The Best National Currency Price Guide
If you take five minutes and read this article about National Currency, then you can at least get a general understanding about what makes a note rare and valuable and what makes a note common and uncommon. There are five basic designs styles of National Currency. Within each design style, there are usually at least two or more varieties. When counting different denominations and design styles, there are a total of 58 types of National Currency. There isn’t one single piece that is considered extremely common, but there are a handful that are rare no matter what. Please continue reading to learn more about each type.
National Banknotes Dated 1863-1881
First Charter Notes – The first type of National Currency issued by the United States was used between 1863 and 1881. These are called first charter banknotes. You can identify them by their red seals and they will also have a charter date that is from 1881 or older. A general rule with collecting is that older isn’t always better. However, when dealing with National Currency, age sometimes does help.
Signs your First Charter Note could be rare:
- Condition – While thousands of first charter national banknotes exist, very few of them will be in uncirculated condition. Even if the note is otherwise common, being in high grade alone should make it worth a couple thousand dollars or more.
- Bank Location – Since we are talking about a time period during and shortly after the Civil War, many southern states didn’t have more than a few national banks and the same goes for western states. They were not populated enough to have many national banks. So, if you have a note from a southern state or western state, it has a much better chance to be rare than if you have a note from northern states or the Midwest.
- Denomination – Most of these early banknotes are denominated as 1, 5, or 10 dollars. 2 and 20 dollar notes are out there, and are considered somewhat scarce. 50 and 100 dollar national banknotes are very rare and are going to appeal to more than just national banknote collectors. Any collector assembling a large sized banknote collection is going to have to acquire one of these in order to complete their set. 500 and 1000 dollar banknotes were only issued for this series. Only four 500 dollar notes are thought to exist and there are currently no reported 1000 dollar national banknotes.
- Bank Rarity – Simply put, some banks issued a lot of money, and some banks issued very little. The total number of surviving banknotes known to exist is extremely important when determining a value. There are no tricks to know if yours is from a rare bank or a scarce bank, all you have to do is contact us and we can tell you. Email to WeBuyBanknotes@Gmail.com
“Mine looks different from yours, what does that mean?”
- Seal Type – There are two different types of seals that are used on this early type of national currency. The first type used a spiked seal. The second type used a more rounded seal. There is currency not a premium for one seal type over the other.
- Charter Date – Each of these national banknotes has a date that is written in cursive script. This date is unique to each bank. Some could be as early as 1863, while others could be as late as 1881. The charter date does not affect the value.
- The Series Date – Prior to 1875, there was no series year listed on national currency. Starting in 1875, all national banknotes were marked as Series of 1875. In some cases though, despite saying Series of 1875, the charter date could be as late as 1881. These are all just technical dating differences. None of that will affect the value.
- Charter Numbers – Banknotes that were issued prior to 1873 do not have a red charter number on them. All banknotes issued after 1873 do have a red charter number. This was added to make sorting them easier. It does not affect the value.
- General Differences – Of course, each banknote is going to have different serial numbers and be from different banks than the ones we are showing. So, don’t be concerned that yours is a fake just because it has some small differences from ours.
Don’t forget, check the serial number. It was not uncommon for bankers to save the first notes that they issued. These are often times passed down through the banking family or through banking officials. Serial Number one notes are considered desirable by collectors and definitely sell for premiums compared to notes with generic serial numbers.
So that is a crash course for first charter national banknotes. Some are worth as little as a few hundred dollars, many more can be worth $1000 or more, and the best of the best can sell for more than $10,000. It is definitely worth your time to send us a message and let us see what you have. Odds are we would be very interest buyers. At the very least, we can tell you what its worth.
National Banknotes Dated 1882-1901
1882 Brown backs and Blue Seals – In 1882, all of the designs for national currency were changed. The biggest change was for the $5 bill. James Garfield had been assassinated just months before, and the new $5 bill featured his image. This was the first time a political figure was featured on any piece of national currency. There were also some other changes. $500 and $1000 bills were no longer issued and production ceased on $1 and $2 national banknotes.
A few things to look for:
- Denomination – Generally speaking, $5 1882 brown backs are the most collectible from the series. They come with all different types of layouts and are generally available for most banks and states. They are certainly not the rarest, but because of their rarity and different varieties, they are popular to collect. 1882 $50 and $100 bills are definitely the scarcest for the series. The majority of these two highest denomination notes sell for a few thousand dollars each. Some that are especially rare or high grade could be worth even more. $10 and $20 notes are definitely collectible, but they would be considered slightly less desired than the previously mentioned notes. With this series it is still mostly about condition and bank of issue. Any 1882 bill has the chance to be rare and valuable, but unfortunately, it is all just on a case by case basis. So, there is no place you can go online to find out exactly what yours is worth. We would be happy to help with any and all inquiries
- “My 1882 note has a blue seal instead of a brown seal. What does that mean?” Blue seals were instituted after brown seals. They can sometimes be rare, but they are generally considered less valuable. It is a bit confusing, but in order to issue 1882 blue seals, the bank would have also had to issued 1882 brown backs. The brown backs will always be more desirable.
