With the rise of digital currencies, many fear that banknotes will disappear in the future. However, banknotes are worth millions of dollars in the world of collecting. Yes, the bills are worth far more than the numbers printed on them depending on their age and rarity. Here we take a look at the top 10 most expensive banknotes in the world. You’ll be surprised to see the price some bills command at auction.
The most expensive banknotes
The world’s most expensive banknotes command premium pricing from collectors even when they have misprints or other production mistakes, most likely because they were printed centuries ago and only a few of them are available today.
10- 1918 Alexander Hamilton $1,000 bill, USA
The 1918 Alexander Hamilton $1,000 bill easily sells for between $7500 and $10,000 at auction depending on the condition of the note. That’s up to ten times their printed value. There are only about 150 of them still in existence. The $5,000 and $10,000 were also issued in the same series, but $1,000 is the highest available denomination to collectors. The $5,000 and $10,000 denominations are found only in museums. What makes the 1918 Alexander Hamilton series so rare is that it features a dollar sign.
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9- 1929 Bank of New Zealand £100 bill, New Zealand
You might not know this but New Zealand had the pound system until 1967. All the bills were printed in Europe and shipped to New Zealand. That’s how it worked until the establishment of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, which started printing notes locally. The 1929 £100 bill has a portrait of Maori King Tawhiao. It also has the production date written in the top corner. The banknote was auctioned at $11,500.
8- 1368-1396 Ming Dynasty banknote, China
What makes the Ming Dynasty bill one of the most expensive banknotes in the world is its age and historical significance. The 400 cash banknote was released between 1368 and 1396 in China. It is one of the only two in large formats still in existence. When it went up for auction, the opening bid was $58,000.
7- 1948 one million pound banknote, UK
Most of the banknotes in this list fetch a much higher price at auction than their face value. But the 1948 £1 million banknote is an exception, fetching only $150,000 at an auction in 2011. The £1 million banknote is one of the only nine still in existence. If you want to buy one, there are eight of them still out there. The Bank of England released them in 1948 as part of its Marshall Plan to boost the economy.
6- 1908 20 Rupees Zanzibar banknote
The Zanzibar 1908 20 rupee banknote is the world’s most expensive African banknote in existence. It was printed over a century ago, and there are only a small number of this specimen left. It is coveted for its intricate design and rarity. This note was sold at a public auction in 2011 for $225,000.
5- 1817 Modern 10 Shilling banknote, Australia
The first banknotes in Australia were issued with the opening of the Bank of New South Wales in 1817. A hundred 10 shilling notes were printed on the first day. The first 10 shilling banknote with serial number M000001 is highly sought after in the world of collecting. The 10 shilling note with serial number M000001 commands a price of $755,000. The first ever modern banknote of Australia is one of the world’s most expensive banknotes.
4- 1924 £1,000 banknote, Australia
This is by far the most expensive Australian banknote ever sold at an auction. The £1,000 bill came out in 1924 and it was in circulation for only a short time before the government restricted it to the internal transfer of money between banks. That’s what makes it so rare. It was purchased by Australia’s The Rare Coin Company in 2008 for $1.2 million.
3- 1882 $500 Gold Certificate, USA
This is the only $500 1882 Federal Reserve gold certificate in existence, besides another specimen at the Smithsonian Institution. This banknote has a crazy history behind it. Its rarity coupled with the story of its survival makes it incredibly desirable. It was one of the first banknotes printed in the United States. It was discovered following the execution of a turn of the century banker’s will. The banker had near mint collection of banknotes, some of them dating back to the Civil War. It’s quite surprising how these bills survived more than a century in mint condition. Yes, they were stuffed at the back of a cash drawer. The 1882 $500 gold certificate was auctioned at $2.3 million!
2- 1891 Red Seal $1,000 banknote, USA
The 1891 Red Seal $1,000 treasury note was auctioned at $2.5 million in 2013. Before that, it was sold for $1,300 in 1944. There are only two surviving specimens in the world. Most people in the US haven’t seen bills larger than $100 because the $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000 banknotes were discontinued in 1945. The 1891 Red Seal $1,000 note depicts Major General George Gordon Meade, who fought in many battles during the Civil War.
1- 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Bill, USA
The famous 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 bill is by far the most expensive banknote in the world. It was auctioned at a staggering $3.3 million in 2014. It gets its funny name because the large zeros on the note were designed to look like watermelons. Issued between 1890 and 1893, it is one of the rarest banknotes in American history.