The $1 bills hold so many surprises and curiosities that you can’t even imagine. Being the smallest denomination bills, some can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Believe me when I tell you that many collectors lose their minds over these bills.
In this article I’m going to go over with you how many types of $1 bills have existed. We will also see which ones are worth a lot of money, and which ones are not. The best is at the end, when I tell you how an inexplicable mistake can make two dollar bills together multiply their value thousands of times.
What are the most valuable collectible $1 bills?
These are the most valuable $1 bills, analyzed in chronological order from the first issue to the present day. The specimens you will see below are in many cases authentic jewels that many collectors would like to have.
Continental Money Dollar Bills
In 1775 the first 1 dollar bills were printed and, although we could not consider them dollars, they are the direct antecedent of the current issues. I am referring to the Continental Currency 1 dollar bills.
These bills signed by Garrison and Watkins measure 73 x 95 mm. Their issue, authorized by the Continental Congress to finance the War of Independence, reached the amount of 3 million in $1 bills.
Continental $1 bills are extremely rare and scarce. As such, they can fetch sums in excess of tens of thousands of dollars. Just to give you an idea, the specimen you saw one above sold for $19200 at Heritage Auctions on October 8, 2021.
One dollar bills from 1862
In 1862 the first legal tender $1 bill was issued in the United States. Other denominations existed before, but they were not technically dollars, in the strict sense of the word. I am referring to the issues of this denomination, but of Continental Money.
The $1 bills, along with other denominations, were printed under the umbrella of the First United States Legal Tender Act, signed on February 25, 1862. The newly released bills soon became known as “greenbacks” because of the predominance of this color.
Today these large size $1 bills are scarce and highly sought after by numismatic collectors. A specimen in good condition exceeds 200 dollars. On the other hand, an uncirculated 1862 $1 bill can fetch up to $3500.
1 dollar bills of 1869
In 1869 the dollar bills undergo their first major redesign. The first detail is that Salmon P. Chase is replaced by Washington. In addition, it includes a vignette of Christopher Columbus depicting the moment he sighted land.
A curious fact about these banknotes is that they are United States Notes, under the portrait of Washington it reads Treausry Note (Treasury Note). The reverse is completely different from its predecessor, although it maintains the green color as a distinctive element.
The 1869 $1 bills are traded between $300 and $3,000 depending on their state of preservation. However, for a certified specimen you could pay (or order if you have it) more than 7 000 dollars.
1 dollar bills from 1874 to 1917
Again, the $1 bills were redesigned in 1874. The new design would be used in the issues of this year, and in the following issues in 1875, 1878, 1880 and 1917. It is true that in 1880 some changes are introduced, the essence of the design remains stable between the dates I mentioned before.
The dollar bills of 1874 present Washington as the central figure, and continue to show the vignette that eludes to the discovery of America. The reverse of the bill is completely redesigned.
Collectors who want to get their hands on an 1874 $1, or any other in the same series, will have to invest seriously. They should be willing to pay between $125 for some bill in acceptable condition, or over $4000 for an uncirculated bill dated 1880, with the serial numbers in blue. We’re talking a small fortune, but it’s worth it.
1923 dollar bills
In 1923 the $1 bills were redesigned once again, but in this case, sharing the design with the Silver Certified bills. I will tell you more about them later. Both types of banknotes have the same reverse and the obverse almost identical.
On the front of the $1 bill, the Colonization illustration is eliminated and the Federal Reserve seal is moved from the right to the left. In addition, the image of Washington is flipped, previously facing left and now facing the opposite way.
The 1923 bills are priced between $120 and $625. The latter provided they are in excellent condition and uncirculated. However, if a bill with an interesting serial number is found, one of the most sought after by collectors, the value could skyrocket to thousands of dollars.
Radical change in 1 dollar bills of 1928
In 1928 the dimensions of all dollar denominations changed, including the $1 bills. The new dimensions are the ones retained to this day, and with which we are familiar, which are 6.14 long by 2.61 wide, expressed in inches.
Both the bills classified as Legal Notes and the Silver Certificates share the same front and back design. They differ primarily in the colors of the Treasury seal and serial numbers.
