The 20-dollar bill is a staple of the United States currency circulation, second only in popularity to the one-dollar bill. There are no surprises here, as a 20 is just the right size to cover many of our small, recurrent purchases.
However, for currency collectors, the existing 20-dollar bills are soon to have some added significance yet.
Like all other, currently active United States notes, the $20 bill has maintained a similar design profile for quite a while. The portrait on the obverse of the 20 dollar bill, one of President Andrew Jackson, has appeared on all iterations of the note since the 1928 series. However, this streak is bound to be broken in the near future.
In April 2016, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the Andrew Jackson portrait on the $20 bill would be replaced by one of Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist and social activist instrumental during the abolition of slavery in America.
When this change eventually occurs, it would add an extra layer of rarity to older 20-dollar bills, and there will be an end to the production of bills with this old design.
Some controversy exists around the proposed change of the 20-dollar bill design—which was initially officially announced in 2016—and the delay in its execution.
Due to the significance of Harriet Tubman in abolishing slavery in the United States, her appearance on currency would align perfectly with the current push by the liberal section of the American polity to make the country appear more inclusive, especially of women and people of color.
Consequently, several attempts have been made by elements within the currently ruling Democratic Party to expedite the process of this change. Some of these efforts include letters to the administration by influential persons within it and an attempt to pass legislation that mandated the change in a short time span.
There has even been speculation by certain elements that the new design is purportedly being delayed on purpose by politically motivated people who are against the change.
However, officials from this Democratic administration, the preceding Republican one, and the Treasury Department have all confirmed that the delay stems exclusively from the myriad of bureaucratic obstacles that must be overcome to bring the new note to reality.
For a new currency design to be created, its features and release date has to match the recommendation of the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence committee (which advises the treasury secretary on anti-counterfeiting measures in partnership with other bodies like the Secret Service and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) amongst other things.
An added complication that can further extend the timeline for the new note’s release is the fact that there is a standing court order from 2008 that mandates new currency to include tactile signifiers in the form of Braille that enables the visually impaired to tell various denominations apart. This change must also be factored into the new $20 bill when it appears.
Hence, while the $20 bill design change has been announced for over five years now, it might still be quite a while before it materializes.
However, the pricing of old 20 dollar bills still remains unaffected by this upcoming change, and today, we are looking at one such note, the 1985 20 dollar bill.
What is the current value of the 1985 20 dollar bill?
With the 1985 series being a more recent iteration of the $20 note, they have not aged or become rare enough to be worth a lot. On average, you can expect an uncirculated condition 1985 20 dollar bill to sell in the $40 to $50 range.
Star notes are rarer and will be worth around double the price of a regular bill, while circulated pieces typically only retail for the note’s face value of 20 dollars.
1985 20 Dollar Bill Supply Details, Varieties, and Rarity
The United States government produced a total of 6,832,000,000 regular 20 dollar bills and 36,480,000 star replacement notes for the 1985 series.
With a supply of almost 7 billion notes, it is immediately obvious that the 1985 20 dollar bill is not rare. This lack of rarity is particularly apparent when considering that the note is less than 40 years old.
Consequently, an abundance of these bills still exists in general circulation, and you can still find samples in loose change. With lower rarity comes lower pricing, and this fact is reflected in the average value of the 1985 series $20 bills on the collector’s market.
All of the bills from this issue were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at their Washington, D.C. headquarters, which was their sole facility at the time. The Bureau prints variable note quantities for each of the Federal Reserve Banks and then distributes them to them for circulation.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing—the agency responsible for designing and producing Federal Reserve notes—is an arm of the United State Treasury Department that produces a variety of high-level security items for several parts of the government.
In addition to creating the paper currency, the Bureau is also responsible for producing items such as government identity cards, admission and invitation cards for government buildings, special security documents, award certificates, military commision certificates, and other forms of documents for a variety of government agencies that require high-level security features.
