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Most Valuable Old Money

The value of any antique money is directly related to three factors.  Those three factors are:

-Popularity 
-Rarity
-Condition

There are other qualifiers further down the line such as serial number and provenance that can make different types of currency more valuable than each other.  However, the above three qualities determine the value of 99% of collectible paper money.

Popularity – Popularity is the simple word for demand and strength of the collector base.  The most popular type of old money is known as large size type.  That is a collector term for any federally issued money printed between 1861 and 1923.  Paper money collecting really didn’t have a reference book until the 1950s.  The early reference books didn’t focus on modern issues.  They really just dealt with “large size type” so for the better part of 60 years people have focused on early federal issues.  Therefore, all things equal, a large size type note is worth the most amount of money in today’s market.  National bank notes and small size are likely next in line in terms of popularity.

Rarity – Rarity is a very specific term.  It is simply the number of notes known to exist.  For example, an 1899 $1 silver certificate is one of thousands.  A national bank note from Carson City, NV is unique; it is one of one.  Needless to say, the one of one item is worth much more than the one of thousands.  Some people take rarity too far.  If you have to use four different qualifiers to make something rare, then it probably isn’t that important.  Currency that is truly rare will stand alone without explanation.

Condition – Anyone who deals with antiques or collectibles knows that condition is extremely important.  The one exception to that rule applies to unique or semi-unique items.  You can’t be picky when dealing with currency that is only available every other decade.  However, if something is readily available (like an 1899 $1 silver certificate) then there will be a huge gap between pricing of the same items based on their condition.  One note is poor condition might sell for $20.  The same note in perfect condition could be worth $1,000.

We don’t have enough room to give specific examples here.  However, the following are qualities that help make the different types of paper money valuable:

Cream of the Crop
Large Size Type – Denominations of $500 or higher.  Any demand note.  Star notes in gem uncirculated condition.  Most notes printed before 1880 in gem uncirculated condition.
National Bank Notes – Anything unique.  Serial number one notes from rare banks.  First charter notes from rare states.  Most notes higher than $20 in denomination that were also printed before 1900.
Small Size Type – $5,000 & $10,000 notes.  1928 $500 and $1000 star notes.  1933 $10 silver certificate.  1934 $10 North Africa silver certificate.

Valuable and Popular
Large Size Type – Anything in gem uncirculated condition printed before 1900.  High grade examples of popular nickname notes like bisons, chiefs, battleships, portholes, and poker chips.
National Bank Notes – First Charters, Brown Backs, Red Seals, and Blue Seals from popular and or scarce locations.  Almost all serial number one notes.  Almost all uncut sheets.
Small Size Type – $500, $1000, and emergency issue star notes.  Anything printed before 1935 that grades a 68 or higher.

Available and Cheap
Large Size Type – Most notes from 1899, 1907, 1914, 1917, and 1923 are fairly common.  There are some rare exceptions.  Low grade notes with problems like tears and staining are very cheap in this market.
National Bank Notes – Most 1902 blue seals and 1929 small size notes.  Everything else has a decent shot to be valuable.
Small Size Type – Most $1 silver certificates, most $2 red seals, most $5 red and blue seals, most $10 blue seals.  Most anything with a green seal and certainly everything printed after 1950.

If you have made it this far and have a question about your currency, then please reach out to us via email and see if we can help.  Even if we aren’t interested buyers, we can always answer questions or point you in the right direction.