designs and the allure of silver have made Silver Certificates one of the most popular types of U.S. paper money to collect.
$1 "Martha Washington" Silver Certificate – Series 1886
The first $1 Silver Certificate ever issued, and a must-have for every collection! A portrait of Martha Washington, the wife of George Washington, is on the face, while a highly ornate floral design appears on the back. The note shown is from Series 1886, and has a large red seal and blue serial numbers.
$5 Silver Certificate with Silver Dollars back – Series 1886
A portrait of Ulysses S. Grant appears on the face, while the unique back design features five Morgan silver dollars in a highly detailed engraving. The note shown is from Series 1886, and has a large red seal and blue serial numbers.
$1 Educational Series Silver Certificate – Series 1896
One of the famous Educational Series Silver Certificates. On the face is a vignette titled History Instructing Youth, with the Washington Monument and Capitol in the background. The back features portraits of George and Martha Washington. The note shown is from Series 1896, and has a small red seal and blue serial numbers.
$1 "Black Eagle" Silver Certificate – Series 1899
The vignette on this note is titled Eagle of the Capitol, but it is nicknamed "Black Eagle." Portraits of Lincoln and Grant are beneath the denomination on the face. An engraved design with an obligation is on the back. The note shown is from Series 1899, and has a blue seal and serial numbers.
$1 Washington Silver Certificate – Series 1923
The face of this distinctive looking note features a portrait of George Washington. The denomination is in an engraved design on back. The note shown is from Series 1923, and has a blue seal and serial numbers.
Large-Size Treasury Notes 1890-1891
Also known as Coin Notes, these were used to pay for silver bullion purchased by the Treasury Department. First authorized in 1890, the notes stated that the bearer was to be paid on demand the note's face value in coin (silver or gold). The decision of whether it was to be silver or gold was left to the Secretary of the Treasury.
After the Treasury paid for its silver bullion purchases with these notes, the bearer of the note could redeem it for gold coin. The redemption of these notes for gold almost bankrupted the Treasury in 1893!
$1 Treasury Note – Series 1890
The face of this note features a portrait of Edwin M. Stanton, who was Secretary of War under both President Abraham Lincoln and President Andrew Johnson. On the back is an intricately detailed engraved design. The note shown is from Series 1890 and has a large brown seal and red serial numbers.
Large-Size National Bank Notes 1863-1922
Once, National Bank Notes played an important part in daily commerce. They came into existence in 1863 during the Civil War. To help establish a national banking system and raise money to finance the war, the federal government decided to "charter" banks. Local and regional banks became chartered when they purchased government bonds and deposited them into the Treasury to back the "paper" they issued. The charter number served as a guarantee that the issuing bank had U.S. government bonds backing its paper. Along with the charter number, National Bank Notes also carried the bank's name, town and state.
National Bank Notes were authorized by Federal Acts allowing qualified banks to issue their own currency. These large-size notes were issued by chartered banks from 1863 to 1929.
$2 "Lazy 2" National Bank Note – Series 1875
This eye-catcher is known to collectors as the "Lazy 2" or "Lazy Deuce" because of the large numeral 2 lying on its side. Also on the face is a vignette titled America Seated. The ornate back features a vignette of Sir Walter Raleigh. The note shown is from Series 1875, and has a scalloped red seal and serial numbers.
Large-Size Federal Reserve Bank Notes (National Currency) 1915-1918
The formation of the Federal Reserve System created a new type of currency. These new Federal Reserve Bank Notes carry the inscription "National Currency," and are backed by government bonds. The twelve individual Federal Reserve Banks issued their own notes, and the obligation to pay the bearer is made by the issuing bank, and not by the Federal Reserve System itself.
$20 Federal Reserve Bank Note – Series 1915
Issued by only 5 of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, this $20 note features a portrait of President Grover Cleveland on the face. The engraved vignettes on the back portray modes of land, sea, and air transportation. The note shown, from Series 1915, has a blue seal and serial numbers. It was issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Large-Size Federal Reserve Notes 1914-1918
Another new type of currency created by the formation of the Federal Reserve System was the Federal Reserve Note. These differed from Federal Reserve Bank Notes in that they were issued by the Federal Reserve System and were an obligation of the system – not the individual banks that released them. Federal Reserve Notes were once redeemable for gold upon demand.
$100 Federal Reserve Note – Series 1914
An unusual portrait of Benjamin Franklin in profile is shown on the face of the note, and an engraving of five figures symbolizing Labor, Plenty, America, Peace, and Commerce is featured on the reverse. The note shown is from Series 1914, and has a blue seal and serial numbers.
Large-Size Gold Certificates 1882-1928
"Technicolor" Gold Certificate – Series 1905
This note earned its "Technicolor" nickname because in addition to its bright golden-orange back, it also has gold tinting on a portion of the face. It is considered by collectors to be the most beautiful of all Gold Certificates. A portrait of George Washington is on the face, while the back shows the Great Seal of the United States. The note shown is from Series 1905 and has a red seal and serial numbers.