Currency Theme

Why have a theme?

  • A review of historical design process documents shows that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which develops and produces U.S. currency notes, has relied on a series of concepts which capture the core values of the United States during a specific time period.
  • The last theme for currency was symbols of freedom. 

In 2003, symbols of freedom were incorporated into the most current family of banknotes.

$10 note Statue of Liberty's torch

$10 – State of Liberty’s Torch
The $10 note features the Statue of Liberty's torch. The Statue's official name represents her most important symbol "Liberty Enlightening the World."

$5 – Great Seal of the United States

$5 – Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal of the United States was first used on the reverse of the $1 Silver Certificate in 1935. The Great Seal also appears on the one-dollar bill.

$20 note blue eagle background

$20 – Eagle
The $20 note features a large blue eagle in the background. The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States of America.

$50 American Flag

$50 – American Flag
The $50 note features symbols of the American flag. Also known as the Stars and Stripes, the American flag has served as a symbol of this country since 1777.

$100 quill background

$100 – Declaration of Independence
The $100 note features a quill, an ink well, and phrases from the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence is one of the foundational documents of this country.

What is the next theme?

An Era of Democracy

Over the last few years, Treasury staff has worked to identify potential themes reflective of the values of our current era. After historical research and reviews of previous designs and themes, democracy was chosen by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew as the theme for this next generation of currency.

From the founding of the nation, democratic ideals, and our striving to make those ideals a reality, have defined the United States of America. Our continuing efforts as a nation to form a more perfect union are something we plan to use the next family of Federal Reserve notes to celebrate. 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble of the U.S. Constitution


Using this theme of democracy, we will be working to incorporate a higher level of artistry into our note designs. To see U.S. currency design at its finest, below are examples of Silver Certificates produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing that are still recognized as some of the most beautiful notes ever created in the United States.

1896-1901 $1 Silver Certificate Front

1896-1901 $1 Silver Certificate Front

The 1896-1901 Silver Certificate depicts the allegorical vignette, History Instructing Youth. This certificate, part of the “Educational Series” of notes, depicts the Goddess History instructing a youth on the federal government.

1896-1901 $1 Silver Certificate Back

1896-1901 $1 Silver Certificate Back

The $1 note depicts the allegorical vignette, History Instructing Youth. Historical and classical elements appear on the reverse where the main visual elements are portraits of George and Martha Washington.

1896 $2 Silver Certificate Front

1896 $2 Silver Certificate Front

The $2 denomination uses classical themes and allegory to portray Science Presenting Steam and Electricity to Industry and Commerce.

1896 $5 Silver Certificate Back

1896 $5 Silver Certificate Back

The $5 note shows Electricity Presenting Light to the World, using classical images to portray the excitement and technological achievements of the time. The ornamentation and focus on historical elements continues on the back and features the portraits of Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Philip H. Sheridan.

For more information, please visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s website.