Tag Archives: paper money collecting

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!



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