Red Seal Banknotes Dated 1902-1908
1902 Red Seals – 1902 Red seals are very popular with collectors. If the large red number on your note is 6100 or higher, that means that red seals were the first type of money that your bank issued. Of course, being that it is the first type of money issued, these red seals will be most desirable to collectors. As a type, red seals are not necessarily especially scarce. You can find generic examples for the $5, $10, and $20 denominations at prices starting at just $200. The good news is that there aren’t that many generic red seal notes, and most red seals have a chance to be worth $1,000 or more.
A few things to look for:
- Denomination – There is really no collector preference between $5, $10, and $20 banknotes. However $50 and $100 red seals are considered scarce.
- Serial Number – The serial number of a national banknote only adds value if it is serial number 1. There are actually lots of serial number 1 red seals saved, and there are hundreds known to exist today. It is easy to spot number 1 notes, because the number under to portraits will simply be 1.
- Condition – High-grade red seals for the lower three denominations are available. Any of those notes in uncirculated condition should be worth at least $1,500.
- There are no varieties to red seal national banknotes other than serial number and bank name differences. As with any national banknote, the signing treasury officials can be different depending on when the note was actually issued, but none of that affects the value.
All 1902 Red Seals will also have a charter date on them. This date can be anywhere between 1902 and 1908. The charter date will not affect the value. However, as the year gets higher, the total number of red seals will decrease, meaning that these notes could be scarcer than others.
Blue Seal Banknotes Dated 1902-1928
1902 Blue Seals – Tens of millions 1902 blue seals were issued by thousands of national banks. They are far and away the most common type of large sized national currency that is available today. However, that does not mean that they are always cheap or uninteresting. In dealing with blue seals, it is all about the bank rarity. Here are two quick tips to see if your note has a chance to be rare.
- First Tip – Check the number under the portrait. If this number is under 5,000 then there is a chance that you could be dealing with a bank note from a rarer bank. If the serial number is over 20,000 then you are almost certainly dealing with a more common note.
- Second Tip – Check the charter number. If the charter number is between 1 and 2,250 then you are dealing with a note from a bank that would have opened prior to 1880. Odds are, its blue seals are not especially scarce. The same would be true for charter 2,251 and 6,100. These banks would have issued 1882 notes and these earlier notes would be considered more desirable than blue seals. Banks with a charter number of 6,100-9,121 would have first issued red seals before they issued blue seals. Again, these red seals would be considered more desirable. However, if the charter number is 9,122 or higher, then the only type of large sized currency this bank would have offered is blue seals and this note could be scarce.
- Denomination and Condition – $50 and $100 blue seals are always going to be worth at least $500 and depending on the condition and bank rarity, could certainly be worth more than that. Some uncirculated blue seals will be worth as little as a few hundred dollars if they are from a very common bank, but many will be worth a good bit more than that.
- Signature Quality – There are three types of signatures used on 1902 blue seals. Those are pen signatures, stamp signatures, and missing signatures. Collectors really care a lot about signature quality. Pen signatures are definitely the main preference. Stamp signatures are okay, but only if the signatures are bright, bold, and relatively level on the signature line. The absolute worse type of signature would be the missing/faded signature. Many collectors wont even buy a blue seal if it is missing its signatures.
Series of 1929 National Banknotes
Small Sized 1929 Notes- Prior to 1928, US paper money was about 35% bigger than what we are used to seeing today. Starting in 1929, national banknotes had to be resized to fit the new size of all American currency. Generally speaking, the majority of 1929 national banknotes are fairly common. Although, as is the case with most numismatics, there is always an exception to that rule.
What to look out for:
- Sheets – 1929 national banknotes were printed with six notes per sheet. The notes were printed in Washington DC and mailed to the local banks for them to cut and distribute. Sometimes though, the sheets stayed intact and still survive in their original sheet form today. These sheets are considered collectible and are worth at least $1,200 a piece. But, sometimes, they can be worth a good bit more.
- Serial Number – Since these new banknotes were the first of their kind issued by every bank in the country, a lot of the serial number 1 notes were saved as banking souvenirs by the men who signed them. You can spot serial number 1 notes because they have five 0s and the one 1.
- Charter Number – There is a special subset of collectors who only want notes with a serial number of 14000 or higher. A fancy number like 5555 or 1234 might also be of interest to some collectors. The vast majority of the time the charter number (the black number written vertically on the note) will not affect the value.
Want To Get An Appraisal Or Offer?
The above information is great, but it doesn’t exactly tell you if you can sell your note and retire or just get a steak dinner. If you need to know exactly what your note is worth, then just send us a picture of it. We can tell you how rare it is, the book value, and recent auction results. If it is something we like then we can make an offer as well. Email to WeBuyBanknotes@Gmail.com or text to 646-398-2922.