SHERIFF'S CORNER: Can you break a $100?

I have recently seen all over social media the question of paying for goods and services by cash. Some places have been rumored that they are not accepting cash and some have refused to accept or issue coins.

Apparently during the crisis it has also been difficult to obtain coin change, especially quarters. That is why you have been getting half-dollars or 50-cent pieces back with your cash transactions.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I clarify the acceptance of cash payments and related coin issues.


• Commodity Money System: Is a monetary system in which a commodity such as gold, silver or other precious commodity is made the unit of value and physically used as money.

So, in the past, when coins contained actual silver, they were valuable because they were actual silver. When buying a brew at an old west saloon, you could pay by a gold coin or by gold powder found in the river, since they were both based on their actual value as a precious metal.

• Commodity-backed Money System: Is a monetary system which consists of bank-issued notes which have no inherent physical value, but which may be exchanged for a precious metal, such as gold or silver.

This was when money was printed on the Gold Standard, meaning each bill had an equivalent amount of gold in the possession of the federal government.

The paper "bill" is actually called a "Federal Reserve Note." Federal Reserve notes are legal tender currency notes. The twelve Federal Reserve Banks issue them into circulation pursuant to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

• Fiat Money System: Is a monetary system which is defined by a central bank and government law as legal tender even if it has no actual physical value.

Originally fiat money was paper currency or base metal coinage, but in modern economies it mainly exists as data such as bank balances and records of credit or debit card purchases.

Today's global monetary system is essentially a fiat system because people can use paper bills or bank balances to buy goods.


The Coinage Act of 1965 states: "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues."

The answer is NO. Federal laws do not cover that cash is the sole form of payment. The above statutes clarify that all money is a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a company, business, retailer or creditor.

There is no Federal statute mandating or requiring that a private business, a person or an organization, must accept currency or coins as payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash. If they do not want to accept a hundred dollar bill or will not take loose pennies ... they can do that.

There is an argument that cash has to be accepted when making tax payments.


During the current crisis, business and bank closures have significantly disrupted the supply chain of the usual circulation of coins. The lack of consumer spending has also greatly affected this. While there is an adequate overall amount of coins in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has reduced available inventories in parts of the country.

The Federal Reserve has stated: "As the economy recovers and businesses reopen ... more coins will flow back into retail and banking channels and eventually into the Federal Reserve, which should allow for the rebuilding of coin inventories."


The highest value of denomination currently in production is the $100 bill, but in the past, the Federal Reserve has issued $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 and even $100,000 bills.

The feds stopped printing the $1,000 bill and larger denominations by 1946, but these bills continued circulating until the Federal Reserve decided to recall them in 1969.

These higher denominations made it easier for criminals to launder money, and were more apt to be counterfeited.

• $500 bill: The Treasury minted several versions of the $500 bill, featuring a portrait of President William McKinley on the front. The last $500 bill rolled off the presses in 1945.

• $1,000 bill: The original $1,000 bill featured Alexander Hamilton on the front. It was later realized that it might be confusing to have Hamilton on other issued currency, so he was then replaced with Grover Cleveland.

$5,000 bill: This bill was initially issued to finance the Revolutionary War and was only officially printed by the government when the Civil War began. James Madison was pictured on this bill.

• $10,000 bill: The largest denomination ever printed for public usage, however this bill never got much use. Salmon P. Chase, who is on the bill, was the governor of and senator from Ohio, served as Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln and became chief justice of the Supreme Court, but he is remembered most as the guy on the $10,000 bill.

• $100,000 bill: This bill was actually a gold certificate that was never circulated or issued for public use. The Treasury created them during the Great Depression in 1934, for conducting official transactions between Federal Reserve banks. President Woodrow Wilson was pictured on the bill.

This information is provided to you for clarification of specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you can always email me your questions to