For serious collectors, there are a few rare and uncommon dollar bills you need to be on the lookout for. Most of you have seen a 2 dollar bill in the wild, but have you spotted a 1000 dollar bill or even a 100,000 dollar bill?
Did you even know these bills existed? Let’s look at nine rare and uncommon dollar bills, so you’ll be ready to add one to your collection.
The 2 Dollar Bill
The 2 dollar bill is the black sheep of the monetary family. Like dollar coins and half-dollars, Americans seem to ignore the fact that 2 dollar bills exist.
Dollar coins and half-dollars at least work in most vending machines, but finding a vending machine that accepts a 2 dollar note is virtually unheard of.
Because Americans universally prefer 1 and 5 dollar bills, 2s are rarely seen in circulation, and when they are, it can cause problems for the spender.
Common Misconceptions of the 2 Dollar Bill
When encountering a 2 dollar bill, many people will usually have one of two thoughts:
- It must be more valuable than 2 dollars
- It’s fake
Two instances of people being detained after trying to use 2 dollar bills include a 13-year-old girl buying her lunch at school and a dad attempting to pay for his son’s car stereo installation.
In both cases, the money holders were suspected of trying to pass off counterfeit cash.
The 2 Dollar Bill is Real, Folks
This idea that 2 dollar bills are rare or even nonexistent is a common misconception. But we assure you 2 dollar bills are quite real, and they can be worth more than face value.
There’s an informative book on the 2 dollar bill by John Bennardo called 2 Dollar Bills: America’s Forgotten Currency, which is worth a read for those interested in the 2 and why it has fallen out of favor even though it’s still in circulation.
The Beginnings of the 2 Dollar Bill
The first 2 dollar bills were printed in 1862 as large-sized Legal Tender Notes and measured 7 3/8″ x 3 1/8″. The National Bank Note Company printed the bills instead of the Federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
The 2 dollar bills originally had Alexander Hamilton’s portrait on the front instead of Thomas Jefferson’s. On the back were intricate scroll patterns and large 2’s in the corners.
Legal Tender for All Debts Public and Private
This statement appeared in the center on the back: “This note is a LEGAL TENDER for all debts public and private except duties on imports and interest on the public debt and is receivable in payment of all LOANS made to the United States.”
Because laborers made little money at the time, perhaps a dollar a day, 2 dollar bills were comparatively valuable.
At that point in history, inflation actually helped the 2-dollar bill become more widespread, as it slowly became a reasonable daily wage for a worker.
It was also the same time period as the gold certificate. From 1863 to 1933, each gold certificate was a title to the actual gold in the amount shown on the paper currency.
Changing 2 Dollar Bill
In 1875, the 2 dollar bill took on the Lazy Deuce design with a giant 2 on the front in the top right corner. In 1896, the 2 was an “educational series” as a silver certificate.
This series is considered the most beautiful money ever printed by the federal government.
For the 2, the back featured portraits of Robert Fulton, who invented the steamboat, and Samuel Morse, who created the Morse Code. The design on the front depicted the personification of Science presenting Steam and Electricity to Commerce and Manufacture.
Most Valuable $2 Silver Certificate
Two-dollar silver certificates can be worth over $1,000. More common 2-dollar silver certificates are valued from $50 to $100. They were only printed in four years, 1886, 1891, 1896, and 1899.
The most common silver certificate is the George Washington “Mini Porthole,” printed in 1899.
The 2 Dollar Bill in the 20th Century
Even though the 2 dollar bill had been in continuous production since the Civil War, after the turn of the century, it started to fall out of favor with the public in the early part of the 1900s.
Casinos thought they were bad luck, race tracks wouldn’t accept them for wagers, and inflation was making them increasingly irrelevant.
Despite these issues, the 2 would persist. A new design appeared in 1928 on the smaller-size United States note measuring 6.14″ x 2.6″.
Updated with Thomas Jefferson
The updated version featured a portrait of Thomas Jefferson in the center of the front and a red seal that started on the left side of the note but moved to the right side in 1953.
A depiction of Jefferson’s Monticello home occupied the reverse side of the bill.
