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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

No Obama $1 Bill

Q: Is the Federal Reserve putting former President Barack Obama on the $1 bill?

A: No. That claim comes from a recycled fake news story.


Is the Federal Reserve really considering putting Obama on the $1 bill in 2017? I thought persons represented on currency had to be deceased.


An image of former President Barack Obama is not being added to the $1 bill, despite what a story posted on several websites says.

Facebook users reported the story published June 23 on Americanprides.com as potentially fake news. The article has actually been around since at least 2014, and it resurfaced in January just as Obama was preparing to leave office. It falsely claims that “a longtime push to honor modern presidents on currency has finally come to fruition” as “Obama’s image will replace George Washington’s” in 2017.

The story also says that “people within the Federal Reserve felt Obama brought a much needed multiracial mix to American currency.” And “John Apple,” who allegedly works for the Federal Reserve, is quoted saying, “We thought about creating a new denomination for Obama, but George Washington has had plenty of time in the sun.”

Those details were made-up. We didn’t find anyone with that name on the Federal Reserve’s staff page. Plus, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing says that by law the Treasury Department secretary, not anyone at the Federal Reserve, “is responsible for the selection of the designs, including the portraits, which appear on paper currency.”

Another red flag: The story posted on Americanprides.com says the Bureau of Engraving and Printing “will release all compositions in early 2016 and poll the American public letting them help decide which design works best.” That line makes no sense in an article published in 2017 about a decision that supposedly already has been made. Websites that published the story this year simply copied the bogus 2014 version and didn’t bother to change the dates. Some also published the story under a headline that misspells “Barack” with two r’s instead of one.

The fact is “the law prohibits portraits of living persons from appearing on Government Securities,” according to the Treasury Department. That means Obama’s likeness cannot be featured on U.S. currency while he is still alive.

Former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced in April 2016 that only three bills — the $5, $10 and $20 — would be updated by 2020. As has been widely reported by legitimate news organizations, the new $20 bill will feature Harriet Tubman on the front, and former President Andrew Jackson will move to the back. In addition, the reverse sides of the $5 and $10 bills will now depict historic moments at the Lincoln Memorial and the women’s suffrage movement, respectively.

The $1 bill isn’t likely to be revamped with a photo of anyone else in the foreseeable future.

The Treasury Department primarily alters bills to discourage counterfeiting, and an agency website says “because the $1 note is infrequently counterfeited, the government has no plans to redesign this note.”

The vending machine lobby also opposes changing the $1 bill because it says upgrading machines to accommodate a new version would be costly. For that reason, annual federal appropriation bills have included language prohibiting the Treasury from using its funding to make changes to the $1 bill.

In fact, the note featuring former President George Washington still has the same design it did in 1929. It hasn’t otherwise been updated since 1963, when the phrase “In God We Trust” was added to all Federal Reserve notes.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network. 


Barrack [sic] Obama Will Be On New $1 Dollar Bill 2017.” Americanprides.com. 23 Jun 2017.

Obama Will Replace Washington On One-Dollar Bill.” Stuppid.com. 29 Nov 2014.

Barrack [sic] Obama Will Be on New $1 Dollar Bill 2017.” Thenewyorkevening.com. 22 Jan 2017.

U.S. Federal Reserve. “Official Staff.” Accessed 6 Jul 2017.

U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. “FAQs.” Moneyfactory.gov. Accessed 6 Jul 2017.

Swanson, Ana, and Ohlheiser, Abby. “Harriet Tubman to appear on $20 bill, while Alexander Hamilton remains on $10 bill.” Washington Post. 20 Apr 2016.

Rhodan, Maya. “The Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Could Make an Early Debut.” Time. 7 Dec 2016.

Calmes, Jackie. “Harriet Tubman Ousts Andrew Jackson in Change for a $20.” New York Times. 20 Apr 2016.

Korte, Gregory. “Anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman to replace Jackson on $20 bill.” USA Today. 20 Apr 2016.

U.S. Department of the Treasury. “Treasury Secretary Lew Announces Front of New $20 to Feature Harriet Tubman, Lays Out Plans for New $20, $10 and $5.” Press release. 20 Apr 2016.

U.S. Department of the Treasury. Portraits & Designs. Accessed 6 Jul 2017.

U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. $1 Note. Accessed 6 Jul 2017.

U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. History of the BEP and U.S. Currency. Accessed 6 Jun 2017.

Mimms, Sarah. “One Is the Loneliest Dollar Bill: Why hasn’t George Washington gotten a makeover in 50 years? The vending machine lobby, of course.” National Journal. 28 Jan 2014.