Why don't quarters and $20 bills match?

Think about it: every other coin and bill
has a 1/100 ratio (penny/dollar; nickel/five;
dime/ten; fifty-cent piece/fifty; silver dollar/dollar. So how come it isn’t a twenty
cent piece or a twenty-five dollar bill?

Moved to General Questions.

It seem to me that coin values were chosen for their divisibility by 100, not by their relation to a bill. Twenty is divisible by 100, but having both a 20 and a 25 cent piece seems silly, and having a 25 makes more sense. (Half of a half of a dollar.)

Kupek’s Den

I would think that coins are set up so it’s easier to make change from a dollar bill.

If you had 20-cent pieces, instead of quarters, you would have to use one more coin.

Other than that, I don’t think there’s any big reason, other than it just sort of evolved into the present system.


I don’t have answer, but I will say I’ve wondered about it myself.

It’s good to know others find the same things worth wondering about.


p.s. If coins are based on providing easy change for a dollar, why aren’t bills based on providing similarly easy change for $100, and so some in the same denominations?

Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe: the starry skies above me and the moral law within me. – Kant

In Ireland we have 1p,2p,5p,10p,20p and £1 coins . Not much help I know but there you go…

People make change for a $1 bill much more than they do for a $100 bill.

That may be. I just wanted to make the point that the earlier explanation is incomplete–and indeed is still incomplete. If the only basis for determining the denomination of bills was convertablity to $100 we would expect a $25 (assuming that a 25’s are more convertable than 20s, something I’m not convinced of) no matter how infrequently the conversion was required. What we need is an explanation of the denominations of bills that does not depend on convertability.


Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe: the starry skies above me and the moral law within me. – Kant

The dollar bill, not the hundred dollar bill, is the basis of our monetary system. All the the coins are based on going down from a dollar. All of our bills are based on going up from a dollar. Think about how often you want change from a dollar vesrsus how often you want a dollar from change, and how often you want a higher bill from lower bills versus lower bills from a higher bill. $20 is a multiple of all the previous bills; $25 isn’t. Since the quarter is “prior” to nickles and dimes, the question of whether it’s a multiple of dimes isn’t as relevant.

What about the two-dollar bill? And the thousand-dollar bill? The others are just a coincidence.


We’re assuming, of course, that whoever it is that set up the coinage bothered giving it much thought beyond “These are nice round numbers.”

Kupek’s Den

In the 1870s, the US did mint a 20 cent coin. At the time, they had the quaint notion that the value of the coin was set by the amount of silver in it, so it was fairly similar in size to the quarter. People didn’t like it for that reason, so they retired it after 5 years. I was unsuccessful in finding a picture of it on the net, but the obverse had the seated Liberty image (same as the other silver coins of the era).

There is a $20 bill because there was a $20 gold coin (it more or less replaced it). There was a $20 Gold coin (instead of a $25) because it contains just about an oz. of gold.

You are right re the 20 cent piece.

Kupek got it right when he said

Thomas Jefferson actually advocated a decimal system of coinage. Thus a law was passed in 1792 authorizing decimal versions as follows: Gold Eagle=$10, Gold Half Eagle=$5., Gold Quarter Eagle=$2.50, Silver dollar=1.00, Half dollar=.50, Quarter Dollar=.25, Dime=.10, half-dime=.05, cent=.01, half cent=.005(remember when a half cent bought something???)

There was no paper money at the time, and there would be no Federal banknotes until the Civil War. So the denominations of notes had nothing to do with the origin of our coin values.

*Info from A Guide Book of United States Coins, R.S. Yeoman

There is no thousand-dollar bill. U.S. currency only goes up to $100, though I think at one time it went higher.

Anyway, who would want to carry a thousand-dollar bill in their wallet?

This will be my first attempt at inserting an active link to answer a question, PLEASE accept apologies if this becomes some nightmare quintuple post.
I went to a great site, and found it all. I will insert the link here- http://www.treas.gov/currency/
I pray that this works. If NOT, I’ll come back and handwrite out the answers :slight_smile:
Time to BEG TubaDiva for a little tutorial on how to do this…

If you want to kiss the sky, you’d better learn how to kneel.

Well, I suck. Apologies. I even went to FAQ, and “About This Message Board” ( Moderated by the deee-vine and Sub-lyme TubaDiva), and couldn’t find instrucitions on how to properly write an active link. I will learn, I SWEAR. In the meantime…

500.00 William McKinely 1,000.00 Grover Cleveland
5,000.00 James Madison 10,000.00 Salmon P. Chase
$ 100,000.00 Woodrow Wilson.

All of these bills were suspended in 1946, and the $ 100,000 Gold Certificate was apparently used for a VERY short amount of time, for a specific debt delivery. Fascinating site, to be sure. Sorry you have to do a cut and paste on the link info I provided in the post above this one for how. I won’t sully this thread any more with attempts. Here’s the Straight Dope, and I’ll go and learn the delicate art of Hyperlinking in the “About This Board” Section. Thanks for the patience,