Since 1981, a trusted dealer in accurately-graded, high quality collectible world currency, fantasy art bills, stocks, bonds, checks, movie money, and more!
Valuation of Notes
SPECIAL NOTE - We are always receiving emails like "I have a 1934 hundred dollar bill. What's it worth?" We regret that we are unable to answer most of these queries. In the first place, notes really need to be examined in person to determine if the item is genuine, then to assign a grade to it so that a correct valuation may be assessed. Secondly, time just does not allow us to answer all of these in a thorough manner. Occasionally, we will answer some questions but usually more related to helping someone identify a specific bill rather than assigning a value estimate to it. If you want to sell us notes or you would like us to appraise your notes, we can do it, for a fee.
The retail value of a properly graded note can be ascertained most correctly when actual market conditions are known. Reasonable estimates can also often be gleaned from books on paper currency, such as Pick's Standard Catalog Of World Paper Money, dealers' lists, auction results for scarcer notes, etcetera. As with grading, the more you study a note in the market place, the more accurate you are going to be when it comes to assigning a retail value. "Buy the book before you buy the coin" is great advice that can also be applied to banknotes and any other collectible, for that matter. If you're just getting into the hobby and are on a limited budget, you may want to consider buying an older or used book such as the Pick book mentioned above. Old auction catalogs can often be picked up reasonably and are often printed in book-like quality (or better!). Your local library may be a good source to check out some books before you decide whether you want to buy one or not.
Paper money books which are price catalogs may go out of date quickly due to changing market conditions. However, they'll still supply lots of valuable information. Even new catalogs contain inaccurate pricing information on many notes. Prices are often too high or too low, so research is wise if you're spending substantial money on an item. We've seen items priced at $20, for example, that can actually be found commonly for just a few dollars or less. Conversely, a number of current notes may list at around the exchange rate. This could give the collector the mistaken belief that these notes should be available at that price. A dealer couldn't make a living selling notes at the exchange rate since he would normally buy them at that rate or a premium over exchange in many instances. Additionally, uncirculated examples of notes, even of current notes, can be surprisingly tough to come by, therefore such items could command more of a premium. Rapidly advancing markets, as mentioned previously, can also make pricing information quickly outdated.
Generally, as with coins, the wholesale value of an item will be a smaller percentage of the retail value if it is a less expensive piece, although this generalization does not always apply, i. e. if you have a note that catalogs $1 or so, expect to get maybe 10 cents apiece from a dealer, if he offers to buy it at all. Of course, it could be a note he needs and knows he can sell for more, so this rule (and any other I can come up with!) doesn't always apply. If you have some cheap duplicate notes you want to get rid of, maybe you can sell them to another collector. Then you will become a dealer and will quickly find out that not every note sells, and certainly not for what you had hoped! Scarce notes from tough-to-find areas which are popular with collectors will always command a decent wholesale value as well, particularly high-grade items, if the note is in fact available in high grade.
Which brings me to a final point I'd like to make. What grade(s) should you collect? What should be your minimum acceptable grade? You will be able to answer these questions easier if you know (a) what you're going to collect and (b) how much money you're willing to spend on notes. If you decide you want to collect the early banknotes of Mexico, for example, you'll quickly find that many of them aren't available past the grade of very good or fine, regardless of how much money you have to spend. This doesn't mean you shouldn't collect them. On the other hand, if you want to collect just low-cost modern issues, probably you'll want to collect them in a higher grade.
There are some people who won't touch a note that grades less than UNC, even if it's AU-UNC and is offered at a super low price! These people I good-naturedly refer to as UNC-o-maniancs. However, it's up to the individual to determine what notes they want to collect, how much they want to spend, and what grades they want to collect as well. For me, a note in VF or better should certainly have nearly the eye appeal of an UNC note and makes a nice addition in many cases. Of course, being a collector of the aformentioned old Mexican bancos notes, it's obvious that I will accept certain notes in much lower grades! People getting into the hobby for investment purposes should of course always buy the best grade obtainable. Please note that the prior statement is not an endorsement of the paper money hobby as an investment medium! It is best enjoyed as a fun hobby and, who knows, maybe when all is said and done, you will end up with a few dollars! More than you could probably say for hanging out at a bar every night or "investing" in the latest electronic "toys!"
Mailing Address: Richard J. Reed
PO Box 20665
Sarasota, Florida 34276-3665
Monday - Friday: 8AM - 5PM
(Eastern Standard Time)