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Quick Reference Guide to U.S. Paper Currency Values

Also read our Currency Grading Tutorial and Common Currency Replica guides here.

$1 Silver Certificates, 1935 and 1957

Most 1935 and 1957 series Silver Certificates are worth a very small premium over face value. Circulated examples typically sell for $1.25 to $1.50 each, while Uncirculated $1 Silver Certificates are worth between $2 and $4 each. Exceptions to these values include Star notes (where the serial number is followed by a small star in place of the suffix letter), and other various varieties and blocks including 1935A Hawaii and North Africa notes, Experimental notes, and various rare blocks and serial number ranges. Please refer to the Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Paper Money (1928 to date), by Dean Oakes and John Schwartz, for more information.

$5 and $10 Silver Certificates, 1934 and 1953

As with most $1 Silver Certificates, most circulated $5 and $10 Silver Certificates only carry a small premium over face value, ranging from 10% to 30%. Uncirculated $5 and $10 Silver Certificates carry a larger premium, depending on the issue and the grade. There are several significantly scarcer and even rare varieties in these series, however, including the 1933 $10 Silver Certificate, the 1953-B $5 Silver Certificate Star Note, and others, and most Star notes from these series carry some premium (ranging from small to large) over the regular notes. Again, please refer to the Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Paper Money (1928 to date), by Dean Oakes and John Schwartz, for more information.

$1, $2, $5, and $100 Red Seals, 1928, 1953, 1963, and 1966

Although some of these notes carry more of a premium than others, most $2 and $5 Red Seals that are seen are circulated notes from common series that carry very little premium over face value. All $1 Red Seals are scarce and are quite valuable in higher grades, while $100 Red Seals (although relatively modern) carry a premium of 20% to 40% even in circulated condition. Again, there are several scarce issues among these notes, and we recommend the Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Paper Money (1928 to date), by Dean Oakes and John Schwartz, for more information.

$2 Federal Reserve Notes

Most $2 Federal Reserve Notes from 1976 and 1995 are worth no more than face value. Original packs from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing carry a premium, as do Star Notes which typically sell for $10 to $20 in Uncirculated condition for the common district banks. Star Notes from the Kansas City and Minneapolis district banks (I-* and J-* notes) are very scarce, and sell for more than $100 in Uncirculated condition.

"Old" Federal Reserve Notes, 1928, 1934, 1950, 1963, etc.

Most circulated Federal Reserve Notes from more modern series are worth no more than face value. Some of the early series notes (1928 and 1934) do carry a small premium, although for circulated notes this premium is small, usually 10% to 30%. Premiums are higher as a percentage of face value for lower denomination notes, such as $5 and $10 bills, as opposed to the higher denomination $20s, $50s, and $100s. Uncirculated notes and Star Notes of some of the earlier series do carry a large collector premium in some cases, and we highly recommend the standard reference book in this field, the Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Paper Money (1928 to date), by Dean Oakes and John Schwartz, for more information.

$500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 Federal Reserve Notes

Most $500 and $1,000 bills are quite common, and are typically worth only a small premium over face value. Circulated 1934 series notes are usually worth from $500 to $800 for the $500s and from $1,000 to $1,400 for the $1,000s, depending on condition. The 1928 series usually carries an extra 10% to 20% premium. Uncirculated $500 and $1,000 bills are quite desirable, although they are usually worth no more than twice face value. All Star Note high denomination bills are very rare, and $5,000 and $10,000 bills are worth much more than face value unless they are damaged, and we would suggest consultation with one of our currency experts if you possess one of these notes.

As an aside, it is interesting how poorly high denomination notes have performed as an investment. Anyone would have fared much, much better by depositing the $500 or $1,000 in even a low-interest savings account in the 1940's or 1950's when these circulated, as the return would have been much higher than on a $500 or $1,000 bill. In fact, the return on $5,000 and $10,000 bills is very poor compared to other investments-yes, even the stock market, where despite the bear market of the last couple of years, $5,000 or $10,000 invested in stocks when these notes were printed would be worth many multiples of what these notes are now worth. The moral is, of course, that if you are "hanging on" to high denomination notes in the hopes that they are a good investment and will be worth much more one day, history is not encouraging.

Gold Certificates

1928 Gold Certificate $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000 bills are all legal to own, and all are highly collectible. The $10 and $20 notes are typically worth from twice face value to $100 or more depending on condition, while the $50 and $100 notes are more valuable. $500 and $1,000 Gold Certificates are scarce and we recommend consultation with one of our currency experts if you possess one of these notes.

"National Currency"-National Bank Notes or Federal Reserve Bank Notes

The difference between 1929 series National Bank Notes and Federal Reserve Bank Notes is rather subtle, as each is called "National Currency" above the portrait and each bears a brown Treasury seal, but they can easily be distinguished by the bank name to the left of the portrait. If it is from a bank entitled "The Federal Reserve Bank of…" and is from one of the 12 District Federal Reserve Banks, it is a Federal Reserve Bank Note. National Bank Notes are from other banks with titles such as "The First National Bank of…" or the "National Bank of…" or the "National Trust and Savings Bank of…" or other such titles.

