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Top 10 Most Valuable Paper Money Bills

The most expensive note to sell in auction is the 1890 $1,000 Treasury Note, aka “Grand Watermelon,” which sold in auction in 2014 for $3,290,000. (read more)

Top 10 most valuable paper money bills

It’s not uncommon in today’s market for some old paper money bills to easily fetch six to seven figures of value.

Who would have ever thought a literal piece of paper could be worth more than some of the nicest homes in the country?

It may be beneficial to look through this list we compiled to see if you have any of these extremely rare bankotes.

#1. 1890 Treasury Note $1,000 “Grand Watermelon” Bill Estimated Value: $3,290,000

1890 Treasury Note $1,000 Grand Watermelon

Considered the holy grail by collectors, enter the 1890 $1,000 “Grand Watermelon” U.S. Treasury note. The nickname comes from its uniquely printed back, which the “zeros” in the denomination resemble watermelons.

Regardless of the bills condition, if you have one of these notes and its genuine, you have something that is worth at least $1,000,000.

#2. 1863 Gold Certificate $100 Bill Estimated Value: $2,115,000

1863 Gold Certificate $100

When it comes to Gold Certificates, this $100 bill easily takes the crown. Only 3 known examples have survived, 2 of the 3 are stored away deep in the Smithsonian Institution. Chances are if you have one of these bills, it is likely a counterfeit.

When it comes to Gold Certificate bills, typically the higher the denomination, the harder it will be to find and the more money it will bring in auction.

I’ve handled hundreds of thousands of banknotes during my life, this is one of the few bills I haven’t had the opportunity to handle. 

#3. 1890 Treasury Note $1,000 Brown Seal “Grand Watermelon” Bill Estimated Value: $2,000,000

1890 Treasury Note $1,000 Brown Seal Grand Watermelon

Look familiar? That’s because its nearly the identical bill as #1 on our list.

If you compare this bill to #1, you’ll notice the main difference is the seal color and size on the right hand size of the bill. This difference is due to the bills being different varieites. When it comes to a note as rare as this, the variety doesn’t play much of a factor when it comes to value.

The 1890 $1,000 bill is hands-down the most valuable bill to ever sell in auction. If you’re lucky enough to ever stumble upon a bill like this, its important to contact an expert who can help guide you through the process of selling the bill.

#4. 1869 Legal Tender $1,000 Rainbow Bill Estimated Value: $1,500,000

1869 $1000 Legal Tender Rainbow Value

Most people don’t realize these high denomination $1,000 bills were ever printed for the United States.

Fact: the $500 and $1,000 dollar bills were printed up until 1934 where they were discontinued due to illegal activities. 

This bill gets its nickname from its beautiful colors seen on the right hand side of the bill.

Featured at the center of the note is a portrait of DeWitt Clinton, to the left is Columbus in His Study. This bill is a dream note for many collectors, considering the seven-figure price tag.

#5. 1869 Legal Tender $500 Rainbow Bill Estimated Value: $1,450,000

1869 $500 Legal Tender Rainbow Value

The example above is in poor condition, but if it were better, it easily makes rank 5 of our top 10 most valuable banknotes. Like the $1,000, this is also a high denomination Rainbow note from 1869.

Picture on the left of the note is an allegorical figure, and the portrait to the right is President John Quincy Adams.

A very small amount of these notes were printed: 89,360. Of that number, there are only three known in existance today, making it one of the scarcest and most valuable banknotes.

#6. 1882 Gold Certificate $500 Bill Estimated Value: $1,400,000

1882 Gold Certificate $500

One of the hardest Gold Certificate notes to get your hands on. Everyone who’s sent us pictures, saying they have a genuine 1882 $500 bill has been dissapointed when we tell them their bill is fake. Please do not contact us if you have this bill for sale as we can tell you right now, it’s not genuine.

What makes this note so unique is its one of two known to exist, the other one being permanently locked up in the Federal Reserves collection.

#7. 1861 Interest Bearing $50 Bill Estimated Value: $1,000,000

1861 $50 Interest Bearing Treasury Note

It’s important to keep in mind the Civil War had just begun when they started printing these Interest Bearing notes. Not everyone had the luxury of having $50 during this time period. Remember: $50 back then was a lot of money.

You can see the condition of this note is in lower grade, meaning if you had one in great condition it would be worth a lot more than the estimated $1,000,000.

#8. 1880 Silver Certificate $1,000 Bill Estimated Value: $980,000

1880 $1000 Silver Certificate Value

Silver certificates were once fully redeemable for their face value, meaning in the early 1900s you could take this $1,000 and exchange it for equal value of silver. 

For this signature combination, Bruce & Wyman, only 8,000 bills were printed, of which there are 5 known survivors making this one of the rarest bills today.

#9. 1863 Legal Tender $1,000 Bill Estimated Value: $950,000

1863 $1000 Legal Tender Value

The 1863 $1,000 Legal Tender bill are extremely rare, with only 4 examples known to exist, 2 of them are in private hands. The design of this bill is beautiful, and considering how old it is makes you question how something like this still exists.

We’ve been lucky to handle some of the worlds most valuable currency. If you’re interested in getting an estimated value of your currency, feel free to contact us today, no obligations.

#10. 1882 Gold Certificate $1,000 Bill Estimated Value: $900,000

1882 Gold Certificate $1,000

Only 4 of these notes are known to exist, 2 are in private hands, and the other 2 are locked away in private institutions making this note an extreme rarity.

If you notice from the picture, the upper right corner of the bill is some dirt. This typically what dealers and collectors call “teller wear” meaning when bank tellers were counting bills, the dirt from their fingers would transfer to the bill.

Aside that, these notes are beautiful. Combine that with the fact there are only a few survivors makes this an incredible note to handle and own.


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