The $20 bill has been around since the early 1800s, with its design changing several times over the years. The current $20 bill features President Andrew Jackson on the front and the White House on the back.
Previous versions of the bill featured former presidents such as Grover Cleveland and James Madison. It is an important part of American currency and is the most frequently used bill, with over 1.2 billion currently in circulation.
But beyond its practical use as a means of exchange, the $20 bill also holds historical value and can be collected by enthusiasts and sold for higher prices on the market. Rare bills can fetch thousands of dollars, with some errors in printing or unique serial numbers increasing the value even more.
Collecting and investing in old $20 bills can be a fun and potentially profitable hobby. Whether you’re just starting out or are an experienced collector, it’s important to educate yourself on the different versions of the bill and their worth. With some research and luck, you just might come across a valuable gem in your wallet or change jar.
In this article, you are going to learn about the history of the $20 bill and some tips on how to start collecting them.
The History of the $20 Bill
Money history is fascinating. At the very beginning of civilization, when we figured out how to get out of bartering, people used items such as cattle, shells, and even salt as currency. Eventually, paper money was introduced in China during the 7th century, followed by Europe in the 16th century.
In the United States, paper bills were first issued by the colonies before the Revolutionary War and later by the newly formed government after independence. The $20 bill was first issued in 1862 for the Civil War effort and has been a fixture in American currency ever since.
Throughout its history, the $20 bill has undergone several design changes, with different presidents being featured on the front.
In 1928, the portrait of President Andrew Jackson replaced that of Grover Cleveland, and the design was slightly modified in 1996 to include subtle background colors and enhanced,
The design of the $20 bill has changed multiple times throughout its history, with different presidents being featured on the front and various buildings and figures depicted on the back. One notable change was in 1928, when President Andrew Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland on the front of the bill. The current design, with Jackson on the front and the White House on the back, was first issued in 1998.
One of the bill’s biggest challenges throughout history has been counterfeiting. In an effort to combat this, the design has been updated multiple times with added security features such as color-shifting ink and microprinting.
Editor’s note: Microprinting is printing tiny words or digits on a document that can only be seen under magnification.
While modern $20 bills are still being printed, and thus only hold their face value for exchange, older versions of the bill can be worth much more to collectors.
Evaluating $20 Bills
If you’re just starting out as a collector, it’s important to learn about the different versions and designs of the $20 bill. Familiarize yourself with the various series dates (the year older versions are valuable to collectors.
Here’s what you should look at when evaluating a $20 bill:
- The bill’s grade — collectors typically categorize bills on a scale from uncirculated (looks brand new) to poor (heavily worn and damaged). Grades go from 0 (poor) to 70 (perfect).
- Age — Generally, the older the bill, the more valuable it is. Modern $20 bills only hold their face value for exchange, but older versions can be worth more to collectors, thanks to their rarity.
- Condition — Bills in good condition with no tears or stains will be worth more, as they make the bill look better.
- Serial numbers — Unique or low serial numbers can increase a bill’s value. This includes “radar” or mirror numbers, where the first half of the serial number is inverted in the second half (such as 1234 66 4321).
When it comes to buying and selling old $20 bills, there are a variety of options available. You can purchase from reputable dealers or attend currency shows and auctions. Online marketplaces like eBay also offer a wide selection of collectible bills.
While the value of old $20 bills can vary greatly, some rare versions have sold for thousands of dollars. So, while collecting old $20 bills may not be as profitable as investing in stocks or real estate, it can still be a fun and potentially profitable hobby. Plus, you get to appreciate the history and design of American currency.
Grading a Dollar Bill
A bill’s grade is a major factor in determining its value to collectors. Here’s how to grade your own bill:
- Examine the corners — Are they crisp and unbent, or are they worn and rounded?
- Look at the edges — Are they smooth, or do they have creases or tears?
- Check for folds and creases — Are they smooth, or are they heavy and noticeable?
- Look at the overall appearance — Is the bill clean, or is it dirty and worn?
Keep in mind that even uncirculated bills may have some very minor imperfections, as no bill is ever truly perfect. Uncirculated bills start at grade 60, while poor condition bills start at grade 1. The highest possible grade is 70, reserved for bills that look brand new and unworn.
As a general rule, a grade of 60 or above means the bill is in good condition and will have more value to collectors. Anything below that may still be collectible, but it likely won’t fetch as high of a price. Here is a list of grading categories.
