Error notes: rare misprinted currency worth money

Dollar Bill Errors List

  • Insufficient inking error
  • Ink smear
  • Cutting error
  • Inverted back error
  • Double denomination error

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 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!

What are the most valuable error notes?

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.


Where can I buy error bills?

Wherever you buy your coins and banknotes usually. I wrote a complete buying guide on this here.
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. The best part is that if you sign up using this link you get $15 of Whatnot credit. So no excuses – get bidding!

What is the rarest bill in the world?

Called “ladder bills,” the most sought-after examples are bills that feature the so-called “perfect” ladder serial numbers: 12345678 and 87654321. Unsurprisingly, these notes are exceedingly scarce and represent only one-in-96-million bills printed, meaning they can sell for big bucks. I’ve written a whole blog on ladder bills and other rare bills here.

Show some love and buy your precious metals with my Apmex link!

(it's the same thing, but you get a thank you from me!)

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