Tag Archives: paper money

Top 5 Most Valuable US Banknotes

While we’ve talked about some of the most valuable coins and some of the most sought after pennies, one thing that hasn’t crossed our blog yet, is what are the top 5 most valuable US bank notes. These are the MVPs of collectible bank notes, and some versions of them are even sitting in museums. Curious? Read on…

No. 5 – 1918 Alexander Hamilton $1000 Banknote

The first banknote on our list made it’s acting debut on an episode of Pawn Stars. Valued at a cool $7,000 on the episode, the reason why this rarity was valued so low is because there are so many of them known to still exist in comparison to the others on this list. 150 copies of this bill are known to still exist. However, depending on serial number and date issued, they can go for almost ten times the face value of the bill!

No.4 – 1928 $50 Gold Certificate

This gold certificate holds almost the same mythical collecting status as the Saint Gauden’s Double Eagle. Only a dozen of the $50 gold certificates survived in collector’s hands after FDR’s famous gold recall in 1933. The most recent one that came up for auction sold for over $120,000. Not too bad of a return for a bill that was technically illegal to own until the 1970s.

No.3 – 1882 $500 Gold Certificate

This banknote was one of the first banknotes printed in the US and was part of one of the craziest discoveries of old banknotes that I’ve heard of. The note was discovered after the execution of a turn of the century banker’s will which lead to the discovery of the near mint collection of bank notes, with notes (including this one) dating back to the civil war. Crazy how these bills survived 130 years in mint condition stuffed at the back of a cash drawer. After going to auction, this certificate sold for $2.7 million. Not surprising since the only other known to exist is in the Federal Reserve exhibit in the Smithsonian.

No.2 – 1891 Red Seal $1000 Banknote

This banknote, like the gold certificate listed above is another one of the lottery level rarities in banknote collecting since only two are known to exist and the last time one came up for auction was in 1944. This banknote previously held the record of highest value sold at auction when it was sold at $2.5 million. The only other banknote to sell higher than this is the one listed at No. 1 on our list.

No.1 – 1890 Grand Watermelon Bill

Now, I know, how can you take a banknote known as the grand watermelon seriously. But don’t mistake the funny name for something that isn’t a serious collector’s item. The name of the bill comes from the design and denomination of the bill. It’s actually a $1,000 bill. The watermelon nickname came from the design on the bill showing green and white striping on the denomination along with the curvature of the numbers make them look like watermelons. The last time this went up for auction back in 2013, it sold for an easy $3.2 million.

Well, there you have it, as you can see, US currency is a very popular collectors item and while these might be some of the most valuable collector’s items, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other great collectibles to gain. If you’re curious, check out some of the great collectible banknotes, foreign and domestic, that we have in stock!



Red Seal, Blue Seal, Gold Note, Silver Note

When you look down at that $5 bill in your pocket. Have you ever wondered why that seal is green? Or why even include a seal? Well, once upon a time, there were actually different styles of notes. The notes that we have today are actually called Federal Reserve notes, but at one time, there were silver certificates and gold certificates as well, where banks were obligated to give you the same amount as dictated by the bill in that amount of silver or gold. Let’s take a look back at the different styles of bills and what the secrets of those seals actually are.

Yellow Seal US Dollars (Gold Certificates)

Introduced in 1863, the yellow seal US bank notes were actually gold certificates. Meaning, that the denomination of bank note was backed by the same amount in gold in the US treasury, and that you could exchange that certificate for the gold at a bank in the US. Which meant that US money was at one time backed by the Gold Standard. There were several times that this standard was suspended though. It was suspended twice during World War I and made it a free floating currency, similar to the fiat currency that it is today. The gold standard US dollar came to a close in 1933 with the Gold Reserve Acts, which made it illegal for the public to be in possession of gold coins or certificates. In 1964, the act was lifted and the notes could be traded again, however, like the silver certificates, they could no longer be redeemed for their value in gold, and became a collectible for numismatists.

Blue Seal US Dollars (Silver Certificates)

Similar to their gold standard cousins, the blue seal US bank notes were in fact silver certificates. These notes first began circulating in 1878 and were backed by the US stockpile of silver bullion. These certificates could be redeemed for their value in silver. At first, it was through an exchange of the certificate for silver dollar coins and later became an exchange for raw bullion. These notes were mainly done in the 1, 5, and 10 dollar denominations. In 1963, the notes were discontinued with a deadline of 1968 placed on any remaining silver certificates to be redeemed for their value in silver. These notes are still considered legal tender today but are valued at their face value and not at the current price of silver.

Red Seal US Dollars (US Notes)

The red seal dollars are an interesting fare. They were started during the Civil War and were in production for about one hundred years, making them one of the longest produced notes next to the dollar produced by the Federal Reserve. These notes were actual pieces on national debt. Which means they were direct obligations by the US government and that the individual who had them owned a piece of the national debt. These notes went out of circulation in the 1960s and were removed as legal tender in the mid 90s.

