Discover the Most Valuable Paper Currency from the U.S.

Most Valuable Paper Currency

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Collecting paper currency is more than just a hobby; it’s a dive into history and rarity. The value of collectible bills depends largely on their rarity and condition, with superb gem crisp uncirculated notes being the most coveted. Imagine holding a piece of history that could be worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Confederate currency, for instance, holds significant value, especially if you have rare issues like the 1861 Montgomery notes. Even contemporary counterfeits from that era can fetch a pretty penny, ranging from $10 to $100 or more. With over 22,000 requests for the examination of mutilated currency each year worth over $35 million, it’s clear that the allure of valuable paper money captivates many. Whether you’re an experienced collector or just starting out, knowing which notes to look for can turn your collection into a treasure trove.

What Makes Paper Currency Valuable

Several factors determine the value of paper currency. Understanding these elements helps you identify which notes in your collection might hold significant worth.


Rare paper currency holds substantial value. Limited edition or hard-to-find notes, like the 1934 series, are more valuable due to their scarcity. Collectors pay a premium for rare notes, significantly increasing their market value.


The condition of the note directly affects its value. Uncirculated notes fetch higher prices compared to circulated ones. Notes in excellent condition are more sought after than those in poor condition. The pristine condition can increase a note’s worth several times over its face value.

Historical Significance

Notes with historical importance attract high interest from collectors. For example, the 1862 Legal Tender $1 note holds significant historical value, making it highly prized. Historical context adds intrinsic value to these notes.

Series and Edition

Certain series and editions, like the 1928 series, gain higher value due to age and rarity. Specific editions capture moments in history and their attributes can dramatically increase value.


Higher denomination notes are generally more valuable. Issues like the $500 and $1,000 Federal Reserve Notes are prized among collectors. Denomination contributes to scarcity, thereby impacting the note’s value.

By focusing on these factors, your collection of US paper currency will become more valuable and have greater potential for future appreciation.

USA 1882 $100 Gold Certificate

The 1882 $100 Gold Certificate is a valuable piece of rare paper currency. First issued in the 1882 series, this note holds historical and monetary significance. The 1882 series introduced Gold Certificates into circulation, encompassing denominations ranging from $20 to $10,000.

Gold Certificates were a unique type of US paper currency issued as part of the United States’ efforts to back currency with gold. Collectors seek these notes due to their limited availability and historical value. The rarity of the $100 denomination from this series makes it particularly desirable.

The value fluctuates based on the note’s condition and scarcity. For example, a $20 Gold Certificate from 1882 might be worth between $475 and $900,000. Similarly, a $100 Gold Certificate in Very Fine condition commands a significantly higher price than one in Very Good condition. A PCGS Very Fine 35 $1000 1882 Gold Certificate is known to be quite valuable.

Collectors of US paper currency are drawn to the 1882 $100 Gold Certificate for its rarity and historical depth. It’s a prime example of how condition, series, and denomination affect the value of rare paper currency.

USA 1928 $50 Gold Certificate

The 1928 $50 Gold Certificate is one of the most valuable pieces of US paper currency. This rare paper currency is highly coveted by collectors due to its rarity and historical significance.


Issued in 1928, these $50 Gold Certificates are among the rarest notes. Fewer notes survived President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Gold Reserve Act of 1933, which recalled and destroyed most Gold Certificates. This scarcity significantly raises their value.

Historical Significance

These notes hold immense historical value. Issued before the 1933 Gold Reserve Act, they represent a unique period in US monetary history. The act led to the destruction of countless notes, making the surviving ones highly prized among collectors.


The design of the 1928 $50 Gold Certificate adds to its appeal. It features a gold-colored seal and serial numbers, enhancing its aesthetic value. These design elements set it apart from other notes in the series.


Collector interest in these notes is highly influenced by their rarity and historical context. The combination of rarity, unique design, and historical importance makes these notes some of the collector community’s most sought-after pieces of US paper currency.

The 1928 $50 Gold Certificate exemplifies how elements like rarity, historical context, and design contribute to the value of rare paper currency.