Unfortunately for the 2, by this point, it had acquired a reputation as the denomination of choice for political bribes. It also saw much use for gambling at the race track, since the minimum standard bet was two dollars.
But most Americans preferred the simplicity of dividing by five when making change and preferred five 1 dollar bills or one 5 dollar bill to dealing with a 2. Even half dollars made more sense than 2 dollar bills.
When Did They Stop Making 2 Dollar Bills?
By 1966, the U.S. Treasury Department had stopped producing the 2 dollar bill. It didn’t reemerge until 1975 for the Bicentennial series in 1976.
When the 2 was reissued, the seal had changed to green to indicate that they were now Federal Reserve Notes instead of Legal Tender Notes.
While the front was largely the same as in 1966, the reverse featured an ornate depiction of John Trumbull’s famous painting of the signing of The Declaration of Independence. This version of the bill is still in circulation today.
The 2 Dollar Bill: Current Status
Federal Reserve Banks have 1.4 billion 2 dollar bills in circulation at the end of 2020. How can they be so rare that most cash registers don’t even have a slot for 2s? Several factors are at play.
First of all, other denominations of paper money are far more common. The 100 dollar bill, for example, had 16.4 billion notes in circulation as of 2020.
The Bicentennial Bills
Another problem is that when the 2 dollar bill was reissued in the 1970s, much like the quarters minted for the bicentennial celebration in 1776–1976, people hoarded them, believing they would become a collector’s item and increase in value.
Even though over a half a billion 2 dollar bicentennial bills were created, it’s lower production than other paper money. The result was relatively less 2 dollar bills would circulate.
How Much Are 2 Dollar Bills Worth?
Values are all over the place with 2 dollar bills, depending on their year and condition. One thing you can count on, though, is the earlier the 2, the more of a valuable collector’s item it is.
Well-circulated 2 dollar bills from 1862–1918 are usually worth around $100, while uncirculated examples can be worth anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars.
These larger-size bills are rare, however, and collectors must watch out for counterfeiters. Bills that are said to be old but also appear very worn could be fakes.
1928 2 Dollar Bill
Next, we arrive at the smaller, more modern 2 dollar bills. For series 1928–1952, you can expect about $60 for a circulated example and up to $100 for a crisp, uncirculated one.
For 1953–1962 examples, a circulated note should be worth about $10, and an uncirculated one worth up to $25. Circulated notes from 1963 are worth about $9, and uncirculated ones are worth $20.
For the 1976 and later bills, the value will depend on several factors, but in general, circulated examples are worth face value and uncirculated examples can be worth anywhere from $5 to $10.
These are by far the most common, and the values are the same for series 1976, 1995, 2003, 2003A, 2009, and 2013.
There’s one caveat to 2 dollar bill values: star notes. Star replacement notes were banknotes that experienced some kind of production error. Since serial numbers cannot be legally duplicated, these replacement notes get a little star next to the serial number.
Uncirculated examples from 1976 and later star notes can be worth over $100, while circulated examples might fetch $10.
Since the star note system began in 1910, there are 2 dollar paper bills that were produced back then that can also be star notes.
These are even rarer and more valuable because of combinations of specific signatures, including bills printed during the short time when Treasurer of the United States W.O. Woods and Secretary of the Treasury Ogden L. Mills were in office together.
A 1928-B star note with their signatures can be worth thousands, and up to tens of thousands, of dollars.
Uncirculated Star Notes
Because these notes are so scarce the value of one in uncirculated condition would be whatever it could fetch at auction.
Any star note from the 1928 series of 2 dollar bills is a valuable and rare find, and even the least valuable, a 1928-G star note in circulated condition, is worth at least $80.
For the left side red seal 1953 star notes, you might get $18 on the low side for a circulated 1953-C and nearly $100 for an uncirculated 1953 or 1953-C.
The 1963-A star notes with the red seal on the left side can also be worth nearly $100 in uncirculated condition, and circulated 1963 and 1963-A star notes are generally worth about $12.
If you’re looking for a 2 dollar bill that’s even rarer than a standard 2, later star notes are an excellent place to start.