For U.S. dollar bills, the Bureau creates notes with designs that incorporate intricate geometric lathework patterns, fine-line engraving, engraved signatures, a Treasury seal, and a host of other security features to help deter counterfeiters.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing carried out these actions exclusively at their facility in Washington, D.C., the Sidney Yates Building, for over a century before the second facility was completed and commissioned in Fort Worth, Texas in 1990.
Consequently, there are twelve 1985 20 dollar bill varieties, each tagged with the matching federal reserve bank. The regular bank varieties include:
- Boston (A)*
- New York (B)
- Philadelphia (C)
- Cleveland (D)
- Richmond (E)
- Atlanta (F)
- Chicago (G)
- Louis (H)
- Minneapolis (I)
- Kansas City (J)
- Dallas (K)
- San Francisco (L)
* The letters in the brackets are identifiers for the Federal Reserve bank that placed the order for that batch of currency. This letter is typically appended to the middle of the circular seal of the matching bank that appears to the left of the portrait on the note’s obverse.
However, none of these varieties are particularly rare, as the total supply is relatively fairly distributed amongst them. Nevertheless, with the replacement star notes, the story is a little different.
First, not all of the bill varieties have matching star note variants. Only notes made for a selection of the Federal Reserve banks had production error notes that were replaced with these star notes.
Furthermore, the number of replacement notes included for the bank was variable, depending on the number of production errors that occurred.
Consequently, there are huge disparities in the supply of star notes as you move from one variant to another. However, from the lot, only the star notes from Kansas City and San Francisco are rare enough to have a notable influence on their price. Only around 3 million star notes were printed for each of these banks.
The note variants with star notes issued include:
- Boston (A)
- New York (B)
- Philadelphia (C)
- Cleveland (D)
- Richmond (E)
- Chicago (G)
- Kansas City (J)
- Dallas (K)
- San Francisco (L)
Aside from the variants for each of the Federal Reserve banks, there isn’t much variation in the notes released in this series.
All 1985 20 dollar bills share the same signature combination—one from Katherine D. Ortega and James A. Baker—and the same green United States Department of Treasury seal placed to the right of President Andrew Jackson’s portrait.
The only other obvious variations of this bill you will find on the collector’s market are rare error notes.
1985 20 Dollar Bill Worth (Value Chart)
The 1985 release is fairly recent in the series of 20 dollar bills and as such it has not accrued enough rarity to be worth a fortune.
Circulated variants of this note typically attract prices in the range of their face value of $20, irrespective of their condition.
Since the note is still legal tender, the base price is set at $20 for all specimens, even damaged ones, provided they still retain over 50% of the note’s original surface area. Circulated notes with an exceptional condition or rare features (like a catchy serial number) may sell for slightly higher than $20, while other specimens will typically retail at face value.
For Choice Uncirculated notes (MS 63) that retain their release condition, you can expect a considerable premium. These specimens will typically retail for at least double their face value, selling in the $40 to $50 range.
Star replacement notes from their series are considerably rarer than the regular issue bills as they make up only around 0.05% of the total supply of notes. Consequently, these bills attract an even higher premium, retailing for between $85 and $90 a pop.
While the 1985 20 dollar bill has 12 different bank varieties, with almost 7 billion notes released, there is more than enough to go round. Hence, none of the variants are particularly rarer than others, so they typically attract similar prices on the open market.
The only other major category that can show considerable price deviation from the mean are special GEM-graded notes (MS 65 or higher) that show an exceptionally high condition that is considered superior to other uncirculated notes.
However, these notes are harder to place an estimated value on as prices can swing significantly from note to note.
Need to find the estimated value of a regular 1985 20 dollar bill at a glance? This chart gives you an uncomplicated visual guide on the average price range you should expect for most standard-issue variants.
Remember to use the table as an approximate estimate of the market value of 1985 20 dollar notes—not as a fixed price list—and as a general guide for making better market decisions.