USA 1890 $100 Treasury Note

The USA 1890 $100 Treasury Note, also known as the “Watermelon Note,” is the most valuable paper currency in the United States. Its extreme rarity and unique design make it a highly sought-after item among collectors of rare paper currency. Only 35 examples of this note are known to exist, making it one of the rarest pieces of US paper currency.


With just 35 known examples, the 1890 $100 Treasury Note exemplifies rarity in the realm of paper currency. Due to its scarcity, collectors often compete fiercely to add this note to their collections.


The note’s design sets it apart with its distinctive round, plump zeroes on the back, which resemble watermelons, hence the nickname “Watermelon Note.” This unusual design feature has contributed significantly to its allure and desirability.

Grading and Value

Condition plays a crucial role in determining the value of this rare paper currency. Notably, examples graded as Extremely Fine 45 by PCGS Currency have fetched substantial amounts at auctions:

    • $253,000 in 2007
    • $201,250 in 2011

A Choice Uncirculated 63 example even set a record by selling for $372,000 in 2020. These high values underscore the importance of condition when appraising collectible paper currency.

Grade Sale Price Year
Extremely Fine 45 $253,000 2007
Extremely Fine 45 $201,250 2011
Choice Uncirculated 63 $372,000 2020


The provenance of the 1890 $100 Treasury Note also influences its value. Notes previously owned by notable collectors like William A. Philpott and Bob Medlar tend to command higher prices. The documented history of ownership adds a layer of interest and authenticity, further elevating the note’s worth among rare paper currency collectors.

USA 1891 Red Seal $1,000 Treasury Note

The USA 1891 Red Seal $1,000 Treasury Note, also known as the “Grand Watermelon,” is one of the most valuable pieces of US paper currency. Due to its rarity and historical significance, this note is highly coveted.


Only seven examples of the 1891 Red Seal $1,000 Treasury Note exist. This extreme rarity significantly contributes to its high value among collectors of rare paper currency.


The note features General George Meade’s portrait on the obverse and an ornate, simplified reverse design compared to the 1890 series. This design was intended to make counterfeiting more difficult.

Auction History

One example of the USA 1891 Red Seal $1,000 Treasury Note set a world record price for paper currency, selling for $3,290,000 at auction in 2014. Another note sold for $2,585,000 in 2013, setting a record at the time.

Value Range

The value of the 1891 Red Seal $1,000 Treasury Note can vary from $2,255,000 to $3,290,000, depending on condition and provenance. This wide range reflects its desirability and significance in the realm of US paper currency collection.

USA 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Treasury Note

The Most Valuable Paper Currency

The USA 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Treasury Note is the pinnacle of rare US paper currency. Only 16,000 of these notes were printed, with two known examples available to collectors today. This extreme rarity makes it highly coveted in the collector community.

Design and Rarity

This note features a portrait of Union General George Meade on the obverse. Large green zeroes on the reverse resemble watermelons, hence the nickname “Grand Watermelon”. The unique design contributes significantly to its value and appeal among rare paper currency enthusiasts.

Auction History

In 2014, one of these notes fetched $3,290,000 at a Heritage Auctions event, setting a world record for the most valuable piece of currency. This high auction price underscores its status as the most valuable US paper currency.

Provenance and Grading

The Grand Watermelon Note has been part of impressive collections, including those of F.C.C. Boyd, James Wade, Robert Friedberg, Amon Carter Jr., Q. David Bowers, and Joel R. Anderson. The finest known example is graded PCGS About Uncirculated 50, further enhancing its desirability and market value.

This extraordinary combination of rarity, unique design, historical significance, and impeccable provenance cements the USA 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Treasury Note’s reputation as a cornerstone of rare US paper currency.

Start your Paper Currency Collection

Diving into the rare paper currency world can be exciting and rewarding. By understanding the factors that influence a note’s value, such as rarity, design, historical significance, and provenance. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, there’s always something new to learn and discover. Keep an eye on auctions and reputable dealers to find those hidden gems that could one day become the next Grand Watermelon. Happy collecting!

About Altier Rare Coins

Located in South Florida, Altier Rare Coins has over a decade of experience in buying and selling precious metals, rare coins, currency, jewelry, watches and more!