Most Federal Reserve Bank Notes are common, although all notes issued from the Dallas bank are rare and some from other district banks are scarce. All Star Note Federal Reserve Bank Notes are scarce. The Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Paper Money (1928 to date), by Dean Oakes and John Schwartz, is recommended for more information.

Most National Bank Notes are relatively inexpensive, although the range in value is quite large. The definition of "common" may also not be typical with National Bank Notes, as a note from a bank with only a couple of dozen notes known may be considered "common." This is because, while there only may be a limited number of notes known from a specific bank, more than 14,000 National Banks were chartered to issue these notes, and no single collector can reasonably hope to own them all. As such, most collectors specialize in a single state, city, or even bank. As a result, there may only be a small number of collectors interested in notes from a particular bank, so supply and demand is the overriding factor in value. A note from a bank with as few as five or six notes known may only be worth a small amount of money if only two or three interested collectors are in the market for such a note. The standard reference book to National Bank Notes, by Don C. Kelly, is a must for research on this series of notes.

Large Size (pre 1928) "Horseblanket" or "Saddleblanket" Notes

All U.S. currency made prior to 1928 is of a larger size than modern "small size" bills, hence the nicknames "Horseblanket" or "Saddleblanket." There were many different series and types of notes printed prior to 1928 by the Federal government, and values range from the very common 1923 $1 Silver Certificates (blue seals), worth from $10 to $100 depending on condition, to ultra-rarities that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars or more. If you come into possession of any "large size" bills, we suggest that you consult one of our currency experts here at CAA-Heritage to help you make a determination of value.

1862 Legal Tender $1

The cost of the Civil War was huge in dollars and lives. To finance the war both North and South turned to paper currency issues. The Union issued $1 and $2 currency notes beginning in 1862. A second issue of 1862-63 added $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Unlike the contemporary Confederate issues, the Union notes were printed in smaller numbers with better specie backing. As the war progressed the notes traded at only a percentage of their stated values; but they also traded at a major premium to Confederate notes. Today Union notes are much rarer than most Confederate issues. The $1 note is the most common. Depending on condition these notes usually sell for between $100 and $1000.

1923 Silver $1

Silver Certificates were issued beginning in 1880 and were redeemable at the Treasury in silver. Initially this silver would have been from the rich Comstock Lode discovered in Nevada in the 1870s. 1923 was the last series in which Silver Certificates were issued in the large-sized format that dated back to the first notes of the 1860s. In 1928 new, smaller notes would be issued. Today 1923 $1 Silver Certificates are generally worth between $20 and $150 depending on condition.

1899 Silver $1

The 1899 Silver Certificate is a perennial favorite among collectors; its bold design and relative availability make it a logical choice for inclusion in many collections of silver certificates. These notes were part of the government effort to make use of the vast silver deposits of the western United States. Today most are worth between $40 and $250 depending on condition.

1917 Legal $1

These notes are a continuation of the act of 1863 that provided for a paper currency issue by the United States government during the Civil War. Though not specifically redeemable in specie these notes carry text stating that they are acceptable at par by the government as payment. The early 20th century was a time of reflection on the past by Americans as evidenced by the celebrations of Columbus in 1893, Jamestown in 1907 and Plymouth in 1920. This note's engraving of the landing of Columbus is therefore unsurprising. These popular notes are generally worth between $40 and $150 depending on condition. Superlative examples are of course worth more.

1907 Legal $5

A later example of the popular “Woodchopper” notes. The central motif of a pioneer farmer with dog and family has long captivated collectors. Today these notes, while reasonably common, command good prices. Depending on condition most are worth between $80 and $200.

Confederate Currency

All genuine Confederate currency has some collector value, although most of the 1864 issue notes are very common (an exception being the $500 note, which is common but popular and is worth from $200 to $400 depending on condition). Earlier issues range from common to rare. All issues from 1861 in Montgomery are very valuable, and we suggest consultation with one of our currency experts if you have such a note. Replicas of Confederate currency are quite common, and are often printed on crisp, brown paper that appears antique. Genuine notes are hand-signed and numbered, and the replicas appear to be hand-signed and numbered as well, although close inspection will easily determine that the signatures on replicas are printed in the same ink as on the rest of the bill. Contemporary counterfeits made to circulate at the time of issue have collector value ranging from $10 to $100 or more depending on condition and the specific circumstances of issue.

1840 $1,000 Bank of the United States

Any note with the serial number 8894 is a replica that was made in the 1960's for a promotional giveaway in cereal boxes. These replicas are essentially worthless. These replicas are made from yellowish-brown "antiqued" paper that is crisp and brittle to the touch. The genuine $1,000 Bank of the United States notes are printed on thin banknote paper that was originally white or cream colored. One supposes that if a genuine note with the serial number 8894 ever were to show up that it is likely to cause quite a stir among dealers and collectors who have grown weary of answering questions regarding this particular replica.

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