Collecting rare currency is a popular hobby and can turn into big money if you find the right item.
While collecting coins is much more popular than paper currency due to coins’ long history and extreme rarity, there is still hidden value in everyday U.S. dollar bills. In fact, a single mark on your dollar can boost its price to much more than its face value.
We’ll go over how U.S. dollar printing works, what mark to look for that could signify rarity and how to find out whether your dollar bill is rare enough to be worth something. Who knows? You might have some hidden gold in your pocket right now.
How U.S. Dollar Printing Works
U.S. dollars are printed by the Bureau of Engraving & Printing (BEP). It is the only place that official U.S. paper currency is made. Billions of U.S. notes (bills) are printed each year, with careful records kept for each production run (by month and year).
All U.S. bills come with identifying information printed on them. The 11-digit serial number on each shows when and where it was printed and gives it a unique identifier. The serial number can end with a letter as well, allowing the BEP to print more than 99,999,999 of any type of note.
There are also letter/number combinations printed on each bill to show which Federal Reserve Bank the note represents:
|B2||New York City|
|J10||Kansas City, Missouri|
Notes are redesigned for security purposes, and new runs are printed on an annual basis.
Why Do Some U.S. Dollars Have Stars?
While printing U.S. notes is a well-designed process, mistakes can happen. When there is an error during a printing run, those notes need to be discarded and replaced by new notes.
The replacement notes have a star symbol at the end of the serial number instead of a letter. This indicates that the bill is a replacement and is typically part of a limited run. These “star notes” are printed only to replace errors and thus are less common than regular printed bills.
Scarcity Plays a Factor in U.S. Dollar Bill Value
Star notes are sought by currency collectors due to their limited print runs and overall rarity. While billions of regular U.S. notes are printed on an annual basis, sometimes less than 1 million star notes are printed for a given currency run.
For currency collectors, any star note that has a print run of less than 640,000 is considered somewhat rare. In addition, the total number printed for a specific Federal Reserve Bank and the total by denomination can affect value as well. Rare serial number combinations can increase the value as well.
How To Identify a Rare Dollar Bill
Each star note print run has been tracked by denomination and year on the My Currency Collection website, allowing you to look into each to see how many of each type of star note were printed.
For example, you can review all of the star note printing runs for the $1 bill and see that there are several with 500,000 printed bills (or less) for a specific Federal Reserve Bank. These star notes would be considered collector’s items and might be worth more than their face value.
The most rare examples are print runs with less than 100,000 bills. For example, in 2017, the third star note print run in Boston had just 25,000 total bills printed, making this a very rare $1 bill to find. The serial number on the bill ranges from A06400001* to A06425001*, so if you have one of these, it’s worth far more than $1.
How Much Are Star Note Dollar Bills Worth?
Star note values can range from the bill face value to much more. The more limited the production run, the higher the value for a given bill. If the bill is authenticated by the Paper Money Guaranty (PGM), it can fetch even higher prices.
On eBay (a popular place to buy and sell star notes), many $1 examples are going for well over $100. But a majority of $1 are listed for under $5, and denominations up to $100 aren’t fetching a lot more than their face value.
The star notes that are priced the highest have extremely low serial numbers (such as 00000010), have multiple bills in sequential order or are older. But these rare bills can easily turn a $1 bill into $500 of value if you find the right buyer.
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