A 1928 $1 bill can be obtained for $230 to $500 depending on its state of preservation and whether it is certified or not. The replacement specimens, with a star on the serial number, are much more expensive, reaching 25 thousand dollars for an uncirculated specimen.
1 dollar series from 1935 to 1957
The design of the dollar bills is changed again in 1935. The changes on the obverse or front are minimal, but the reverse changes significantly.
On the obverse the blue number 1 changes to gray and became smaller. The Treasury seal is changed to smaller and Washington DC was superimposed.
The reverse design of the 1935 1 bill is maintained on all issues to the present day, except for the phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST” which was added in 1957. In fact, the one dollar bill was the first to include the phrase, which today can be found on all denominations.
There are many examples of banknotes from the 1935 to 1957 era. So many as to meet the demand of collectors. For this reason, the bills of this period have a value between 3 and 100 dollars, depending on different factors.
One dollar bills of 1963 change stamp color
The last change in the $1 bills is made in 1963, when the color of the Treasury stamps changes from blue to green. In addition, on the obverse some decorative border motifs change significantly, transforming watermarks into botanical details.
There were other important changes. The word ONE, which appeared 8 times on the border, is eliminated. The 1963 $1 bill was the first of this denomination to be printed with a Federal Reserve seal on its left side.
Banknotes from this period are mostly worth only their denomination. For collectors they can be worth between $5 and $20 , depending on condition, whether it has a conspicuous serial number, or if it is a replacement specimen.
Other collectible dollar bills
Between 1875 and 1935 several types of bills other than the legal Notes were printed and circulated in parallel. I now share with you information about those types of $1 bills. Some extremely rare and valuable.
National Bank Notes
National Bank Notes were paper money issued and backed by some Banks chartered by the United States Government. These large size $1 bills are scarce and therefore very valuable to collectors.
In the case of the 1 dollar bills of was issued under the auspices of the Bank of Lebanon, in Indiana, in 1875. On the obverse we can see an allegorical image of Union and Peace, in front of an altar. On the reverse the vignette in the center shows the “Landing of the Pilgrims”.
The value of the 1875 $1.00 specimens ranges from $500 to $3500 depending on their state of preservation. They are scarce bills, therefore, difficult for collectors to obtain.
Silver Certificate Notes (blue stamp)
Silver Certificates were used in parallel with other legal tender between 1878 and 1864 when they were withdrawn from circulation. The Silver Certified $1 bills are more varied in number of issues and designs, than others that we will see here.
There are two types of Silver Certified $1 bills. The Large Size and the Small Size issued after 1928.
- Large Size Silver Certificates were issued in 1886, 1891, 1896, 1896, 1899 and 1823.
- The SMALL SIZE Silver Certificates were issued in 1928, 1934, 1935 and 1957.
Within this type of banknotes, I would like to highlight the 1896 issue. The Educational Series $1 bills. In the article published on the $2 bills I already mentioned this series, and without a doubt, I will have to dedicate a specific article to the most beautiful bills in the numismatic history of the United States.
The $1 bills of 1896, besides being true works of art, were very controversial at the time. Americans were upset with the fact that Washington and Matha were depicted separately on the obverse.
I will not dwell too much on the prices of the Silver Certified bills, as they vary greatly according to year, design and state of preservation.
Treasury Notes dollar bills
Treasury Notes, or Treasury Notes as they are also known, are a type of money issued in the United States between 1890 and 1893. Two series were issued, both of which featured $1 bills. The purpose of these bills was to pay people who sold silver bullion to the Treasury.
The 1890 and 1891 series of Treasury 1 bills share the obverse design, with some minor differences between them. The person depicted on the Treasury dollar bills is Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War during the American Civil War. The reverses, on the other hand, have very different designs.
Both the 1890 and the following year’s $1 bills range from $275 to $2500, depending on their state of preservation. However, an 1890 “Uncirculated” 1890 with the Rosecrans and Nebeker shapes could fetch upwards of $10,000.
Federal Reserve One Dollar Notes
In 1918, one dollar bills were issued, along with other denominations, under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The main peculiarity of these bills is that they were backed by one of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, but not by all of them collectively.
The 1918 $1 bills are known by the nickname “Green Eagles Note”, for having the bird depicted on the reverse, carrying a US Flag. On the obverse they have the traditional image of Washington and the blue seal on the right side.
