If you carry cash on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that at some point during the year you have bills in your wallet that are worth more than their stated face value. While most of these are probably worth only a few dollars more, some can be worth much, much more. It’s estimated that some of the new $100 bills coming out will be worth as much as $15,000 each for those lucky enough to find the bills with serial numbers that collectors covet.
A lot of people don’t realize that there are people who collect bills. For these collectors, it’s often the serial number on the bill which makes the bill valuable to them. What’s interesting is that collectors have a large number of different number patterns that they desire, and they’re willing to pay extra for these bills. The best part is that it costs you absolutely no money to do this. The bills that you have in your wallet as still worth their face value and can be spent or used on anything needed if they don’t have a serial number that collectors desire. By simply scanning the serial numbers of all the bills that you get throughout the year, you can likely make a bit of extra pocket money if you understand what the collectors are after. Below you will find seventeen types of bills that are worth more than their face value to collectors, and can be found in regularly circulated bills.
Another type of bill that many collectors like to have as part of their collection are ladder bills. Ladder notes are those where the serial number ascends or descends in order. An example of an ascending ladder bill would be one with a serial number 01234567 and an example of a descending ladder note would be 98765432. Ladder notes are rare and thus any one that you find would be worth much more than its face value to collectors. It’s also possible to have a note that has both ascending and descending numbers in the same note. While this isn’t a true ladder note, it is still considered part of the ladder family and there are people who collect them. An example of this would be 34565432
Since ladder bills are so rare, people also collect “near ladder” notes. These are bills where the numbers of the serial number is in a ladder sequence, but one or two aren’t. An example of this would be 51234567 or 98765430. These notes aren’t as valuable as ladder bills, but they are still worth more than the face value of the bill to collectors.
Binary & Trinary
Binary bills are those notes which have a serial number that consist of only two numbers. An example of a binary note would be 66766676. The numbers can be in any order within the serial number, and as long as there are only two different numbers it is considered a binary note. Due to the difficulty of finding binary notes, there is also demand from collectors for bills which have three different numbers in any combination. These are referred to as trinary notes, and while they’re not as valuable as binary notes, they’ll still be worth more than their face value to collectors.
A lot of people who collect bills look for bills that have special meaning to them as individuals. One of the more popular types of bills for people to collect are what are referred to as birthday notes. These are bills which have a year written somewhere within the serial number. The year usually has some special significance to the person who wants the bill such as the year they were born, the year that they have an anniversary, or a year that takes some other type of personal event of significance to them. An example of a birthday note would be 65819770 where 1977 might be a significant year to someone. Another would be 00198500 where the year 1985 is significant. While the year can be anywhere within the serial number for it to be considered a birthday note, if the year comes at the very end of the serial number, or is preceeded or surrounded by zeros on both sides, it is usually more desirable and therefore more valuable to collectors.
An even more valuable bill for collectors and the birthday note are full date notes. These bills have serial numbers that depict a full date rather than just a year. For example, if you were born on October 22, 1967, a full date note would read 10221967. Any note that depicts a date in full that corresponds with a special event for someone will be extremely valuable to that person, and collectors can pay quite a bit to get hold of a full date note that depicts something special for them.
Currency collectors are often also interested in double notes. These are bills that have the same number pair next to each other within the serial number of the bill. The most valuable of the double notes are the ones that have four distinct pairs of numbers. These are called quad doubles. An example of a quad double serial number would be 44775511 or 99003366. While the quad doubles are the most sough after, tri doubles are also valued by collectors such as 27007711, but especially if they are framed by zeros such as 07744990.
Consecutive notes are two (or more) bills where the serial numbers are consecutive in order. An example of consecutive bills would be two bills in your hand with one having the serial number 97350342 and the other having 97350343. It’s actually quite easy to attain consecutive notes, as many banks have them if you get any bill denomination in a bundle of 100. Even with the ease of getting them, these are collectible and you can often get a bit more than face value for them in many instances. They become more of interest to collectors when they are consecutive and also possess one or more of the other traits mentioned in this article. For example, consecutive bills that are also a binary bills: 45554454 and 45554455.
Bank notes whose serial number matches well known numbers also have appeal to collectors. A classic example would be a “pi” bill that had a serial number that corresponds to the first 8 digits of the numerical value of pi: 31415927. Any string of numbers that have a special meaning to someone or some thing will likely be coveted by some collector.
While all of the above bills with serial numbers would likely find collectors willing to pay above face value for the bill, each gains a little more value if they are combinations of two or more of the above types of notes. While these are obviously more difficult to find than those that have just a single point of desire for collectors, combination notes also can be worth significantly more due to this rarity. One of many examples that exist would be a birthday/repeater combination which might look like 19771977.
The reality is that if you can find something within a bill’s serial number that makes it unique, there is probably someone out there that will pay more than its face value to add it to their collection. Basically, if you look at a serial number and say to yourself, “wow, that’s neat!” then collectors will likely feel the same way. Use the different types of bills that collectors look for mentioned above as a guide, but don’t limit yourself to them if you find an interesting serial number that isn’t mentioned above.
As with all things collectible, condition matters. The better the condition of the note, the more valuable it will be. That being said, unless the bill is extremely worn and ripped, any of the above mentioned serial numbered bills will still be worth more than their face value even if the bill has been in circulation for awhile. The goal is to find the bills in the best shape possible, but don’t be discouraged if you find one of the bills that shows a bit of wear.
If you carry cash on a regular basis, a few of these notes likely pass through your hands during the year. Much like finding coins, if you simply look at the bills you have in your wallet after reading this article and never again, you aren’t likely to find any of them. If, however, you get into the habit of checking each bill that passes through your hands, you will eventually come across some that collectors desire.
If you are willing to take your search a step further, start withdrawing money from your bank from a teller always requesting new bills. This will mean that if you do come across a bill that is collectible, it will be in better condition making it worth more. It will also give you the chance to go back to the teller and get more bills if you get one you like that the serials numbers close to it would also be valuable. If not, the crisp bills will help you save money. As mentioned previously, this can be a fun way to make a bit of extra money that doesn’t cost a cent to do since all the money that you get is still worth its face value, and there aren’t many fun hobbies that let you do that.
Where to Learn More
A good place to learn more about dollars worth more than face value is to hit the books.¬† The go-to resource in this area is the Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money – 1928-Date (Standard Catalog).¬† This resource is particularly useful for identifying which block letters and serial numbers are potentially valuable.¬† You can pick up a used copy on Amazon.com for cheap – just five or six bucks.
(Photos courtesy of CoolSerialNumbers)