Money has a long history — one filled with stories, details and facts that are not necessarily presented on the surface when we use it to buy goods and purchase services. There are a lot of coins still in circulation that are valuable beyond what they originally were when they came out of the mint. The same is true for bills that are still floating around currently.
While lots of collectors are on the hunt for these bills of currency, there is the possibility that you come across them in your everyday transactions. If you do, make sure you know what to look for and how to assess if it’s the real deal.
“Remember, the value of these bills can vary significantly based on factors like condition and rarity,” cautioned James Smith, the founder of Travel-Lingual, a platform for learning about different cultures and currencies worldwide. “Always consult with a reputable currency appraiser or collector for an accurate assessment.”
Here are the five most valuable American paper bills still in circulation today.
The 1861 $1,000 Bill
The $1,000 bill holds the record for being the largest denomination ever printed for public consumption. It is valued in the range of $1,500 to $2,500, depending on what condition it shows up in when you find it.
First issued in 1861 by the U.S. government, this bill was added as one of the initial banknotes used by the Confederate States of America. You will recognize it due to the large portrait of President Grover Cleveland printed on one side.
The 1928 $500 Bill
While it was introduced in 1928, the last $500 bill to hit the American money circulation circle happened in 1945. It features a portrait of President William McKinley.
Depending on its condition, it is worth between $1,000 to $1,500. This $500 bill was officially and formally discontinued 24 years after its introduction, in 1969.
The 1950 $100 Bill
Of all the bills that are valuable and still in circulation, the 1950 $100 is the most commonly used bill today. It’s rare in that it features a detailed portrait of Benjamin Franklin. If you can find it in a fairly solid condition, this $100 is worth around $120 to $150 in today’s dollars.
The 1862 $50 Bill
This valuable piece of printed money displays a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant. It was first issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States for print in 1862. These initial bills were referred to as “large size legal tender bills.” Today, one of these can fetch a price of $80 to $100, depending on its condition.
The 1933-34 $10 Bill
These are rare finds are known as a “United States Series 1933 $10 denomination Silver Certificate.” The key clue for authentication is to find a blue seal and serial numbers. These bills are still pretty easy to find and commonplace, meaning they are often only worth $10, which is what they were valued originally when authorized for use in 1934.
“Rather than being sent to the 12 Federal Reserve Banks nationwide to be issued into commerce channels, they were only issued out of the Treasury Cash Room in Washington, D.C., and for only eight months in 1934,” explained Professional Numismatists Guild Board of Directors member Dustin Johnston, vice president of Heritage Auctions.
If you analyze these specific $10 bills closely, you’ll find a variation in the different seals that makes them stand out. Light green seals (LGS) are typically worth more money than their counterpart of the darker blue-green seals. Found in the best conditions possible, the 1934 series $10 bills with the light green seals are typically worth between $20-$35.
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