Remember, grading a bill is subjective and can vary depending on the individual evaluating it. That’s why even professional grading services offer re-grading and appeal options.
Buying a Vintage $20 Bill
When purchasing an old $20 bill, it’s important to do your research and buy from a reputable dealer or auction house. Look for dealers who offer guarantees and returns, and make sure you receive a certificate of authenticity with your purchase.
Before making a purchase, consider the bill’s grade, age, condition, serial number, and any unique features or misprints. Rarity is the number 1 factor to consider when evaluating an old bill. Was the bill signed by someone famous, such as an old U.S. president, or owned by an important figure of American history? Then the bill will fetch a higher price at auction. The item’s history contributes to its rarity after all.
As far as vintage $20 bills go, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to several thousand dollars, depending on the rarity and condition of the bill.
For example, here’s a $20 bill from the Farmers Bank of Seneca County that went for $446.50. Here’s a 1920 Federal Reserve bank note that’s been auctioned a few times. Its price oscillated between $94 and $236.18.
For a more expensive price point, here’s a $20 bill that sold in 2007 for $5,675.25. Its price comes from the fact that it’s a “flown to the moon” bill – meaning it was carried by an astronaut in one of the moon missions. This specific one was carried on the “Endeavor” mission of the Apollo 15.
Generally speaking, you can find many vintage $20 bills selling for a few hundred dollars. But some very rare bills, such as an 1861 demand note, have commanded prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Collecting old $20 bills can be a fun hobby and potentially profitable venture. Just make sure to do your research before buying and keep an eye out for rare and unique features that may increase a bill’s value.
The Five Most Valuable $20 Bills
We’ve seen some crazy prices paid for rare $20 bills. These bills had the perfect combination of age, condition, and unique features that make them valuable to collectors.
Before getting into these valuable bills, it’s important to all of these were sold at auctions, which heavily affects their final price. Auction prices are fickle by nature, you might get lucky once and snag a unique piece for a lower price just because your competitors weren’t interested in the piece. The opposite can also happen.
Warning: Collectors should be aware that counterfeits exist for all of these bills, so it’s important to purchase them from reputable dealers or at auctions where they can be authenticated. Always look for a certificate of authenticity when buying vintage bills.
Fr. 11a $20 1861 Demand Note PMG Choice Fine 15 Net — $411,250
The fact that an 1861 note survived in fine condition is impressive in itself, but this one piece in particular is unique. It is a ‘for the’ note, which means it was hand-signed by the treasury officials who issued it.
However, this isn’t exactly the original note. You can find a few signs of restoration – that’s why its grade includes “Net” in the description. Restoration can significantly lower a note’s value, but it didn’t stop this one from fetching over $400,000 at auction.
That makes these notes rare and highly valuable, with this particular bill being the finest known example of its type. That’s why it fetched such a high price at auction.
Another factor that makes this bill valuable is its denomination and series year. Demand notes were only issued for a short time period and in small numbers, making them highly collectible. The $20 denomination also adds to the value, as it was the largest note issued during this time period.
Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate PMG Choice Fine 15 — $396,562.50
This bill is unique not only for its age and condition, but also for its design. Gold certificates were issued from 1865 to 1934, and they allowed the holder to redeem them for gold coin or bullion.
This particular bill features a large golden “20” on the left side and a bald eagle in an offensive posture on the right side.
On the front there is a picture of president James Garfield, who died just a few months before this bill was issued. This adds to its collectability, along with the fact that it is in nearly perfect condition and one of the finest known examples.
Most exemplars of this bill survived in very poor conditions. They aren’t that rare, and most go for around $4,000. But this one, signed by Bruce-Gilfillan and Acton, has the added factors of condition and unique design that make it valuable.
Fr. 1166b $20 1863 Gold Certificate PCGS Very Fine 30 — $352,500.00
This gold certificate bill features a bald eagle perched on a shield with the words “E Pluribus Unum” on top of the illustration. On the right side is a golden “20”, while the rest of the bill is covered in text.
This bill is valuable for its rarity and condition, as most surviving exemplars are in poor condition. This one, graded as very fine 30, is one of the finest known examples. It was also signed by Assistant Treasurer H.H. VanDyck, adding to its value.
