$1 federal reserve notes Collection The $1 Federal Reserve Note Design

As the largest – and only current – issue of modern U.S. currency, Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) are well known across the United States. Approximately 2-4 billion $1 notes are issued each year, making them the most printed denomination. And though most modern paper money denominations have undergone major redesigns, there are currently no plans to change the $1 FRN. Yet there's so much more behind this popular design...

How well do you know your paper money?

The very first $1 Federal Reserve Note design was issued for Series 1963, featuring the same bold portrait of George Washington still shown on today's notes. A number of different elements add to the uniqueness and beauty of each Federal Reserve Note design. Below, we've labeled the anatomy of a $1 Federal Reserve Note... how many elements are new to you?

$1 Federal Reserve Note face design
$1 Federal Reserve Note back design
  • Number 1: Back
  • Number 2: Border
  • Number 3: Check Number
  • Number 4: Denomination
  • Number 5: District Number
  • Number 6: Face
  • Number 7: Federal Reserve District Seal
  • Number 8: Great Seal
  • Number 9: Obligation
  • Number 10: Plate Position Number
  • Number 11: Plate Serial Number
  • Number 12: Portrait
  • Number 13: Serial Number
  • Number 14: Series Date
  • Number 15: Signature
  • Number 16: Treasury Seal

Number 1: Back

This is the preferred term for the reverse side of a paper note.

Number 2: Border

The outer edge of the design on either the face or back of a note where the design ends and the plain currency paper outer margin begins.

Check Number

The check number is used to cross reference plate numbers on the note's face.

Number 3: Check Number

A small number found at the lower right of the back of a note, used to cross-reference with plate numbers on the face of the note. Check Number is the correct term for Back Plate Number.

Number 4: Denomination

The face value or amount of money a coin or note is worth.

District Number

The District Number is represented by 10

Number 5: District Number

The Federal Reserve District Number appears four times on the face of a bill for identification purposes and corresponds with the letter in the District Seal to designate the Federal Reserve Bank that issued the note.

Number 6: Face

This is the preferred term for the front side of a paper note.

Federal Reserve District Seal

Number 7: Federal Reserve District Seal

Found to the left of the portrait on the face of a note, the seal identifies the Federal Reserve Bank (there are 12) that issued the note.

Number 8: Great Seal

Established as the national emblem in 1782, it first appeared on U.S. paper money in 1907. Since 1935, it has been part of the back design of the $1 bill. On the obverse of the seal, the American eagle holds olive branches in its right talon and arrows in its left, under 13 stars for the original colonies. On the seal's reverse, a broken pyramid signifies strength, with room to expand.


Number 9: Obligation

Legal Tender issued by the federal government is a promissory note; the government is required, or obligated, to honor it as legal currency. The actual written obligation (current notes state THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE) appears on each note. The location and wording varies by series and type.

Plate Position Number

Number 10: Plate Position Number

Also called the Check Letter, it's the small capital letter (and sometimes number) that appears in the upper left corner of a note indicating the specific location of this note on the printing plate.

Plate Serial Number

Number 11: Plate Serial Number

The small number at the lower right of a note's face; identifies the printing plate from which the note was produced.

Number 12: Portrait

Artwork depicting a real or fictional person on currency. Beginning in 1929, the U.S. government instituted a system of standardized portraits of notable Americans on specific denominations. Portraits were difficult to reproduce and readily identifiable to the public, making them effective anti-counterfeiting measures.

Serial Number

Number 13: Serial Number

Identifying number that appears twice on the face of a note. Used primarily to thwart counterfeiters, it also allows the Treasury Department to track production and distribution of notes.

Series Date

Number 14: Series Date

The date that appears on U.S. paper money, which unlike U.S. coins, does not represent the date the notes were printed. On paper money, the date changes only when changes are authorized or a new Treasury Secretary takes office.


Number 15: Signature

U.S. paper money issues are promissory notes, currently signed by the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury. Notes were hand signed until 1863; then facsimiles of signatures were printed directly on the notes. National Bank Notes required four signatures.

Treasury Seal

Treasury Seal shown here in green behind the ONE

An emblem of the United States Treasury, a symbol that the currency is legally produced; printed on all notes, except for some Fractional Currency and the Demand Notes of 1861.