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October 31st, 2012

How Do I Sell My Low Value Paper Money Bank Notes and Get the Most Money?

First, let me be clear: not everyone has a $10,000 monthly budget to buy collector currency. Money comes and goes. More often than not, people have more like $100 on a good month, sometimes even less. Other times, money is needed for medical care, business investments, college tuition, etc. and one can only afford to buy modest notes. If you think people only shop for high end material, think again: a quick run through eBay.com’s paper money listings will show notes starting for as little as $0.01 up to $1,000,000. In other words, there’s a market for everyone.

Another common occurrence is people inheriting a modest currency collection from a deceased loved one. The retail value of the collection might not even exceed $85. Even so, the inheritor would like to sell the notes for cash.

Suppose you have 10 non-star 1957B $1 Silver Certificates in About Uncirculated to Uncirculated condition. Despite the fact the United States government hasn’t printed these notes in decades, they are actually considered very common in the paper money hobby. There are still reports of people finding these notes in cash withdrawals from banks or grocery store change. They are still legal tender, but do they have collector value?

As a rule of thumb, most notes printed bearing the series of 1934 or later usually aren’t worth thousands of dollars unless they have other defining characteristics that make them rare. Consider the following when reviewing notes printed in the last 70 years:

1. Condition – Anything with “normal” circulation – meaning the note has folds, creases, tears, stamps, handwriting, or stains – will not have much collector value. A note that looks like it just came off the presses yesterday is much more desirable.
2. Star serial number – Star serial numbers are much rarer than normal serial numbers, because they are printed as replacements for notes that returned to the Treasury as damaged. A star serial number note in near perfect condition usually equates higher collector value. On the other hand, heavily circulated notes with star serial numbers don’t have much numismatic value with a few small exceptions.
3. Unique Serial Number – See if the serial number itself has anything unique or interesting about its pattern of digits. For example, is it 12345678, or 00000005, or 33334444, or 00001945 (a birth year note). Notes with interesting patterns of digits or very low numbers (under 100) are highly collectible, even if they were printed in the 1990s.
4. Notes that have BOTH a star and a unique serial number (even more valuable).
5. Notes with authentic printing errors (ink smears, missing impressions, inverted reverses, foreign matter, etc.).
6. Notes with a rare autograph – If your note is signed by a former president, artist, musician, military officer, or other celebrity it will be more valuable.
7. Notes with a verifiable unique history – A $20 note printed in the 1970s accompanied astronauts to the moon during an Apollo mission. It’s collector value exceeds $150,000, but if you saw the note in a currency auction without knowing this critical information, you probably wouldn’t pay more than $25 for it. Fortunately, this particular $20 bill was stamped and came with 3rd party corroborating evidence that proved it did indeed travel to the moon. Lunar-landing bank notes aren’t the only notes with great stories: if you have John Lennon’s last $10 bill and can prove it, it will have significant collector value.

If after examining serial numbers and checking for printing errors your 10 non-star 1957B $1 Silver Certificates still don’t have anything unique about them, the value will be around $50-$60 for the lot (as of the date of this article, 10/30/2012).

How do I get the most money possible for low value paper money?

The short answer: sell the notes yourself, particularly if your group of notes has an appraisal value under $500. The important qualifying phrase in the previous sentence is “group of notes”. If you have one note worth $500, your strategy for selling it would be much different. A $500 note will catch the attention of most dealers and they’ll be more than happy to make you offers on it.

How do I sell the notes myself?

Selling the notes yourself can be relatively pain free particularly if you are familiar with major online auction sites like eBay.com. If eBay isn’t your thing, you can ask friends, family, or work buddies who collect currency if they might have any interest in your notes. Finally, you can also try researching your area for coin or currency collector clubs and approach them with your notes in person.

The goal is to directly connect to a collector who will be willing to pay more for your notes than a dealer.

Dealers can’t offer top dollar on very common notes because they have to make money when they resell them. More often than not, if you approach a dealer with a note valued at $8 retail, they’ll probably offer $4 for it.

Here’s how to sell them quickly on eBay.com:

  1. Look at your note’s series year and denomination, and review current “Buy It Now” prices on eBay.com for similar notes. Sometimes people inflate “Buy It Now” values in order to leave room for negotiation, so search through a few different listings before you settle on a rough valuation.
  2. Scan the front and back of all your notes and post listings for them, making sure to identify the note’s series year, signatures, denomination, and seal color in the auction description. Include the scanned images with the auction so buyers know what they’re going to get if they decide to purchase your note.
  3. Sell notes one at a time, unless you are in a hurry to get fast cash. A lot of 20 random notes will usually sell for less than the total amount of money you could get if you sold them individually.
  4. If nobody shows interest in your notes, decrease the prices by 5% a week until you get a sale.
  5. Upon completing a sale, carefully package and mail the note to your buyer. Best practice currency selling usually requires all sellers have a return policy. It doesn’t have to be complicated: give the buyer 7 days to examine their purchase. If they’re not happy, they return the note(s) for a refund. After 7 days the purchase is considered final and offer no returns.

Places to avoid selling your notes, if at all possible: Pawn shops, flea markets, thrift stores, or antique shops that don’t specialize in collector currency. They will only pay you a fraction of your note’s true value.

