The Top Five Most Expensive Banknotes

22 January 2018

When we think of money, we typically think of it in terms of the value it has been prescribed when printed – a £5 note is worth just that; no more, no less.

In the world of collecting, however, money is worth much more than the numbers printed on it, with some banknotes selling for incredible amounts.

What are the most expensive banknotes?

5: Australian first modern 10-shilling banknote, 1913 - £606,000

Naturally an incredible historic artefact, the fifth most expensive banknote ever sold is the first ever modern banknote created in Australia.

The note has a value of 10 shillings and has the serial number 00001. Purchased by a private collector in 2014, it currently resides in a Sydney bank vault.

4: Australian £1,000 note, 1924 - £963,000

Despite the historical significance of the previous entry, it doesn’t quite make the grade as the most expensive Australian note, being beaten by a £1,000 note, which came out in 1924.

The high price achieved for this note comes down to its rarity: the note was in circulation for an extremely short time before being restricted to internal transfers of funds between banks. This particular note is also the only circulated example in private hands bearing the signatures of James Kell and James Richard Collins, making it of the utmost numismatic significance.

Sold at auction in 2008, the note is now owned by The Rare Coin Company, one of Australia’s leading numismatic speciality firms.

3: USA $500 gold certificate, 1882 - £1,120,000

Sold in 2014 to a private collector, this note came from the estate of a turn of the century banker who had some incredible pieces in his collection, of which this was one of the crown jewels.

Other than a specimen at the Smithsonian Institution, this piece is the only example known to exist, making it an incredibly desirable purchase for a collector with deep pockets.

2: USA Red Seal $1,000 treasury note, 1891 - £2,000,000

Setting the record for the world’s most expensive banknote at the time of its 2013 sale, the 1891 Red Seal $1,000 treasury note currently has just two surviving specimens publicly available today.

This note features a portrait of George Meade – a famed United States General who fought in a number of major battles during the US civil war – and gains its name from the distinctive red seal, which features prominently on the face of the bill.

1: USA Grand Watermelon $1,000 treasury note, 1890 - £2,600,000

This strangely named banknote is the rarest American note in existence, gaining legendary status in numismatic communities, and was christened by its unique moniker thanks to the strange design of the large zeroes on the reverse of the note.

The treasury note was only issued between 1890 and 1893, and only two examples of this particular note are known to exist today, with just one available to collectors. The other is property of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Designed by renowned artist, Charles Burt, the Grand Watermelon was featured as the number one note in the 2006 book ‘The 100 Greatest American Currency Notes.’ It sold for a record-breaking amount in 2014, just one year after the previous record was broken.