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Notable Notes: The “Lincoln Porthole” $5 Silver Certificate


This issue marks the debut of a new regular segment called “Notable Notes,” in which we profile a particularly remarkable piece of paper money that our graders at the newly launched PCGS Banknote have come across. We kick off this new segment with one of the more popular 20th-century “Horse Blankets,” so named because of the larger size of United States paper currency from before the issuance of smaller-sized notes of current dimensions beginning with Series 1928.

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The Series 1923 $5 Silver Certificate features a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a man who has become a familiar fixture on our nation’s $5 bills. Lincoln, who served as the 16th president of the United States and helped restore the Union during the Civil War, was assassinated on April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., by stage actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. The event occurred just four days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his rebel forces surrendered to Union Forces. In the years after Lincoln’s assassination came many tributes to the fallen president, including the placement of his likeness on everything from coins to stamps. He was also memorialized on United States paper currency, with posthumous appearances on Fractional Notes and Silver Certificates in the late 19th century.

And when the time came for a new round of Silver Certificates in 1923, Lincoln was the subject of choice for the $5 piece. However, the placement of his portrait, within a perfectly circular frame, was not well received by the public. Some thought it resembled the appearance of the President as seen through the barrel of a gun. The fervency behind this controversy eventually subsided and the Lincoln vignette on the note eventually became known by the more benign “Lincoln Porthole” nickname, a reference to the circular windows often seen on ships.

Today, the Lincoln Porthole $5 is one of the most sought-after pieces among the expansive catalog of United States large-size notes. Perhaps 5,000 survive today across all grades, and they are particularly scarce in higher grades. This piece pictured here recently came into the PCGS Banknote grading room and received a grade of PCGS 55PPQ, indicating it has seen only a light amount of circulation wear but is in overall excellent condition. If you would like more information about submitting your paper currency to PCGS Banknote for grading and encapsulation, visit or call PCGS Customer Service at (800) 447-8848.

This article is from the current March-April 2020 Rare Coin Market Report. To continue reading this issue, please visit the digital version for the Current Issue. You will be prompted to input the email address linked to your PCGS account. All current PCGS Collectors Club members will have free access to the complete digital Rare Coin Market Report. To purchase a single print issue or 1-year subscription, please visit the RCMR Homepage. If you are not a PCGS Collectors Club Member and wish to join please visit the PCGS membership page at