Dollar bills are worth, well, a dollar. Except when the serial number on the bill is fancy — that makes dollar bills worth money!
There are lots of opportunities to cash in on your cash.
Finding currency errors is one way. Another way (that might be easier) is by finding cool serial numbers — serial numbers that are special in some way. While many currency errors are found by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing employees before they ever see the light of day, every bill should have a serial number.
Fancy serial numbers are (literally) a numbers game
What makes a serial number “fancy?” Being one-of-a-kind isn’t enough, obviously. All serial numbers are unique (or should be!)
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I went through about $300 worth of $1 bills looking for fancy serial numbers. We came close to getting a radar bill (described below) but did find several birthday bills and three-of-a-kind bills.
To some extent, the fanciness of a serial number can be enhanced by a good story or a creative observation of what the number means. Nonetheless, the following kinds of numbers are generally considered fancy:
Low or high serial numbers
Low or high serial numbers are numbers that are close to zero like 00000014, or near the top like 99999934.
They’re special because they’re near the beginning or end of a series. The closer to the ends, the better. The odds of getting a serial number within the first or last 100 is about a million to one.
Solid or near-solid serial numbers
Near-solid serial numbers have most, but not all, of the same digit, like 44434444. It’s a little over a million to one for 7/8 near-solid bills like this one.
A solid serial number is a serial number with just one digit like 77777777. The odds of getting a pure solid bill are about 11 million to one (there is no 00000000 bill).
Repeater or super repeater serial numbers
Repeater serial numbers have the first four digits and the second four digits the same. For example, 70347034 is a repeater.
If there are four of one two-digit number, like 58585858, that’s a super repeater serial number.
The odds of getting a repeater are about ten thousand to one, and about a million to one for a super repeater.
Radar, super radar, and radar repeater serial numbers
Radar (palindromic) serial numbers come from the fact that the word radar is a palindrome which reads the same frontwards and backward. A serial number like 25722752 would be on a radar bill. The odds of getting a radar number are about ten thousand to one.
Super radar serial numbers are radar serial numbers that have six of the same digit in the middle.
Radar repeater. Both a radar number and a repeater: 13311331.
Ladder serial numbers
A ladder serial number has consecutive digits, as in 23456789. These are quite rare.
Binary serial numbers
Binary numbers are serial numbers with just two different digits, like 73373733.
Sometimes to be clear these are distinguished from true binary serial numbers when they have just zeroes and ones, as in 01101010.
Some other interesting serial numbers
Following these obviously fancy numbers, there is a whole range of bills that some might consider fancy:
- Birthday or anniversary bills. These are bills that have a serial number with a year, a date, or both. Something like 41969780 (with “1969” tucked away in the center) or 02141951 (Valentine’s Day in 1951).
- Near ladders. A near-miss on a ladder like 91345678.
- Ladder repeaters. Serial numbers with close-by patterns like 36383837.
- Lucky bills. Ones with 777 or 7777 in the serial number draw some interest from the casino community.
- Pairs and three of a kind. Something like 92255588.
- Liar’s Poker bills. Anything that has an unusually high frequency of one or more numbers, like 56559155 is a good bill for playing the bar game Liar’s Poker (see below).
Fancy Serial Numbers for Fun and Profit
Start a treasure hunt in your wallet and catch those gems that most people overlook every day! Includes an ebook and a spreadsheet with sold fancy serial number bills. Also contains information on currency errors! (Click picture for more info)
Dollar bills worth money, in more ways than one
If you’ve gotten this far (!) then these fancy serial number bills are at least intriguing to you. Here are a few uses for them beyond spending at the grocery store:
- As conversation pieces. If you’re a numbers geek like a mathematician or a statistician then these bills are fun. A dollar bill with all 7’s in the serial number just kind of makes you go “Wow!”
- As gifts. If the bills have a year in the serial number, like “1994,” then they can be a neat gift for someone who was born in 1994 or who got married in 1994. These kinds of bills are even more special if the other numbers make a day and month, like “12061994.” A few hundred thousand people are born each day, so the odds of just one of them (or a friend of one of them) happening along an eBay auction doesn’t seem quite so distant. (And that’s just birthdays!) Recently I sent my niece four $2 bills for her 8th birthday. Each of the serial numbers had “08” in them; I don’t even know if she (or her mom) figured out the trick!
- To punk your friends at liar’s poker. Liar’s poker is a bar game that is played with dollar bills. Each player sees the serial number on their own bill, but no one else’s. Players then bid in turn by saying, for example, “three 8’s,” by which they’re asserting that there are at least three 8’s in the serial numbers of everyone’s bills, taken together. If players can bring their own bills to the game, then having a bill with six 9’s (say) in the serial number is an advantage, because it throws the statistics off. A bid of six 9’s in a five-player game is a bit risky because on average there should be four 9’s amongst the players. But it’s not risky at all if you have six of them on your bill. Evil, huh? 🙂
- As collectible investments. Just like with anything else, collectors are looking for good specimens for their collection. This is where the uncirculated and graded bills go at a premium. Collectors may have “placeholders” in their collection but they usually look for better versions of a particular piece.
Got questions about a bill you’ve found?
Due to the popularity of this post, and a large number of questions asked about particular bills, I’ve simplified a few things.
First, I created a frequently-asked-questions page about fancy serial numbers. It contains general answers to broad questions that have been asked in the comments.
If you’re interested in selling your fancy serial number bills, then my ebook will tell you everything I know, and everything I do to sell bills (which I have done successfully).
If you’re interested in what your particular bill is worth based on its serial number, then I’ll be glad to give you an informed opinion as to its value for the price of a good cup of coffee.
You’re of course welcome to leave a comment to ask a question. I’ll answer questions that aren’t covered by the FAQ, and point to the FAQ if your question is addressed there.