15 Old Banknotes and Coins That Are Now Worth a Pretty Penny

You may want to hang onto some of your older bills once you read how much these banknotes are worth today. Sure, you might not have a 150-year-old bill in your wallet, but who knows what will be considered valuable in 50-plus years?

Sometimes, all it takes is a misprint, a blemish, or a bill that escaped a government-issued recall to become a real-life treasure. The following banknotes are some of the rarest, most valuable notes to ever appear at auction.

1. USA 1882 $100 Gold Certificate

$100 Gold certificate, Series of 1882
Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

These gold certificates were a common form of paper currency in our nation between 1863 and 1933. The notes promised the owner a specific sum of gold. Some other older notes can fetch far more than this, but they are extremely rare.

An 1882 version of the note is believed to be one of seven known to still exist in 2024. It sold for $117,000 in a 2013 auction.

2. USA 1928 $50 Gold Certificate

$50 Gold Certificate, Series 1928
Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

In 1928, gold was highly coveted in the United States, and this $50 certificate promised the note’s owner its sum in gold. The $50 note was much rarer than the $100 note, and because only one of 12 survived the last century, it is high on the list of pieces monetary collectors want to add to their inventory.

It fetched $20,000 in a 2014 auction, while the others have homes in museums and the Federal Reserve.

3. USA 1890 $100 Treasury Note

USA 1890 $100 Treasury Note
Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

This special note has a nickname: the “Watermelon Hundred.” The zero numbers on the front and back of the bill look exactly like watermelons.

There are still fewer than three dozen bills left in public. Collectors who found them in decent condition have been known to overpay for the notes because they don’t come around often. That was the case when, at a Heritage auction in 2013, attendees saw one sell for almost $130,000.

4. USA 1934 Federal Reserve $5,000 Note

USA 1934 Federal Reserve $5,000 Note
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

There are high-value currency notes, but most of us have never seen them — well, unless you are a multi-millionaire. They are very rare because very few are printed by the Federal Reserve.

Only 342 of these notes were printed in 1934. Most are long gone, either destroyed or lost, but a mint-condition note sold for $141,000 in 2013.

5. USA 1869 Fr. 151 $50 Bill

USA 1869 Fr. 151 $50 Bill
Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

This $50 bill is not that old, so there’s a chance you could have one passed down from generation to generation. If you find one in your piggy bank, you could have a decent payday coming your way.

Known for its intricate detail and with only 61 known to be in circulation, this bill sent collectors into a tizzy when it went up for sale in 2013. The winning bidder paid just over $176,000 for the prized banknote.

6. USA 1907 $1,000 Gold Certificate

USA 1907 $1,000 Gold Certificate
Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

This $1,000 gold certificate sold for more than its inflation value. $1,000 in 1907 would be worth about $150,000 today.

This note, signed by Napier/McClung, sold at auction for $176,250 in 2013. That’s a pretty good return on a $1,000 investment.

7. USA 1883 $500 Brown Seal Gold Certificate

Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

This note is shrouded in mystery. It’s the only brown sealed note ever found. A prominent picture of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln occupies the left side of the note, with 500 on the right side.

Collectors were shocked when it appeared at an auction desk in Memphis in 2010. They’d never seen one before and wondered if they would ever see one again. Of course, its rarity brought the price of $193,875.

8. USA 1882 Fr.1192a $50 Gold Certificate

Image Credit: Heritage Auctions.

A Friedberg number is a numerical system that treasuries use to store and catalog paper currency in the United States. The assigned numbers, asterisks, and letters are attached to a specific bill, making it unique. The odd Friedberg number assigned to this bill makes it rare and, of course, valuable.

It’s considered so valuable that experts believe it is one-of-a-kind. That was enough for bidders to shell out $200,000 in 2013.

9. USA 1891 $50 Seaward Treasury Note

USA 1891 $50 Seaward Treasury Note
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Named after former U.S. Secretary of State William Henry Seawald, this bill has a unique placement of 50 on the side of the note. The front has the denomination of 50 in three places, each of different sizes, the biggest being on the left, running north and south instead of east and west.

Little details like that and the fact only 23,500 bills were printed over a year make these notes highly sought after. Some of these bills made their way to museums, while 15 are available to collectors. One of those 15 sold for the high price of $235,000 in 2013.

10. USA 1902 Alaskan $5 Bill

USA 1902 Alaskan $5 Bill
Image Credit: Heritage Auctions.

In 1902, prospectors in Alaska were pulling out gold from the streams in the hills. This led to a migration of gold-hungry men looking to strike a fortune in the mining business.

The First National Bank of Fairbanks began realizing their first $5, known as the Klondike Gold Rush note. This piece of Alaskan and United States history was purchased back in 2010 for $246,750.

11. USA 1863 Spread Eagle $100 Bill

Image Credit: National Museum of American History.

There is a reason why this note got the nickname Spread Eagle. In the top left corner, there’s a massive bald eagle, wings outstretched for flight.

Only two uncirculated bills have been offered for sale on the market since 1947. This bill’s rarity and cool design have made it sell for as much as $305,500.

12. USA 1931 $10 Silver Certificate

Image Credit: National Museum of American History.

You might wonder why a relatively young bill is so rare and valuable. The serial number is what makes this bill so rare. Collectors are always looking for the first bill off the printing press. With a serial number of A000000001A, this was the first printed bill of its kind.

Experts have appraised the bill to be worth up to $500,000, but it could easily surpass that number if the right bidder had their heart set on it.

13. USA 1882 $500 Gold Certificate

USA 1882 $500 Gold Certificate
Image Credit: National Museum of American History.

Collectors will tell you that the large red spiked seal in the center of this certificate makes this bill highly sought after. Others will say the portrait of Abraham Lincoln drives the price up. Either way, it’s a very valuable banknote.

These bills were in circulation between 1863 and 1933 until President Franklin Roosevelt destroyed them because it was illegal for private citizens to own gold at the time. It is said that only two remain. One is locked away, and the other was sold to a private holder in 2014 for $1.4 million.

14. USA 1891 Red Seal $1,000 Treasury Note

Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

Only two of these notes are left in the world. That rarity had collectors chomping at the bit when they saw it come up for auction. It was sold for $2.5 million in 2013, making it one of the priciest notes ever.

Army General George Meade’s portrait adorns this rare piece of US history. It didn’t hold the record for very long, though. A few years later, another General George Meade note took over the reins.

15. 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Treasury Note

USA 1890 $100 Treasury Note
Image Credit: National Museum of American History/Wiki Commons.

This note was issued to individuals selling silver to the National Treasury. The front features the portrait of General George Meade again. At the same time, the back has an ornate pattern designed to make it virtually impossible to counterfeit. It has since become the Holy Grail for monetary collectors.

Easily the most valuable note to ever go to auction, it sold for a jaw-dropping $3.29 million in 2014. Only three out of seven known notes have been in auctions, meaning a few might still be floating around somewhere.

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