What's It Worth? What's It Worth? The Lure Of Old Money
Collecting currency is a lot of fun, but fraught with valuation confusion that involves grading difficulties, whims of collectors, geographical concerns and plain old counterfeiting.
Most bills we get in are common “red seal” 1928 to 1963 $5 and $2 notes as in Illus. A. These typically bring half to double their face value, and top out at around $200 to $300 for rarely seen crisp, never folded, never circulated 1928 versions.
Confederate currency is interesting as well. Many think it is worthless, but most Confederate notes are worth face value or more. Value depends on date (the earlier the better), condition (most are pretty awful since the paper was usually thin and cheap), city issue (Montgomery is preferred), design and boldness of color. The rare example shown, Illus. B, was made in 1861 in Montgomery, never circulated, and was of a higher denomination of $500 (value $3,000).
For many years, local banks were allowed to print their own currency. Cities like Chicago and New york printed millions of bills, and they are usually worth 10% to 50% over face value. Notes in better condition bring more. But bills from smaller banks like the Eureka, Nevada, note in Illus. C, can bring big rewards (this one brought $17,000 at auction).
Large-denomination bills are very common. $1,000 bills usually bring $1,300 to $1,600 each (poor wrinkly raggedy ones bring less, crisp uncirculated bills bring more), but some can bring $10,000 or more like the one in Illus. D, a large-sized note that we recently bid $13,000 on.
Looking for a “sleeper”? Check your currency hoard for this one: this common-looking 1933 $10 bill (Illus. E.) is worth $1,000 to $5,000 in very good to excellent condition! Even 1934 $10 bills are usually worth $15 to $20!
Value can be affected by pinholes, star notes, counting wrinkles, smudges, corner folds, centering (how the note was “centered” when it was printed) and even erroneous notes (when the printing press went awry with low ink, oddly folded paper, bleed-over prints, errors in serial numbers etc). Look for ink stains and pen or pencil writing, which hurts value as well. Also – notes payable in silver coin or in gold are usually worth more. Lower serial numbers are a plus. Various signatures on these bills matter as well.
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