Find the value of your paper money


Some old – even antique-looking – paper money has come into your possession. Maybe it’s American; maybe it’s from another country; maybe it’s from another century. It’s bound to be worth something – after all, it’s money. But what’s it worth? Does the fact that it’s old, and printed with intricate, colorful images, make a difference? Our Savvy Specialists can tell you just what that bill or note could actually purchase.


Paper is pretty fragile stuff, especially if it’s decades old. It is best to store notes and bills flat in protective, clear, currency holders or albums that are acid and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) free – Mylar is the plastic of choice – and to keep them in an area of relatively uniform temperature and humidity, out of direct sunlight or fluorescent light.

Avoid such light when examining or showing the money, too. Many collectors use soft cotton gloves or a pair of tweezers when handling their notes or bills. This protects their surfaces from fingerprints, dirt and natural oils in fingers or palms. If a bill’s dirty or marked-up, don't attempt to "clean" it or use an eraser on it. Also, don't try to repair any tears with cellophane tape; that’ll decrease the value.

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Collectible paper money falls into two categories: that which is still legal tender – that is, it’s still good to buy things with – and that which no longer is, either because it’s been issued by an entity that no longer exists or is no longer recognized, or because it has been withdrawn from circulation. Money in the latter category can be as old as a paper note issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690, or as recent as Great Britain’s cotton-paper £5 note, which was officially replaced by a new polymer version in May, 2017. Money in the former category has a valid face value, and will – no matter what its age – be worth that nominal amount, at the least. But of course it could be worth more.

To take U.S. currency: On February 25, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the National Banking Act, which established the federal dollar as the sole currency of the United States (for America’s first 70 years, private entities, and not the federal government, issued paper money). The resulting United States Notes (issued from 1863 to 1971) and National Bank Notes (issued from 1863 to 1935) are still legal tender today! But collectors often pay a big premium for them because they are very rare. An 1863 bank note for $100 is worth in excess of $10,000, even in heavily circulated condition, for example.

When evaluating currency notes or bills, currency dealers and collectors consider condition, series date, denomination, production totals and length of circulation period (all of which indicates rarity). Age does not always make paper money valuable, though it is usually a factor: If an earlier series had a bigger production run than a later one, there may be far more older specimens that survive. In fact, some Confederate States of America notes from the Civil War era cost much less than some large-size U.S. notes from the early 1900s.

Demand is also a major factor. Some types of paper money, such as large-denomination late 19th-century Silver Certificates, are especially popular, partly because they are some of the most beautiful bank notes ever produced by the U.S. government. Also prized are limited-edition series, like the greenbacks designed to be used in certain geographical locations during World War II. They were specially marked so they could easily be declared worthless if large quantities were captured by enemy forces.

Collectors also love error notes, paper money that somehow managed to make it into circulation despite the obvious printing mistakes displayed on their faces (fronts) and backs. In general, the more dramatic and glaring the error, the more valuable it is. In some cases, even vintage counterfeit notes can be highly collectible, too. Case in point: the fake Confederate money printed by Northerners during the Civil War to devalue and undermine the Southern states’ currency.

Finally, in terms of condition: the more pristine and less worn the better. For that reason, a never-circulated bill may be worth many times more than a circulated one of the same series and denomination; and uncirculated notes always increase in value faster than ones that have seen heavy use.


Once we've identified the age, nature, circulation and condition of your paper money, our Savvy Specialists complete a Quick Appraisal which includes research, stories and special features about it. We can also tell you more about the specific bill or note, including a valuation analysis that includes what similar articles have sold for.


StuffSavvy can match you with Online Partners to get you the most value for the paper money you'd like to sell. This is a good option once you know the value you want to sell the item for.


StuffSavvy can also match you with Local Consignment Shops and Auction Houses. This is the best option if you want to work with additional Specialists to maximize the resale value of your paper money.