The Case Against Eliminating Large Denomination Bills

30 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2018 Last revised: 18 Mar 2021

See all articles by Joshua R. Hendrickson

Joshua R. Hendrickson

University of Mississippi

Jaevin Park

University of Mississippi - Department of Economics; Soongsil University

Date Written: November 13, 2018


Can eliminating large denomination bills improve social welfare? We construct a dual currency model to study whether illegal activity can be reduced or eliminated by modifying the payment environment. In our model, there are two types of money, "coins" (small bills) and "paper money" (large bills) and two types of goods, legal and illegal. Legal (goods) traders are ex ante indifferent between coins and paper money, but illegal (goods) traders face a lower transaction cost of using paper money in comparison to coins because illegal trade is easier to conceal. Eliminating paper money can reduce illegal trade and the social cost associated with illegal activity. However, this pooling equilibrium is suboptimal because the government can collect more seigniorage by allowing illegal traders to use paper money with a lower rate of return. When the transaction cost of using coins for illegal traders is sufficiently large, a separating equilibrium, where legal traders use coins and illegal traders use paper money, can maximize welfare by making an implicit transfer from the illegal traders to the legal traders. In short, an optimal monetary policy is a sort of Pigouvian policy in which the monetary authority engineers a transfer from illegal traders to legal traders.

Keywords: Dual Currency, Seigniorage, Externality

JEL Classification: D62, E26, E52

Suggested Citation

Hendrickson, Joshua R. and Park, Jaevin, The Case Against Eliminating Large Denomination Bills (November 13, 2018). AIER Sound Money Project Working Paper No. 2020-10, Available at SSRN: or

Joshua R. Hendrickson (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi ( email )

Oxford, MS 38677
United States

Jaevin Park

University of Mississippi - Department of Economics ( email )

371 Holman Hall
University, MS 38677
United States

Soongsil University ( email )

511, Sangdo-dong, Dongjak-gu
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

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