How to Spot Rare 1 Dollar Bills + 5 Worth Hunting Down

These rare 1 dollar bills could be burning a hole in your pocket. Learn about what you should be looking for and the things that make them valuable.

Published March 6, 2024
One dollar bill on wood background

Natasha Bedingfield might have had a pocket full of sunshine, but there’s a chance you’ve got a pocket full of rare $1 bills worth a lot of money. From notable mistakes to the uncirculated, low-production historic tender, valuable dollar bills run the gamut. Get to the bottom of what makes them worth money and the valuable characteristics to recognize so you never miss out on making a profit on that pocket change again. 

5 Rare & Valuable 1 Dollar Bills Worth Hunting Down

Most valuable $1 bills sell at auction for under $200. While that’s not something to snub your nose at, there are a handful of rare $1 bills that join the group of rare coins with values that will take your breath away. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you, and you just might come across one of these rare $1 bills in the wild.

Rare 1-Dollar Bills Recent Sales Price
1776 Continental $1 $19,200
1890 $1 Treasury Note  $19,200
1896 $1 Silver Certificate  $9,200
Pair of 2013(B) $1 Bills With Duplicate Serial Numbers  $5,900
1862 $1 Bill With Serial #1 $4,999.95
Need to Know

You may see some reports claim the $2 million-worth Grand Watermelon note is the most valuable $1 bill. However, the note is actually for $1,000 and is a great example of how important it is to be shrewd when looking at valuable bills.

1776 Continental $1

The American colonies didn’t start printing their own currency — aka Continental Currency — until 1775. According to Harvard Library, the exchange value of Continental notes had fallen to one-hundredth of their normal value and would later fall to 1,000 to 1 by 1781. Then the Coinage Act of 1792 established the U.S. Mint, fully replacing any Continental Currency.

Not only did this drop in value lead to people discarding their old notes, but there have been exaggerated reports as to how much Continental Currency was printed during the war years. One 2008 publication reports, "the $500,000 [notes] mentioned on 2 November 1776 were not printed at all.” So, there may be even fewer notes printed than documented in historical sources.

So, these early Continental notes are extremely rare in good condition because of their (potentially) low production numbers and drop in value that led to discarding them en masse.

Need to Know

Continental dollar bills look much different than regular bills. They’re less wide and taller, and they’re marked “The United Colonies” instead of the United States. Similarly, they have a beautiful, filigreed border.

1890 $1 Treasury Note 

Treasury dollar notes are quite an interesting type of American currency. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Treasury Notes were issued between 1890 and 1891 under The Legal Tender Act of July 14, 1890. They were administered by the American Treasury to people who turned in silver bullion, and these notes could then be exchanged for coins.

Due to this short production period, fewer Treasury Notes were printed in 1890 than standard currency. Similarly, Treasury Notes were only given in a specific situation, which was likely not accessible to the broad American populace. So, with fewer people able to qualify for Treasury Notes, there were fewer made to be kept around for over a hundred years.

Related: 5 Rare 20-Dollar Bills Worth as Much as a Car

Need to Know

Look for a portrait of Edwin Stanton, former Secretary of War, on the left-hand side of the bill’s face. Then, the back should feature a rich near-Kelly green color with a giant “one” printed on it.

1896 $1 Silver Certificate

The 1896 Silver Certificate dollar bill embraces the Neoclassical style and belongs to the “Educational Series” which means it features artwork of the allegorical figure History teaching Youth. Other notes show similar tutelage moments with different subjects. reports that Q. David Bowers ranked this $1 Educational Note as #7 in his book 100 Greatest Currency Notes. What makes it so rare? Well, according to GovMint, only 7,000-9,000 of the 20 million dollars printed have survived to the millennium.

Need to Know

This exquisite silver dollar certificate has an incredible piece of art printed on the front with a woman wearing a laurel wreath holding a young boy close and pointing to a large book. On the back, there are two portraits, one of Martha Washington and one of George Washington.

Pair of 2013(B) $1 Bills With Duplicate Serial Numbers

If you don’t keep up-to-date on numismatic news, then you might not have heard about the 2013(B) dollar bills that The Bureau of Engraving and Printing released with twin serial numbers. These star notes were printed in Washington DC and Fort Worth, and as of 2021, only 9 confirmed duplicate matches had been found.