People collect paper money for all sorts of reasons. While a particular note or group of notes might not have much market value or demand, that doesn’t mean you can’t get more than face value for them. Basic research, patience, and a little luck will help you convert your modest collection of notes into cash!

by Brendan Meehan | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment » |
October 23rd, 2012

Value of 1934 $100,000 Dollar Bill – Fr. 2413 1934 $100,000 Gold Certificate

Frequently Asked Question: I believe I own a 1934 $100,000 Dollar Bill. What is it worth?

Right Answer: $0. Your note is 100% fake.

Fr. 2413 1934 $100,000 Gold Certificate with signatures of Julian-Morgenthau is naturally a curiosity for both the collecting and non-collecting public. A $100,000 bill? Who could own such a high denomination, especially circa the World War 2 era? What banks offered these notes? Is my example genuine?

To be historically accurate, yes the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing DID produce a $100,000 Gold Certificate, the highest denomination in the history of the United States. These notes were NEVER issued for public circulation. Instead, they were used to settle large cash transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and other government fiscal channels. (*This information paraphrased from HighDenomination.com’s page on the $100,000 Gold Certificate – Click Here)

Remember, this note was produced long before electronic banking began. Using a $100,000 denomination made sense because counting out $1,000 or even $10,000 notes for cash transactions reaching into the millions of dollars would be tedious and inefficient. If you’re moving $50,000,000 in cash from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, it’s much easier to move 50 $100,000 notes opposed to using a smaller denomination with the potential for counting errors or theft.

These notes were NEVER circulated publicly. They were only used by the government. According to Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, only 42,000 1934 $100,000 notes were printed in total. ALL notes have since be accounted for and NONE remain outstanding. Possession of an authentic note would be considered ILLEGAL. The government kept a few sheets of these notes in specimen form that are all punch canceled. This display can sometimes be viewed at major paper money shows. A handful of non-canceled single notes do exist in numismatic museums, most notably the paper money collection of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. That’s where this picture comes from:

Fr. 2413 1934 $100,000 Dollar Bill - Gold Certificate - Signatures of Julian-Morgenthau - NONE are outstanding

Front: Fr. 2413 1934 $100,000 Dollar Bill - Gold Certificate - Signatures of Julian-Morgenthau - NONE are outstanding


Fr. 2413 1934 $100,000 Dollar Bill - Gold Certificate - Signatures of Julian-Morgenthau - NONE are outstanding

Back: Fr. 2413 1934 $100,000 Dollar Bill - Gold Certificate - Signatures of Julian-Morgenthau - NONE are outstanding

The $100,000 Gold Certificate is not the only high denomination note that was never circulated publicly. In fact, the government also produced Fr. 2410 1928 $5,000 Gold Certificate with signatures of Woods-Mellon, Fr. 2411 1928 $10,000 Gold Certificate with signatures of Woods-Mellon and Fr. 2412 1934 $10,000 Gold Certificate with signatures of Julian-Morgenthau. Important: These particular gold certificates NEVER circulated publicly and were used in the same manner as the $100,000 bill, for government cash transactions only. ALL of these notes have been redeemed and accounted for, and NONE remain outstanding. Possession of an authentic example of any of the aforementioned notes would be considered ILLEGAL.

What about $10,000 bills I see for sale at big auctions? Are these notes legal to possess? Yes, because they are Federal Reserve Notes, not Gold Certificates. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing did indeed issue and circulate $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 Federal Reserve Notes bearing the series years of 1928 and 1934. Although not widely available, they were fully legal for the public to possess. Most of these notes circulated between commercial banks to settle large cash transactions. Some examples did manage to escape into public hands, most notably to Benny Binion’s famous hoard of 100 $10,000 notes (linked page displays all serial numbers and position in the original Binion display). These notes all have green seals and greenbacks like any other Federal Reserve Note printed from the series of 1928 or later. The government-only high denomination Gold Certificates all have orange seals and orange backs, similar to lower denomination 1928 Gold Certificates.

If you think you own an authentic 1928 $5,000 Gold Certificate (with an orange seal on the front and an orange back) think again: it’s 100% fake.

Our website doesn’t specialize in high denomination notes, but we do get emails from people requesting appraisals of their $100,000 bills. All of these bills are replica or novelty items. Some people find them when settling the estate of a relative and think they’ve struck it rich, when in fact the note is no more valuable than Monopoly Money.

Buyer Beware (Funny Stories): There are people who also send us emails with laughable stories and claim they own a fist full of $100,000 notes. These people are scammers. In fact, we’ve received email from two different people in the Philippines who supposedly unearthed a “long forgotten box of cash from World War 2”, chock full of $10,000 and $100,000 notes. When asked to supply a photo to substantiate their find, it’s very clear that their notes are play money. Once this unfortunate reality is explained to them (including the fact that NO $100,000 bills remain outstanding), they will often reply with even crazier stories or justifications for the legitimacy of their find. At that point, we simply reply: “These notes are fake. If you believe they are genuine, bring them to a United States bank and exchange them for cash. You will be arrested on the spot.” That usually sends them packing. 🙂

The mythic $100,000 bill and misinformation surrounding its circulation will likely persist for years until a good Wikipedia entry is written about it containing accurate information. For now, enjoy them on display at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing booth at the next big paper money show!

by Brendan Meehan | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments » |
"Friedberg Numbers" from Paper Money of the United States (19th ed.) by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg are used with permission of the Coin & Currency Institute
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