Nick writes: When I was a kid I found a $5 dollar bill in my dad’s room which I took without asking and used for lunch money. It turned out that it was some special bill he had been saving. He said that it was special because it didn’t say “In God We Trust” on it. I’ve felt bad ever since, and I want to get him another one if I can. What can you tell me about these bills and where can I get a $5 bill without the motto? When did “In God We Trust” first appear on U.S. paper money?
Prior to 1957, the motto “In God We Trust” did not appear on U.S. currency. It was first added in 1957 pursuant to a 1956 Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress declaring the phrase as the national motto. As the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was in the process of converting to new high-speed intaglio printing presses during that period, the appearance of the motto on different denominations took place in stages.
U.S. currency denominations/series that first displayed “In God We Trust”:
- $1 Silver Certificates – Series 1935-G (some), 1935-H, 1957, 1957A, 1957B
- $1 Federal Reserve Note – Series 1963, 1963-A
- $2 United States Note – Series 1963, 1963-A
- $5 United States Note – Series 1963
- $5 Federal Reserve Note – Series 1963
- $10 Federal Reserve Note – Series 1963, 1963-A
- $20 Federal Reserve Note – Series 1963, 1963-A
- $50 Federal Reserve Note – Series 1963-A
- $100 United States Note – Series 1966-A
- $100 Federal Reserve Note – Series 1963-A
There are 12 Federal Reserve Banks that are represented on United States Federal Reserve Notes carrying Letter A-L (Boston-San Francisco). Unlike coins, U.S. paper money is not yearly dated but retains the same series date over time until the signatures of the Treasurer of the United States (ceremonial only) and the Secretary of the Treasury change.
The change is usually signified by the addition of a letter such as 1934A. The series date changes when there is a design change to the notes (usually but not always). For example the $20 series after 1934D is series 1950. Currently, 1934 series $20 FRN only bring a premium over its face value if the note is uncirculated.
Examples of U.S. paper money both with and without the motto “In God We Trust” are readily available from coin dealers.