In the numismatic market, these banknotes are relatively accessible. They are priced between $150 and $450 per issue. However, if you would like to complete the series of 12 bills (1 for each Bank) we could easily be talking about $1800 to $5000 dollars, at the low end.
Duplicate $1 bills: myth or reality?
Many media outlets have published about the alleged duplicate $1 bills being sold for thousands of dollars. Most people know that in the United States no two bills can be printed with the same serial number. However…
In order to write this article I did some research, and it turns out that the information is correct. Or rather, partially correct. It is true that a large number of banknotes with duplicate serial numbers are in circulation, as a result of an error by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). But, even so, these specimens have a detail that makes them different.
Let me explain.
The North American money is printed in two different places. Approximately 60% is printed in Fort Worth and the rest in the Washington D.C. facility. The problem is that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) accidentally duplicated the serial numbers on the Federal Reserve Series 2013 $1 (starred) bills.
In 2014 at the Washington D.C. facility, $1 New York Star Series bills were printed and released for circulation with the serial numbers:
- B00000001★ to B00250000★
- B03200001★ to B09600000★ .
Inexplicably in 2016 the Fort Worth facility was ordered to print bills with the same serial numbers.
This error results in there being over 6 million $1 bills with duplicate serial numbers. However, the challenge lies in piecing together the two issues with the same number. It is not easy and the reward can be very high.
In 2021 the auction site STACKSBOWERS sold a pair of these duplicate $1 bills. It is possible that because they were PMG certified their value increased. Still, $7200 for 2 $1 bills each is a huge and profitable difference.
Curiosities about 1 dollar bills
The US $1 bill, although very common and accessible, is also a denomination full of mysteries and curiosities. I have selected four interesting facts that you will surely love to know and share with your friends.
The $1 bill is where most experimentation is done
Since 1933, the $1 bill has been the official denomination used for monetary and numismatic experiments in the United States. Experiments with dollar specimens range from testing different types of paper to new alternative inks.
The times that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has experimented with new printing techniques and machines, they are always used first with $1 bills. Often the specimens produced in these experiments become fetishes for collectors and skyrocket in price.
The painting that inspired the Washington engraving
The image of Washington on the $1 bill was inspired by Gilbert Stuart’s unfinished 1796 painting known as Athenaeum. Although Stuart never finished or delivered the painting, it is considered his most outstanding work.
Most interestingly, on today’s banknotes Washington faces to the right, while in the original painting his view points to the left. The change in orientation occurred in 1918, and is first applied on Federal Reserve dollar bills, and endures to this day. The man responsible for this change was George F. C. Smillie, an important engraver of the time.
Wartime $1 bills
Special series of bills were issued in 1942 in order to anticipate that a large amount of U.S. currency might fall into enemy hands. If this had been the case, the U.S. government could declare these bills invalid. Among these series were $1 bills that are currently highly sought after by collectors.
One of the series is the one that was issued specifically for Hawaii. These bills belong to the 1935 series, although they were printed many years later, as you can imagine. They were overprinted with the text, HAWAII, and their stamp is brown.
However, the most striking are these:
The $1 bill you just saw, along with other $5 and $10 bills, were printed for use by troops in North Africa and Europe. Currently yellow-stamped $1 bills can fetch prices in $285 and $1700.
Proposals to eliminate the $1 bill
In the United States, the monetary cone includes both one dollars bills and coins. This situation has led some organizations (Coin Coalition) to promote the elimination of the $1 bill, while others (Save the Greenback) are trying to prevent this from happening.
Among the reasons usually argued by those who promote the elimination is a study by the Government Accountability Office that says that this measure could save the United States 4.4 billion dollars. However, these initiatives do not prosper as Americans seem to love their $1 bills enough, and do not want to give them up.
Which of all these bills would you like to have?
Well, I really hope you enjoyed this article. As you may have noticed, the smallest denomination bills in the United States hold many surprises and curious facts. Here I just presented you with a summary, there is much more to discover about these fantastic banknotes.
Now that you have a lot of information about the $1 bills, which ones would you like to have in your pocket? Answer me in the comments, and don’t say the duplicates, we all want those.
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