What does a 50-dollar bill look like? The $50 bill is one of the most commonly used larger denomination banknotes in the United States. With its distinctive look featuring Ulysses S. Grant and the U.S. Capitol building, the $50 note has an important role to play in commerce and personal finance.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The current $50 bill design features a portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant on the front and a view of the U.S. Capitol building on the back. The bill has a predominantly black, green, and red color scheme.

History of the $50 Bill Design and Key Features

When the Modern $50 Bill Design Was Introduced

The current $50 bill design debuted in 2004 with the introduction of an updated and more secure series of banknotes. This redesign implemented cutting-edge anti-counterfeiting features like watermarks, security threads, color-shifting ink, and microprinting.

Prior to the 2004 update, the most recent redesign of the $50 note was in 1997. That version featured President Ulysses S. Grant on the front and the U.S. Capitol building on the back. The 2004 refresh kept Grant as the face of the $50 but introduced an array of enhanced security elements.

Key Security Features of the Current $50 Bill

The modern $50 bill boasts a number of security features to stay ahead of counterfeiters:

  • Color-shifting ink: The number “50” in the bottom corners of the bill shifts from copper to green when tilted.
  • Watermark: There is a faint image of President Grant visible when holding the bill up to the light.
  • Security thread: The embedded plastic strip reads “USA 50” and glows blue under UV light.
  • Microprinting: Tiny “50” symbols and letters are visible under magnification.

The sophisticated 2004 redesign made the $50 note much harder to illegally replicate. By 2016, less than 1% of the over $50 bills in circulation were counterfeit.

Who is on the $50 Bill?

The face appearing on all modern $50 bills is President Ulysses S. Grant, the famous Civil War general who later served as the 18th president from 1869 to 1877.

Grant first appeared on the $50 in 1913 and has remained there for over a century, despite various redesigns. Prior to Grant, the $50 featured President William McKinley from 1901-1913.

There are currently no plans to replace Grant on the $50 bill. Grant’s perpetuity is aided by his non-controversial legacy as a key Union figure in the Civil War and head of Reconstruction during his presidency.

Dimensions and Look of the $50 Note

Portrait and Images Featured on the $50 Bill

The current $50 banknote features a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, an American soldier and politician who served as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877. He was instrumental in leading the Union Army to victory in the American Civil War and helped abolish slavery.

Other images featured on the front side of the $50 note include the U.S. Capitol and the words “FIFTY” and legal tender printed in capital letters.

Color Scheme Used on the $50 Banknote

The color scheme of the $50 note is similar to other denominations of U.S. currency, predominately featuring hues of black, green, red, yellow, and blue. The borders on both sides utilize intricate blue and yellow patterns with subtle red flower detailing.

The front is based around a predominantly black-and-white portrait of Grant with touches of green, while the back consists of mostly shades of green, along with black, red, and subtle yellow accents.

Exact Dimensions of the $50 Banknote

According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the $50 note has the following dimensions:

  • Width: 6.625 inches = 168.275 millimeters
  • Height: 2.61 inches = 69.295 millimeters
  • Thickness: 0.0043 inches = 0.109 millimeters

This makes the $50 bill slightly larger than the $1, $5, $10, and $20 banknotes currently in circulation. For comparison:

Denomination Dimensions (inches)
$1 2.61 x 6.14
$5 2.61 x 6.14
$10 2.61 x 6.14
$20 2.61 x 6.14
$50 2.61 x 6.625

The dimensions make the $50 note easy to identify and distinguish from other denominations through touch alone. The increased width and larger surface area also incorporate more intricate security features to deter counterfeiting.

Other Quick Facts About $50 Bills

The current $50 bill design featuring Ulysses S. Grant has been in circulation since 2004 when it was unveiled as part of a major redesign of U.S. currency. Here are some other fascinating facts about these widely used banknotes:

High Value and Usage

$50 bills account for a significant portion of the value of U.S. currency in circulation. According to the Federal Reserve, as of January 2023, there were over 600 million $50 bills in circulation carrying a combined value of over $30 billion.

That makes these notes only slightly less common than $20 bills in terms of sheer numbers while holding far more total value. $50 notes are designed for convenient large cash transactions and they see widespread everyday use.

Security Features

Modern $50 bills include a range of security features to deter counterfeiting and aid the authentication of genuine currency. Some of these features are easy to spot like the embedded security thread and watermark portrait of Grant visible when holding the bill up to the light.

Other features require special equipment or techniques to detect like the color-shifting numeral 50s and small microprinting details.

Changes Over Time

While Grant has been the face of $50 bills since the early 20th century, the overall design and look of these notes have changed markedly over the years. The 2004 redesign introduced the most dramatic visual changes in decades with new background colors and enlarged off-center portraits.

A comparison of the 1995, 2004, and 2023 versions of $50 bills shows how these details have evolved over time while retaining familiar elements.

Design Changes to $50 Bills Over Time
Version Year Notable Design Elements
1995 Small centered portraits, green/black/white color scheme
2004 (current) Large off-center portraits, subtle background colors
2023 Enhanced anti-counterfeiting features using advanced technology

The Grant $50

The man depicted on the $50 bill is Ulysses S. Grant, Union general during the Civil War and 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877. Grant first appeared on the $50 in 1913 and his enduring presence makes these notes instantly recognizable despite periodic design refreshes.

There are currently no plans by the Federal Reserve to replace Grant on $50 bills.

Circulation and Lifespans

$50 notes have a typical lifespan of between 15 and 20 years in circulation before showing signs of wear requiring removal and destruction. Clean, crisp Grant $50 bills in perfect uncirculated condition can sell to collectors at a small premium over face value.

On the other end of the spectrum, badly damaged, misprinted, or rare early design $50 bills are highly prized collector’s items that can sell for much higher premiums at auction or specialist dealers.

Tips for Spotting Counterfeit $50 Bills

Check the Portrait and Images

The genuine $50 bill features a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant on the front and an image of the U.S. Capitol building on the back. Carefully inspect the details of Grant’s face and coat to ensure they match a real $50 bill.

The images should be crisp and clear. Blurry or distorted portraits or images often indicate a fake.

Inspect the Note’s Colors

An authentic $50 bill has subtle background colors that shift from copper to green as you tilt the bill. Counterfeits often lack color-shifting ink, featuring only flat green ink instead. Tilt the bill back and forth to watch for color shifts and inspect the numeral 50 in the bottom right corner—on real bills, it shifts from copper to green.

Feel the Note’s Texture

Genuine currency has a unique feel thanks to special paper and intaglio printing that creates subtle ridges in the portrait. Rub your thumb across Grant’s shoulder, feeling for this distinctive texture. Fakes often feel flat in comparison or like simple paper printed by inkjet or laser printers.

An authentic note will also feel stiffer and thicker than normal paper when bent or folded. Holding it to the light, you should see blue and red threads woven throughout.

What Does A 50-Dollar Bill Look Like – Conclusion

With its unique design and array of security features, the $50 bill has an iconic look and feel all its own in American currency. Being able to quickly recognize a real $50 banknote is an important personal finance skill.

If you keep the key details of the $50 note’s design and security features in mind, you can easily spot fakes.

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