Green Seal US Dollars (Federal Reserve Notes)

The bills that we all use today are actually known as Federal Reserve notes. These are the only notes still being actively produced and are also the youngest. First introduced in 1914, these notes are backed by the US government but aren’t actually produced by the US. Instead, the 12 Federal Reserve banks within the US prints this money and, by law, must maintain enough assets to balance the notes issued. This currency is actually a fiat currency and is not based on any gold or silver standard.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.


Foreign Banknotes: Are they Collectibles?

While the US has a wide selection of collectible banknotes. However, there are other historical banknotes from countries around the world that are just as collectible, some by value, some by history behind the note’s country of origin. Here are just a few examples of a very wide expanse of collectible world banknotes.

The Djibouti Franc

Djibouti 100 Franc Banknote

Djibouti 100 Franc Banknote






Our first example comes from the Horn of Africa. The Djiboutian Franc has been around since the late 19th century. When the French Somaliland protectorate was established the French franc had begun being circulated in Djibouti along with other coin currencies. The first banknotes weren’t introduced until almost 30 years later. They were issued in denominations of 5, 20 and 100 franc notes. Since then little has changed in the currency outside of the introduction of higher denominations.

The Indonesian Rupiah

Republic of Indonesia Rupiah 1945

Indonesian Rupiah from 1945

50000 Indonesian Rupiah 2013

The Indonesian Rupiah today






Our next example comes from indochina. The indonesian rupiah has had a roller-coaster ride throughout history. The first rupiah was issued by the Republic of Java in 1946 after World War II as an act of defiance against the Dutch who had originally had the “Dutch East Indies” as a colony before the war. After some diplomatic follies by the Dutch, the Dutch currency had been outlawed by the republican interior of Indonesia. Instead, Java had begun printing their own currency known as the Rupiah. The Rupiah has had a very tumultuous history since its inception, which included serious inflation during the Asian finincial crisis in 1997-98 where it saw its value drop by 80%. Today, the modern Rupiah is a collectible for currency collectors and ETF prospectors. You can see our collection of Indonesian Rupiah here.

The Vietnamese Dong

Vietnamese Dong in 1951

Vietnamese Dong in 1951

100000 Vietnames Dong in 2013

The Vietnamese Dong Today






The Vietnamese Dong is another foreign currency that has seen its own roller-coaster ride for the currency. When Vietnam was split into two countries, both the North and South Vietnam had their own form of the Dong. In North Vietnam, the Viet Minh government issued the Dong as a replacement of the French Indochinese colonial currency. The south followed suit in 1953 by issuing currency with the same name. In 1978, when the country was reunified, the currency was as well. Today, the original cotton notes used by the Vietnamese have been replaced with a plastic polymer banknote. We have a variety of these collector’s notes available here.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on .


Tips For Collecting Paper Money

Collecting paper money is exciting because notes are colorful and attractive. Like coins, paper currency teaches you about art, history, economics, and more. People have been collecting paper money since the mid-20th century. Today, it’s a hobby practiced by many numismatics!

Getting started

As a beginner collector, it’s important to decide which type of notes you will collect. For instance, there are legal tenders, silver certificates, gold certificates, and Federal Reserve notes. Paper money in the United States has been issued in denominations ranging from one dollar to $100,000. However, denominations larger than $100 have been removed from circulation since 1969, due to lack of demand. In fact, none of these notes have been printed in the U.S. since the 1940s.


The Friedberg Numbering System

In the 1950s, Robert Friedberg published the Paper Money of the United States, which illustrates the Friedberg Numbering System for collecting paper currency. Friedberg devised an organizing number system of all types of U.S. notes, which is still used today. This system includes a shorthand method for identifying paper money based on its design, series and signatures.

Determining value

While age plays an important role in determining the value of paper money, factors such as condition and demand are also crucial factors. Condition refers to the handling or wear of the certificate. The lower the grade of a note the lower the value. Demand is also a major factor in determining the value of paper money. More often than not, large-size silver certificates and legal tender notes are more popular than other forms of paper currency. Because more collectors are seeking these notes, the price can be affected.

Certified notes

Like coins, paper currency can be graded and certified by independent services. Two companies that can certify paper money are PCGS Currency and Paper Money Guaranty (PMG). Having your notes certified will give non-collectors assurance of the grade and authenticity of the currency. More importantly, certified notes hold more value in the paper money market than uncertified notes.

certified paper notes

Protecting your money

One of the most important tips regarding paper currency is that notes should never be removed from the sealed holders. At Great American Coin Company, we offer a variety of paper money holders for easy viewing and examination of your notes. It’s important that you do not try to clean your paper money. Cleaning will damage the note and reduce its collectable appeal. Lastly, it’s best to store your paper currency somewhere with low humidity and sunlight.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on