The quote “It is important to recognize that our payments system will always be in a state of transition,” is a sentiment that captures the broad fascination numismatists have with currency. In this case, the 1995 $5 bill’s value comes from the Federal Reserve’s decision to redesign the U.S. paper currency in 1996.
1996 was not the first time changes had been made. It was an overhaul with significant changes in appearance and security, perfectly timed for a new millennium. This left the 1995 $5 bill in limbo after a small push a couple years earlier to update cash, which is why it’s one of the most unique modern bills you can find.
Why the Change the $5 Bill?
Before the 1996 redesign, the $5 bill had been the same since 1929. The only real change made during those 67 years was incorporating “In God We Trust,” following the 1955 law which required it. 1929 was the first year of standardized Federal Reserve bank notes, which decreased counterfeit activity in local bank notes.
This measure only lasted a few decades. The rapid technological advances of computers and photocopiers in the latter half of the twentieth century escalated the issue. Counterfeit money was valued at about $30 million at the time of redesign. Although that sounds like a huge chunk of change, it rounds out to only 15 cents per person.
Meanwhile, currencies abroad had already been updating their paper money for a while during the tech boom. The Reserve Bank of Australia led the way for plastic bills in 1988. After sorting out a few kinks, they already had all denominations circulating polymer non-forgeable notes by 1996.
It wasn’t until 1990 that the government started implementing security features to fight off fakers to catch up with the rest of the world.
1995 $5 bills are unique because they received security threading and micro-printing from the 1990 series, while maintaining pre-1996 design. The inscribed security threading runs beside the Federal Seal and is meant to be seen from both sides when held up to light. The repeating text “USA FIVE” appears.
Micro-printing was incorporated around the presidential portrait. The words, “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” were printed so tiny that it couldn’t be imitated by low-quality counterfeiting copiers nor easily read by the naked eye.
The 1990 series changes were fewer, and the list of 1996 series edits more numerous:
Lincoln’s portrait is larger and off-center
Universal Federal Reserve Seal, no more district letters
Lincoln watermark to the right of the portrait
Micro-printing, “FIVE DOLLARS,” along left and right border
Security thread includes American flag
Reverse side has prominent number denomination in corners
Since five dollars is a relatively low amount, it was left out of the color changing ink club - this quality is seen in the $10, $20, $50, and $100 notes for increased security.
While the $1 and $2 bills also did not upgrade to color-changing ink, they were not included in the 1996 currency overhaul.
While this list of changes isn’t quite as innovative as the Aussies’ plastic paper, it brought the United States up to speed with other countries like Kenya, Israel, and Argentina, whose currencies were similar at the time.
Hold Onto Your 1995 $5 Bill
Currently, there is little demand for 1995 $5 bills. Pre-1928 bills are much harder to find and have dozens of variations. However, our currency is constantly transforming to combat counterfeiting and maintain advancement.
It is worthwhile to hang onto the 1995 bills as these notes will surely go through more drastic changes. As we know, there are already big plans to update our paper bills again soon. It’s possible the 1995 $5 bill value will shoot up in value if we get another paper overhaul.