This piece was last available to collectors at a public auction 24 years ago, and has only been traded once privately since then. Its most recent appearance at an auction was 10 years after it was first offered by currency dealer Dean Oakes.
Fr. 1175 $20 1882 Gold Certificate PMG Very Fine 20 — $258,500.00
This 1882 gold certificate is similar in design and value factors to the previous bill mentioned. It features a golden “20” on the left side, with president James Garfield’s portrait on the front.
The main difference between this bill and the Fr. 1175 mentioned earlier is its condition and grade. This one is graded as very fine 20, whereas the previous one was in choice fine 15 condition. This slightly higher grade, combined with its perceived rarity, explains the difference in price between the two bills.
However, this bill still fetched over a quarter of a million dollars at auction due to its age, design, and scarcity in high grade condition. It was also signed by Bruce-Gilfillan and Acton, adding to its value as a collectible piece.
Fr. 1179 $20 1905 Gold Certificate Gem New — $241,500.00
This 1905 gold certificate features president George Washington’s portrait on the front. On the back, we have the iconic bald eagle with arrows and olive branches in its talons.
Gold certificates back then were redeemable for gold coins or bullion, and this particular bill is in gem new condition. That means it is practically flawless, with no signs of wear and all original paper texture present.
This bill’s rarity in such a high-grade condition, along with its design and age, make it valuable to collectors. It was last sold at auction in 2005 for over $200,000 and has only been traded privately once since then.
This is another pretty unique piece — there are only 2 possible serial numbers for this technicolor bill, adding to its scarcity and collectability.
$20 Bills Printing Errors
Some potential printing errors for bills include:
- Misprints — A misprint in dollar bills is an error that occurs during the printing process. For example, a bill may be printed with the incorrect serial number. These errors are valuable to collectors because they are rare and unique.
- Inverted seals or serial numbers — These errors occur when the seals or serial numbers on a bill are printed upside down in relation to the portrait on the front of the bill.
- Double denomination — In a double denomination error, one side of a bill will have two separate denominations printed on it (such as a $5 and $10). These errors are very rare and drastically increase a bill’s value.
- Foldover errors — A foldover error occurs when part of a bill is printed on the front and the other part is printed on the back, due to a folding mistake during the printing process.
- Missing or mismatched security threads — In this error, the security thread (a thin strip embedded in the paper) is either missing or does not match up with the denomination of the bill.
Collectors eagerly seek out these errors, as they are rare and make for a unique addition to any collection. Again, it’s important to ensure authenticity when purchasing these bills. unfortunately, counterfeiting is a profitable industry and there are many fake errors circulating. Avoid deals that sound too good to be true, and stick to reputable sellers that provide certificates of authenticity for your buys.
1. Can I still use old $20 bills to pay for things?
Yes, all US currency, regardless of age or design, is still considered legal tender and can be used to make purchases. However, some stores may not accept very old or worn-out bills. Also, considering how valuable these $20 bills are, it’s probably best not to spend them. Conserve them and who knows, maybe you’ll be the lucky seller of a bill that fetches a price in the thousands.
2. How do I determine the value of my old $20 bill?
There are a few factors that contribute to the value of an old $20 bill, including its condition, rarity, and any unique characteristics (such as errors or special serial numbers). The best way to determine its value is to consult a currency appraiser or bring it to a reputable auction house.
3. Can I sell my old $20 bill?
Yes, you can sell your old $20 bill to a collector or at an auction. It’s important to make sure that the bill is authentic and not a counterfeit before trying to sell it. It’s also helpful to research its value and potentially ask for opinions from currency experts before setting a price.
Old $20 bills can be valuable collectibles due to factors such as rarity, condition, design, and historical significance. These four examples range in value from $241,500 to $352,500, but there are also more affordable options out there for those just starting their collection. In fact, most old $20 bills from the periods we’ve focused on (1863, 1882, and 1905) can be purchased for under $1,000, if you don’t mind the wear and tear these will show.
Another important thing to note is that these are all sold at auctions. This means their price is heavily influenced by demand and the specific buyers at that particular auction. So, a bill may sell for slightly less or more at different auctions, depending on these factors.
Whether you’re just starting out as a collector or are looking to add some rare pieces to your collection, old $20 bills can be a valuable and interesting addition. Just remember to do your research and purchase from reputable sources to ensure authenticity. Happy collecting!