As we stated earlier, prices for GEM-graded notes will not align with the quoted figures on this table. Other categories that do not subscribe to this price guide are unique error notes and bills with peculiar, highly sought-after serial numbers.
|Note Type⬇\Average Quality➜||Damaged||Good Quality||MS 63 (Uncirculated)||MS 64 or Higher|
|$20 note Series 1985||$20||$20 – $25||$40 – $50||$50+|
|$20 Series 1985 Star Note||$20||$20 – $25||$85 – $90||$90+|
1985 20 Dollar Bill Error Notes and Unique Combinations
Similar to the highest rated GEM-graded notes, error notes, bills with unique highly sought after serial numbers. In-demand note combinations are another broad category that does not adhere to simple price ranges.
Here, the price of each individual bill can vary significantly, depending on the rarity of its unique features and how much demand for it there is on the open market.
Some of these special 1985 20 dollar bill error notes and unique combinations include:
Center of Two Notes Error
Now, here is an error you do not see every day.
This strange specimen features the middle portion of identical notes—with the same serial number—printed sideways on a sheet of paper roughly equal to the size of a standard note.
How this interesting error note was created is open to guesses from anyone, as these types of errors are some of the rarest and their formation process is often particular to each note.
There is also the possibility that this piece was created as one of the many test pieces used internally at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) during the creation of a new batch of notes.
However, even more surprising is that this note seemed to have managed to leave the BEP and at least gotten to a Federal Reserve bank before it was recalled or sent back. This trail is evidenced by rubber-stamping on the note in purple ink that reads “No Value Redeemed by BEP.”
The unique specimen sold at an auction in 2005 for $6900.
Some other similar notes with cutting errors in the 1985 20 dollar series include:
1) This note was cut wrongly to show portions from two separate notes. While this error is pretty common in most series, one standout feature with this specimen is that its cut is so well proportioned that it creates an almost perfect patchwork of near-equal halves.
The result is a cutting error note with particularly superior eye appeal when placed side-by-side with other similar variants.
The piece sold in January 2022 for $2160.
2) If the last note gets its appeal from being almost proportional, this one gets its allure from the exact opposite phenomenon.
This specimen contains a full note, with a slab attached to its bottom right corner that shows note variably-sized portions from three other notes.
Third Print Star Note
Third printing is a type of overprint error, a relatively common error that occurs during the note-making process.
Overprinting occurs when certain elements of the note (the serial numbers and seals) are placed entirely out of position, sitting on the wrong side or area of the note. These errors stem from mistakes when feeding paper into the printing press—the papers could be flipped or inserted with the wrong end first.
Third printed or back overprint notes are created when an uncut sheet of notes is fed into the overprinting press—which is responsible for printing the serials, district numbers, and the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals—with the obverse of the note facing the overprinting press rather than away from it.
The result of this mistake is the creation of rare error notes where these features appear on the back of the note, instead of in front where they traditionally exist.
In addition to being a rare well preserved third print error note, this San Francisco $20 is also a star note, which further compounds its rarity. While there is a relative abundance of this particular error amongst most note series, an extremely tiny percentage of those are star notes.
Hence, it is no surprise that this note attracts a fairly hefty ransom on the open market, selling for an impressive $4320 at an auction in 2023.
A slightly similar but less impressive print error note from this series is this 20 dollar bill that shows doubling on the right serial number.
This note shows an error that is considered rare but not as rare or eye-catching as the third print star note. However, this less dramatic print error still gives the note enough star power to pull a respectable $2640 at a 2020 auction.
Three Consecutive Notes (Wrong Placement Error)
For a body that deals in the production of United States currency—some of the most sought-after forms of money on the planet—the Bureau of Printing and Engraving does manage to make a great number of mistakes during the production process.
The plus side of this high margin of error is the creation of an elaborate collector’s market with all forms of strange oddities.
One such batch of specimens is this series of three consecutive notes from the 1985 20 dollar release that somehow has a one dollar bill amongst them.
The set sold for $3100 in 2017.