While no one knows for sure just how many of these duplicates were made, it’s extremely unlikely to find the matching pairs in circulation. This is what makes this matching duplicate so valuable.

Need to Know

These dollar bills are particularly rare since they share the same serial number and are replacement bills to boot. Always check the serial numbers on your bills to see if you’ve got something special in your hands.

1862 $1 Bill With Serial #1

The first United States $1 notes, also called United States Notes and Legal Tenders, were issued in 1862, according to The Bureau of Engraving & Printing. Finding an 1862 dated note, in particular, would be rather special since it’s the first year they were printed.

Similarly, finding one with such a low serial number as #1 would make any old dollar bill worth much more than its face value — no matter its condition.

Need to Know

This note features a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury at the time, on the left-hand side of the bill’s face. You’ll find a prominent seal on the back that explains this bill is a legal tender of the United States of America.

How Much Are 1-Dollar Bills Worth?

1-Dollar 1896 Silver Certificate

The vast majority of $1 bills are worth just that — $1. However, some monumental finds have rocked numismatics collectors’ worlds. Ranging from historically significant bills to uncirculated marvels, these dollar bills make carrying cash worthwhile.

Before trying to hunt down the rarest dollar bills, it’s important to know some of the factors that make $1 bills worth more than that.

  • Condition: A dollar bill’s physical condition is super important for determining value. The more pristine the bill, the more it’ll be worth.
  • Age: American currency has undergone a ton of changes over the years, so historic bills from defunct nations or with unique character portraits can be quite valuable.
  • Circulated vs. Uncirculated: Generally, uncirculated bills are more desirable than circulated ones. They’re usually deemed to have the highest level of mint condition, with four sharp corners and no wrinkling, smudging, or evidence of handling.
  • Printing Errors: There’s a swath of printing errors that make it into circulation, but some common ones include improper alignment, doubled or missing serial numbers, seal overprints, and more.

Unique 1-Dollar Bill Characteristics to Look For

1-Dollar 1896 Silver Certificate

On top of your basic factors, there are also unique characteristics to keep an eye out for. These are rarer and more unusual, but not impossible for a non-collector to stumble across.

  • Ladder bills: Ladder bills are those with serial numbers that ascend or descend in perfect order. This is an extremely rare occurrence, but even near ladders are worth quite a bit.
  • Silver Certificate bills: Between 1878 and 1964, silver certificates were printed as a representation of silver bullion. You can identify these by the letterhead at the top above the portrait that says Silver Certificate.
  • Star notes/bills: Star notes are the banknotes that were printed to replace a faulty one in circulation. You can identify these by the star that appears at the end of the serial number.
  • Signed bills: Back when signatures were the selfies of the world, people used currency as a makeshift autograph book. The more famous the signature, the more valuable the dollar bill.
Helpful Hack

You can look up any star bills’ serial numbers from 1981 to present at My Currency Collection to see how rare your bill is.

Related: How Much Is a 2 Dollar Bill Worth? Value Chart & Rarity Guide

Where Can You Find Valuable $1 Bills?

Now, this is where things can get tough. The odds of you finding a 19th -century-dollar bill in circulation are practically nil. You might be able to find those historic dollar bills in old family heirlooms. Check books, bibles, pockets, and the backs of picture frames to see if they’ve left any money behind.

However, you’ve got as good of a chance as anyone of finding misprinted, star, and ladder dollar bills in circulation. To maximize your chance of coming across these, always ask for change back in dollar bills. And check any bills that cross your path for the valuable characteristics we’ve discussed. It’s all too easy to have a pricey dollar bill pass through your hands without knowing it.

See a Dollar, Check It Out

When you see a penny, you pick it up, and we hope going forward that when you see a dollar, you’ll check it out. As of 2022, there are 14.3 billion $1 bills in circulation, but tucked away in those piles and piles of cash are the one-in-a-million dollar bills we hope you find.

How to Spot Rare 1 Dollar Bills + 5 Worth Hunting Down