Look inside your wallet. The 20 dollar bill is one of the most common bills Americans use. But where did they originate? How have they changed over the years? Which ones are valuable? Below, I have listed the top 10 most valuable 20 dollar bills.
Table of Contents
10 Most Valuable and Rare 20 Dollar Bills
Fr. 11a $20 1861 Demand Note
PMG Choice Fine 15
Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate
PMG Choice Fine 15
Fr. 2084-H $20 1996 Federal Reserve Note
PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ
Fr. 1166b $20 1863 Gold Certificate
PCGS Very Fine 30
Fr. 1179 $20 1905 Gold Certificate Gem New
$20 1875 Fr. 1157 The First National Gold Bank of Petaluma
PMG Choice Extremely Fine 45
Fr. 306b $20 1878 Silver Certificate Extremely Fine
Fr. 822a $20 1915 Federal Reserve Bank Note
PMG Extremely Fine 40
Fr. 375a $20 1891 Treasury Note
Fr. 952b $20 1914 Red Seal Federal Reserve Note
PMG Extremely Fine 40
1. Fr. 11a $20 1861 Demand Note $411,000
Grade: PMG Choice Fine 15
Alright! Here, we start with the most valuable, the crème de la crème of the batch… drumroll… the Fr. 11a $20 1861 Demand Note! Unique for the inclusion of the words “for the” after the signatures of the Treasury clerks, this note is the only existing Fr. 11a $20 1861 Demand Note with this detail, skyrocketing its value.
1861 20 dollar bills as a whole are worth quite a lot compared to other years, such as the 1860 or 1865 20 dollar bills, mainly due to the outbreak of the Civil War that same year with its consequent printing of confederate bills. Even the Union government issued the first issue of paper money since the Continentals, significantly increasing the number of 20 dollar bills issued in 1861. According to eBay, 1861 20 dollar bills, depending on condition, can range from under $100 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
1861 20 dollar bills typically feature the Goddess of Liberty with a shield and sword on the front and a green abstract image on the back of the bill.
3. Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate $396,000
Grade: PMG Choice Fine 15
Originally only known as an illustration in the Krause-Lemke reference, this specimen of the Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate only appeared in auctions after the early 2010s. Different from most 1882 Gold Certificates, this 20 dollar bill was not only printed with the Bruce-Gilfillan signature but also countersigned by the treasurer of New York, Thomas C. Acton. Only 14,000 such notes were issued before the plates were altered from a countersignature to an engraved signature from Acton.
Since the first issue of a particular series in currency is that of the lowest denomination, and this 20 dollar bill is the Serial Number One, this bill likely was the first of the 1882 Gold Certificates ever issued. Unique, isn’t it? Furthermore, only one other specimen of the Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate bill, which has not appeared in auctions yet, remains in existence, making this specimen the only specimen in auctions.
Unlike 20 dollar bills issued in 1861, 20 dollar bills from 1882 are few because in 1882, for every 3 ten dollar bills, only one 20 dollar bill was issued by the national bank. Depending on rarity and preservation condition, 1882 20 dollar bills can range from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, the latter of which is exemplified by the Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate bill introduced above. 1882 20 dollar bills typically picture Andrew Garfield in the front and a soaring bald eagle in the back of the bill.
3. Fr. 2084-H $20 1996 Federal Reserve Note $396,000
Grade: PMG Choice Uncirculated G4 EPQ
Sold little over a year ago on January 22, 2021, and printed in 1996, extremely late in comparison to the Fr. 11a $20 1861 Demand Note and the Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate, this Fr. 2084-H $20 1996 Federal Reserve Note with Obstructed Printing Error with Retained Obstruction is, bluntly, modern. How could such a recent bill be worth $396,000? Why, it’s almost as new as the 20 dollar bills sitting in our wallets right now.
The answer is simple- this specimen has an obstruction called the “Del Monte Note,” in which a banana sticker was printed over the words “Del Monte Ecuador.” The sticker had been printed in the third printing at the Fort Worth Currency Facility and makes this specimen a treasure. It’s possible that the creation of this specimen was not an accident and simply due to a BEP employee’s boredom.
