Short Answer: The value of a 1950 $20 bill is calculated using its base value, plus any special serial numbers and unique imperfections. The bill may be worth anywhere from the face value of $20 up to about $40 in mint condition — or more if it has particularly rare misprints. To sell valuable, old bills, you can connect with collectors directly through auction sites or visit a local currency dealer. Below, we answer more questions about what “value” means for currency, how to calculate the value of a particular 1950 $20 bill, and how to sell and preserve your old currency.
What Currency Value Means
Although you may initially think of “value” as a single number for a single bill, there are actually a few different types of value. Currency value includes:
Book value is the generally accepted retail price of a bill or coin. The number may be published in guides, such as the Standard Catalog of World Coins.
Buy price is the price a bill and coins dealer would be willing to pay for your collectible currency. Keep in mind, dealers are in the business of selling bills and coins, so this price will be lower than the bill’s retail value. This number is most relevant to members of the general public with an occasional collectible bill or coin to sell.
If you are looking to buy collectible bills and coins, this is the number you’ll be most interested in. The retail value is the price a dealer would sell a bill or coin for (which would result in a profit for the dealer).
Calculating the Worth of a 1950 $20 Bill
Present-day currency holds a value of its own, but what about bills from years past? Maybe you have a 1950 $10 bill in your possession or a 1950 $20 bill; old bills like these may be worth more than their face value.
The worth of a particular 1950 $20 bill is determined by first establishing a base value for the most common versions of the bill. The bill may have higher than the base value if it has any unique attributes, such as uncommon serial numbers or misprints. It is essential to keep in mind that the value added by distinctive traits can vary by buyer. Below, we discuss the base value of a 1950 $20 bill and detail the characteristics which can add value to the bill.
The $20 bill has had a long and varied history; however, the year 1950 didn’t mark any historic updates to the bill. This means that, although the design is slightly different than today’s paper currency, $20 bills from 1950 are generally worth face value — $20. Bills from 1950 onward are considered “modern” and aren’t as popular as pre-1950 bills among collectors.
Traits That Add Value
Although most $20 bills from the year 1950 are generally accepted at face value, there are a few qualities that could increase the value of your bill. These traits include “special” serial numbers, misprints, and “star prints.”
Special Serial Numbers
An identifying serial number is printed on every single paper currency in the United States. While the string of numbers and letters may seem random, the sequence actually says a lot about the origin of the bill. For example, the first letter in the sequence indicates which Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) issued the bill. There are 12 FRBs, and each location has its own identification letter. The last character in the serial number is the series number, which represents the design iteration the bill is a part of.
Your bill’s value can increase based on the presence of some special serial numbers and combinations. Some collectors prefer certain sequences over the next, so the amount of value added by a special code is subjective. Examples of special codes include:
- Solid Serial Number: One number repeated; e.g., C77777777A
- Low Serial Number: Two digits or less; e.g., L00000001C
- Trailing Zero Serial Number: Seven zeros after a number; e.g., C50000000A
- Ladder Serial Number: Sequence of consecutive numbers; e.g., L12345678C
- Repeater Serial Number: Two numbers repeated; e.g., C1919191A
- Binary Serial Number: All zeros and ones; e.g., E10010101C
- Stand Alone Serial Number: Number surrounded by zeros; e.g., V00200000D
- Radar Serial Number: Numbers that read the same both ways; e.g., L59911995A
- Flipper Serial Number: Numbers that read the same upside down; e.g., C00088000A
Special codes generally add more value to smaller bills, but a special code on your 1950 $20 bill is still something you may want to show a dealer.
If an imperfect sheet of bills is detected in the printing process, there must be a reprint. The reprinted versions are indicated with a small star at the end of the serial number. A star note from 1950 would have a small star with an open center. Unfortunately, a star on a bill printed from 1950 onward won’t increase value significantly.
Although the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing tries to stay vigilant when it comes to misprints, sometimes mistakes happen. Since errors are rare, the value of a misprinted bill may be higher than its perfect counterparts. In order to retain the value of misprinted money, the bills should be in excellent condition. Individual dealers will determine the amount of value added by a misprint. There are many different recorded misprints, and the more severe the misprint, the greater the added value. Common mistakes include:
- Seals and serial numbers shifted to the left or right: A bill with this trait will have the seal and serial numbers printed on the face of the individual on the bill. These are desirable misprints because of the severity of the mishap.
- “Stuck” digits in the serial number: A bill with this misprint will have numbers in the serial sequence out of line with the rest. This mishap occurs more regularly than shifted misprints, so it is not very valuable.
- Seals and serial numbers printed on the back: This type of misprint can add significant value to bills, especially if the bill is in great condition.
The art of pricing collectible paper currency is a complex system based on many factors. A $20 bill from 1950 without any special codes or misprints will likely only earn you face value. If the bill happens to be in mint condition, some collectors may be willing to buy it from you for up to $40. Additionally, value added by special codes, star prints, or misprints will depend on the supply and demand of the market when you decide to sell.
Since bills from 1950 are considered modern, your bill probably won’t be of high value without a truly remarkable and rare misprint (in the eyes of the dealer). If you suspect your bill may be special, you should consult a few different dealers and buyers to see how much they would be willing to pay.
Finding a Place to Sell Your Bill
If you decide to sell your bill, you’ll have options both online and in-person. It should be noted that the evaluation of your bill is subjective, so pricing may vary between buyers. The following outlets will allow you to sell your currency:
Auction sites like eBay allow you to sell your currency directly to collectors. Before listing your bill, you’ll be able to browse similar listings to compare prices. Auction sites give you control over your pricing, but you should value your bill as accurately and fairly as possible based on its condition. Your potential buyer won’t be able to see the bill in person, so quality photos and descriptions are a must.
A dealer near you can inspect your currency in person. Search for coin dealers in your area on your search engine of choice for an idea of where you can take your bill(s). Many coin dealers will also inspect and buy paper currency, or can point you in the direction of a dealer that specializes in paper currency.
Preserving the Bill’s Worth
While the current value of your 1950 $20 bill likely isn’t much more than face value, it’s possible that demand could rise in the future. In order to preserve your paper currency, the Littleton Coin Company suggests these precautions:
- Always store paper currency flat and unfolded
- Keep bills in a protective holder or album
- Store the currency in an area with consistent and moderate temperatures
- Avoid storing the bills in an area with high humidity
The 1950 $20 bill is new enough to be considered a modern bill. There were also no changes done the design of the $20 bill in 1950, which would have increased the bill’s worth. However, if your bill is in mint condition, it can fetch up to twice its face value — and if it has any oddities, such as interesting serial number or misprint, it may be worth a bit more. If you would like to sell your bill, you can do so using an auction site or a local, in-person currency dealer.