Too Interesting to Ignore
The 2 dollar bill has a complicated history with the American public. Collectors and numismatists seem to have the most appreciation for this odd duck of a paper bill.
Spending a 2 dollar bill can lead to conversations, confusion, or even land the spender in trouble.
Many people think that 2 dollar bills aren’t worth dealing with, which means they usually end up in a secret stash or in the hands of collectors.
If you get your hands on some 2 dollar bills, you may want to look through them to find any particularly valuable examples, then decide if you wish to hide the rest away or trade them in at your local bank for more readily spendable cash.
The 500 Dollar Bill
The 500 dollar bill featured the 25th president of the United States, William McKinley. Most $500 bills are in the hands of collectors rather than the general public nowadays.
The printing officially stopped in 1945, then formally discontinued by the Federal Reserve Bank in 1969.
Although collectors scramble for the 500 dollar bill, and most people have never seen one in circulation, they remain legal tender.
If you find one in the wild, hang onto it. Even a 500 dollar bill in fair condition is worth 30% – 40% more than the face value.
History of the 500 Dollar Bill
The 500 dollar bill began during the Civil War when the Bureau of Engraving and Printing decided to issue the first one in 1862.
The bill featured the Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin. Another version of the 500 dollar bill followed with the face of William McKinley.
The most common 500 dollar bill was the 1934 Federal Reserve Note with William McKinley on the front. 900,000 bills from 1934 were printed, but only 75,000 are still in circulation today.
Also included on the bill were John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, DeWitt Clinton, William Learned Marcy, and Alexander Hamilton. At one point, there was a scene of Hernando de Soto discovering the Mississippi River.
How Much is a 500 Dollar Bill Worth?
A 500 dollar bill in good condition can be worth $600 – $1,500. Gold certificate $500 notes are valued in the thousands or tens of thousands.
Another desirable and rare bill was the 1928 500 dollar bill with a star symbol at the end of the serial numbers. 1928 bills in good condition with the star can be valued at over $10,000.
A popular year for the star note was 1934, and finding these notes is not difficult. Values for the 1934 star note are based mostly on condition alone.
The gold certificates from 1928 are also extremely valuable. It was the last year the Federal Reserve System issued gold certificates. There’s an 1882 version of a $500 gold certificate note from 1882. Rare bills of this kind in fine condition are valued in the hundreds of thousands.
The 1000 Dollar Bill
You might have seen a 100, and even a 500 dollar bill in the wild, but chances are, you’ve never seen a 1000 dollar bill.
There was a time when the 1,000 dollar bill was legal currency. First issued when the U.S. was still 13 colonies, the 1000 bill helped fund the Revolutionary War.
Issued from 1775 to 1779, the Continental Congress printed huge amounts of the high-denomination bills but didn’t back them with gold or silver.
It wasn’t long before the 1000-dollar bill was worth much less than face value.
Who’s On the Thousand-Dollar Bill?
But the U.S. Government would call on the $1,000 again nearly 100 years later when Civil War broke out. President Andrew Jackson was featured on the bill.
Not only did the US print the 1,000, but the Confederacy decided to also issue their own 1000 dollar bill.
The bills were reissued in 1918, featuring founding father President Alexander Hamilton, and in 1934, featuring U.S. President Grover Cleveland. Three gold certificate bills were also printed, reflecting the Federal Reserves’ gold standard, which was ended in 1933.
After the Civil War, the 1,000 dollar bill was mainly used for large transactions, such as real estate deals or transfers between banks.
President Richard Nixon ordered the 1,000 dollar bill eliminated in 1969, with the theory that criminals used the bills for illegal activity and money laundering.
The reverse of the 1000 dollar bill included a bald eagle clutching an American flag on the 1918 issue. While the 1928 and 1934 bills featured the printed words “The United States of America.”
Cost-cutting measures and lack of use by the general public forced the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to end the 1,000 dollar bill in 1945. By 1969, the Federal Reserve Bank recalled all high-denomination bills.
1000 Dollar Bill Values
1918 $1000 Bill – Worth $10,000 in good condition and can exceed $100,000 in excellent condition.
