Paper Money

Collecting fancy serial numbers requires good observation skills

This Series 1999 $1 Federal Reserve note has a "fancy" serial number, a string of nearly solid 5s. This note sold for $35 in an Aug. 26, 2014, Heritage Auction.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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.

The value above face for any piece of paper money comes down to condition and rarity. Unless the note is in pristine condition, and that is doubtful if you found the note in circulation, it is probably best used as pocket money, according to Mike Abramson, who specializes in “fancy” serially numbered notes.

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