Somehow passing through the Federal Reserve, this specimen was released into circulation and obtained by a college student in Ohio in 2004 at an ATM. Initially sold by the student on eBay for $10,000, this specimen then was sold to Heritage Auctions in 2006 for $25,000 and finally sold early last year for a whopping $360,000.
Approximately 6 billion 20 dollar bills were printed in 1996, substantially more than in 1861 or 1882. Unlike 20 dollar bills issued in the 1800s, 1996 20 dollar bills typically cannot fetch any more than 50$, with most worth anywhere from 20$ to 50$. The Fr. 2084-H $20 1996 Federal Reserve Note explained above is a rare, valuable exception. These 1996 bills typically picture Andrew Jackson on the front and an image of the White House on the back of the bill.
4. Fr. 1166b $20 1863 Gold Certificate $352,000
Grade: PCGS Very Fine 30
Moving back to the 1800s, this Fr. 1166b $20 1863 Gold Certificate was issued with the intention to bring stability to paper currency and interbank trading during the tumultuous Civil War era in which paper money rose and fell with the victories and defeats of the Confederates or the Union, depending on which party the bills belonged to. Since the Fr. 1166b $20 1863 Gold Certificates (of the Union) were “backed by gold on deposit with the Treasury,” they were more stable and less likely to become valueless like other paper money during those troubling times. 48,000 Fr. 1166b $20 1863 Gold Certificates were issued for this purpose.
This specimen is one of four notes that possess the engraved signature of the Assistant Treasurer, H.H. VanDyck, at the bottom of the note. To make this note even rarer, two of those four notes were canceled and remain forever at the Bureau of Public Debt and the Smithsonian. First offered by the currency dealer Dean Oakes in the 1980s, before many of us were born, the note was last offered to collectors in 1990 and has only been sold privately once since.
Different from 1861 20 dollar bills, the 1863 20 dollar bills pictured a beautiful vignette of an Eagle on the front and multiple abstract designs as well as an image of a 20 dollar gold coin on the back of the bill. Compared to other 1800 20 dollar bills, 20 dollar bills in 1863 are much rarer with lower mintage levels and range from a thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
5. Fr. 1179 $20 1905 Gold Certificate Gem New $241,000
Nicknamed Technicolor, this Fr. 1179 $20 1905 Gold Certificate Gem New bill boasts of particularly vibrant, brilliant colors that are incredibly pleasing to the eye. Possibly the most aesthetically pleasing note ever issued by the United States government, this note possesses flawless paper surfaces, deep embossing, and beautiful lathe work with a rich yellow expanse surrounding an image of George Washington, according to Heritage Auctions. The number 20 is printed in gold above the portrait and the words “In Gold Coin” below.
Personally, this 20 dollar bill is my favorite, beautiful with rich autumn brown coloring on the back and elaborate designs of floral wreathing the number 20 and the logo of the bald eagle. Originating in the March 1945 sale of the Grinnell Connection, this specimen then made its way to the possession of a collector called Bill Donlon and then to the May 18, 2001 Heritage Auction sale until it finally sold for $241,000 on February 19, 2005, 17 years ago.
20 dollar bills printed in 1905 were the last 20 dollar bills printed with background color, making 20 dollar bills from this year especially valuable compared to bills from later years. 1905 20 dollar bills are usually worth 1,200 dollars in good condition, 4,000 dollars in fine condition, and 10,000 in very fine condition, according to Silver Recyclers. Bills with the right mixture of condition, serial number, and rarity can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars.
6. $20 1875 Fr. 1157 The First National Gold Bank of Petaluma $204,000
Grade: PMG Choice Extremely Fine 45
Often considered the finest 20 dollar national gold bank note in existence, the $20 1875 Fr. 1157 The First National Gold Bank of Petaluma note of the Mike Coltrane Collection is in perfect condition and possesses a regal pedigree dated to 1953. This specimen is one of only two Series 1875 $20 National Gold Bank Notes.
Different from most designs, this specimen was printed on gold-tinted paper rather than the usual blank paper and possesses a stark black engraved printing. Pictured on the front is a magnificent illustration of the Battle of the Lexingtonfrom the American Revolution. The back of the bill pictures incredibly realistic coins stacked above each other.