1907 $1000 Gold Certificates and 1922 $1000 Gold Certificates – Values are between $15,000 and $35,000, but may exceed $100,000 depending on condition.
1928 $1000 Gold Certificate Bill – Circulated bills are valued between $3,000 and $5,000. Bills in uncirculated condition and bills with low serial numbers can be valued at over $10,000.
1928 $1000 Federal Reserve Note – Good condition 1000 dollar bills from 1928 are worth between $3,000 and $10,000.
1934 $1000 Federal Reserve Note – Circulated note values are $2,000 – $4,000. While the star note is slightly more than that. Notes including a lime green seal are even more rare and valuable.
Most Expensive 1000 Dollar Note
An extremely rare 1890 series treasury note called “The Grand Watermelon” sold at auction for $3.3 million.
5000 Dollar Bill
Are you a collector running out of ideas for your next rare item? I have an idea for you. The 5,000 dollar bill.
Once used for large bank transfers and real estate transactions, the 5000 dollar bill is one of the rarest paper currencies in history.
Because there are only a few hundred 5000 dollar bills still around, even in poor condition, it will be worth at least $30,000.
Because the 5000 dollar bill was not used heavily, most are in fair condition or better. A note in uncirculated condition can sell for over $100,000.
Auctions sometimes feature $5,000 bills, and they are mostly from the 1928 and 1934 series. In fact, only ten 1928 5,000 dollar bills are known to exist.
The 1934 series is somewhat more common than the 1928 series. Auction sales for 5000 dollar bills in very fine condition can range around $75,000. And uncirculated condition notes will sell for more than $160,000.
Read more about uncommon and rare collectible items –
10,000 Dollar Bill
President Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury appeared on the 10,000 dollar bill. And for those unfamiliar with the Treasury Secretary from those days, he was Salmon P. Chase.
The 10000 dollar bill was the highest US currency denomination to circulate publicly. Today, there are only 350 $10,000 bills in circulation, belonging to either wealthy collectors or displayed at museums.
Again, much like the 1000 and the 5000 dollar bills, 10,000 dollar bills were mostly used for transactions between banks.
Among the rarest of the 10,000 dollar bills are the 1928 series. Only eight are known in existence. Two are in museums, and the others are dispersed among lucky collectors.
Values for the 10000 dollar bill range from $30,000 to almost $400,000. A 1934 U.S. banknote 10,000 dollar bill was sold at a Heritage Auction recently for $385,000.
100,000 Dollar Bill
The 100,000 dollar bill was never intended for public circulation. Featuring Woodrow Wilson on the front, the 100,000 dollar note was a gold certificate from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing created during the Great Depression in 1934.
The purpose of the 100,000 dollar bill was for transactions between Federal Reserve banks.
Printing lasted only about one year and was issued by the Treasurer of the U.S. to be held against gold bullion at the Department of the Treasury.
When wire transfers were invented in the 1960s, there was no need for such large paper currencies, and 42,000 examples were destroyed by the government.
Not only was the 100,000 dollar bill never intended for public circulation, but every one of the surviving bills is accounted for and in possession of the U.S. Government.
It’s illegal to privately own a 100,000 dollar bill. If you’re a collector, you cannot legally own a $100,000.
If you want a glimpse of an actual 100,000 dollar bill, an uncut sheet of 12 bills is displayed at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Smithsonian Institution, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
More Rare Dollar Bills
One of my favorite rare dollar bills is the binary dollar bill. With a one in 8,800 chance of finding one, they are not the rarest bills in the world, but they are still exciting.
The binary dollar bill features only the serial numbers one and zero. Collectors go wild for the binary bill, with values based on the pattern of the digits.
The Ladder Dollar Bill
One of the rarest dollar bills of all time is the Ladder. Only one is 95 million bills include a ladder, where the serial numbers follow the standard numerical pattern in order from one to eight. (12345678)
Collectors also consider variations of the ladder patterns valuable, such as backward numerical order, or a few zeros in front of the ladder.
Read more about amazing rare coins and bills –