• Silverpicker

Error notes: rare misprinted currency worth money

Updated: Aug 25

Everybody makes mistakes. Sometimes, those mistakes cost us. And other times…they can make us big money. So, in the spirit of human (and mechanical) fallibility, I’ve put together a list of the most valuable error bills to look out for. They ain’t pretty, but they sure pay the bills!

What are the most valuable error notes?

  1. Insufficient inking error

  2. Ink smears

  3. Cutting errors

  4. Inverted back error

  5. Double denominations

Insufficient inking error

What is it?

If you couldn’t guess, an insufficient inking error happens as a result of a malfunctioning ink fountain, leading to insufficient ink to spread over the bill.

How much is it worth?

Usually, the more visually extreme the misprint is, the more money it’s worth. For example:

This $100 bill missing around 30% of its ink commanded a hefty $1,140 price tag. Not too shabby.

Ink smear

What is it?

Essentially the opposite of the insufficient inking error, ink smears happen when too much ink is added during the production process, causing marks, patches or splotches of ink to appear on the bill.

How much is it worth?

As before, the bigger the defect, the more valuable the bill. Big ugly blotches will go for more, while a few polite marks out of place will sell for considerably less.

This “poor” $20 bill sold for an astronomical $1,380 - embrace your flaws, people!

Cutting error

What is it?

In the home stretch of the production process, mistakes still get made. Cutting errors happen when a bill is cut incorrectly, leading to some pretty weird results:

How much is it worth?

People will pay big money for these, and the more bizarre, the more they’ll pay:

Inverted back error

What is it?

Pre-1985, US banknotes had their backs inverted. But after switching to the notes we know today, some difficulties with the machinery resulted in what’s known as the inverted back error:

How much is it worth?

Quirkiness sells. This $1 bill with an inverted back error went for $1,380!

Double denomination

What is it?

The “king of errors”. The double denomination error is when one side of the bill displays one denomination, and the other side shows a different one. It’s a BIG oversight, and it’s pretty rare…

How much is it worth?

A LOT. An error this egregious and rare can have people selling for the tens of thousands.

Whatever the bill was meant to be worth, it definitely sells for more.


What is an error bill?

Put simply, any bill with a peculiarity that occurred DURING any stage of the production process - printing, alignment, etc. So, if you thought you could deface your perfectly good $5 bill with some home-made ink blots and laugh your way to the bank, think again!

Where can I buy error bills?

Wherever you buy your coins and banknotes usually. Ebay and Heritage Auctions are good options, as are trade shows and garage sales.

Another exciting new way to find great deals that you won’t see anywhere else is Whatnot. As you might expect, I spend a lot of time buying coins and precious metals online, and one of the biggest frustrations is that I can’t interact with the seller in real-time. I want to see the back of the coin before I buy it, right?

On Whatnot, sellers can hold live auctions, and buyers can ask questions and make requests in real-time. It’s a true gamechanger. In fact, I’m so excited about it that I’ll be hosting my own auction of parts of my personal collection in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

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