1875 20 dollar bills, having a larger mintage than those from other years, as shown above, are not as rare but possibly even more valuable due to their aesthetic appeal. Thus, average 1875 20 dollar bills fetch anywhere from 300 dollars to 12,000 dollars, with a few outliers valuing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
7. Fr. 306b $20 1878 Silver Certificate Extremely Fine $175,000
So far, we’ve heard of Gold Certificates and Demand Notes and Federal Reserve Notes, but what about Silver Certificates? The Fr. 306b $20 1878 Silver Certificate Extremely Fine is believed to be the very first Silver Certificate ever created. With only two examples possessing the elusive Friedberg number, this specimen boasts of serial number 1 status and is one of the few rare notes with the third hand-signed signature of the Treasurer of the United States of America A. U. Wyman, who served from 1876 to 1877 and from 1883 to 1885.
Well margined, the note maintains strong coloring with blue anti-counterfeiting stain and the USUSUS watermark. Sold on May 7, 2005, a decade and a half ago, for 175,000 dollars, this note previously auctioned for $132,000 during the lowest point of the market for paper notes, a feat in itself. Undoubtedly, if this specimen were to appear again in auction today, it would reach values never before.
Unlike 20 dollar bills from previous years, 20 dollar bills hailing from 1878 are silver certificates portraying James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, on the front and a bald eagle on the back of the bill. 1878 20 dollar bills typically range in value from 300 dollars to 10 thousand dollarswith, again, a well preserved few marketing for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
8. Fr. 882a $20 1915 Federal Reserve Bank Note $161,000
Grade: PMG Extremely Fine 40
This specimen is the “secret” second example of the Fr. 882a $20 1915 Federal Reserve Bank Note that has not had even a whisper of its existence spoken until the Thompson Collection was sold by Stack’s Bowers in 1997. Originally hailing from the William A. Philpott Collection, this note then entered the possession of West Virginian collector Jim Thompson until it was bought by Heritage Auctions and sold on April 18, 2008.
This particular note was incredibly valuable to collectors attempting to put together a full collection of the Federal Reserve Bank Note Series, impossible until this last note appeared on the market. Now, this note is part of the Thomas M. Flynn Collection.
Unlike 20 dollar bills from previous years, 20 dollar bills from 1915 are considered part of the Federal Reserve Bank Notes. 1915 20 dollar bills are usually valued from 500 dollars to 12,500 dollarswith the few exceptions of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
9. Fr. 375a $20 1891 Treasury Note $155,000
The Fr. 375a $20 1891 Treasury Note has only two examples in existence, one of which will remain forever at the Smithsonian Institute. Having been in circulation for many decades, this note has a small ink stain at its bottom but remains in relatively good condition. Originally part of the collection of Harley Freeman and Amon Carter, this note then was handled in 1953 by B. Max Mehl and then numerous small dealers until it was sold on September 15, 2006.
1890 20 dollar bills feature the legendary 4th chief justice John Marshallon the front and either of two abstract designs on the back. Depending on the bank the note was issued from, 1890 20 dollar bills usually value at 500 dollars to 40 thousand dollarswith, of course, the hundred thousand dollar outlier.
10. Fr. 952b $20 1914 Red Seal Federal Note $138,000
Grade: PMG Extremely Fine 40
The Fr. 952b $20 1914 Red Seal Federal Reserve Note is exceedingly rare since there are only three such notes discovered so far. This specimen boasts of a beautifully tranquil light green background with an illustration of Grover Cleaveland on the front and two illustrations- one of a train and another of a ship on the back. Both beautiful and meaningful, this note is extremely valuable.
20 dollar bills from the year 1914 are worth 165 dollars in fine condition and around 300 dollars in very fine condition. Outliers of extremely fine condition are sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Like the 1915 20 dollar bills, 20 dollar bills from 1914 are also of the Federal Reserve Bank Notes.
How To Tell If a 20 Dollar Bill Is Real
Now that we’ve talked all about the valuable 20 dollar bills, the real question is…..how on earth do you know if your valuable 20 dollar bill is real? The answer is simple- look at the watermark. If you hold the note up to the light, the image of Andrew Jackson should appear on the right of the center portrait. Simple, right?
Okay! Please leave all questions, comments, concerns down below, and we’ll do our best to answer them quickly. Pay our other articles about currency a visit, and have a good day!
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