Collecting valuable 'fancy' serial numbered paper notes requires good observation skills

Readers Ask column from the Nov. 10, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 10/25/14
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I found a $20 bill that has sequential serial numbers 66 77 88 99.

Is this bill worth more than $20?

Rick Laughridge  /  from Facebook

First thing — good eye!

Not everyone even notices serial numbers on Federal Reserve notes, so that’s an advantage to being a collector.

Serial numbers are in two places on all Federal Reserve notes, and on a note, the same eight-digit sequence should appear in both places.

What you have falls into the category of what collectors refer to as “fancy” notes and, more specifically, it is a “repeater” note. This serial number repeats digits in pairs.

Fancy notes feature rare and interesting arrangements of serial numbers:

  • Solid serial numbers.
  • Repeating digits, like 77755588.
  • Low serial numbers, 2 through 100.
  • Numbers reading the same forward as backward, or “radar” notes.
  • Full or partial “ladder” notes, with serial numbers like 12345678 or 87654321.

The Series 1924E $1 Federal Reserve note illustrating this column is an example of what collectors call a “fancy” serial number. It sold for $35 in an Aug. 26, 2014, Heritage Auction.

The note also happens to be a replacement or “star” note because a star symbol is in place of the letter at the end of the serial number. 

Star notes are from sheets of replacement notes that are prepared for when a printing error or damage is discovered on a sheet during inspection at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Star notes are more scarce than normal notes because they are printed in smaller quantities than regular notes.

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