The U.S. currency system has undergone a number of changes over the years. Paper money in particular has seen its share of changes, some of which were made to overcome the growing sophistication of thieves. Other changes to the paper money system were made by the U.S. Treasury because of rising costs and lack of demand. These changes have resulted in several denominations of paper currency being discontinued over the years, including the $500 bill. That said, while the Treasury stopped printing these bills years ago, that doesn't mean the $500 bill has become a worthless piece of paper.
The history of the $500 bill
The very first $500 note was issued by the Province of North Carolina in May of 1780 with Virginia following with a $500 note of its own later that year. Additional high-denomination notes were issued during the War of 1812 and during the Civil War as Confederate currency. Further, during the Federal banknote period, which began in 1861, Congress authorized the issuance of $500 notes.The last issuance of a $500 bill was a Federal Reserve Note issued in 1934 that features President William McKinley on the front (pictured at the top right).
High-denomination bills, which include the $500 bill, were officially discontinued by the Federal Reserve System in July of 1969 when it began to take the bills out of circulation. That being said, these bills are still legal tender. However, due to the value as a collector's item, it's better to sell the bill to a collector than to actually use it to make a purchase.
What a $500 bill is worth today
As with any collector's item, the worth of a $500 bill is determined by a number of factors including its condition and rarity. The most common $500 bill is the aforementioned 1934 Federal Reserve Note featuring McKinley. Over 900,000 of these bills were printed; however, less than 75,000 are believed to still be in circulation today and therefore available to collectors. These bills can be worth anywhere between $600 to over $1,500 apiece with an average worth of about a 40% premium to the bill's face value.
However, some $500 bills can be worth much more. The most valuable is a $500 bill that was issued in 1928 and has a star symbol at the end of the note's eight digit serial number. This particular bill can be worth upward of $10,000 due to its rarity. The star symbol also boosts the value of the 1934 $500 bill to above $1,500 apiece.
While the U.S. hasn't issued $500 bills for decades, those bills are still legal tender. That said, don't use it to buy groceries as the bill its worth far more than its face value to a collector. A general rule of thumb is that the bill should fetch about a 40% premium to its face value, however, owners of a $500 bill should have it appraised by multiple collectors to get a fair value for the bill before selling as it could be worth much more.