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VERIFY: Here's why your misprinted $20 could be worth $500

A viral TikTok says a $20 bill with a mismatched serial number could be worth more than $500. Experts say that's entirely possible.

WASHINGTON — Everyone wants to make money. And if you can turn a profit out of the bills in your pocket, that's even better. 

A viral TikTok with more than 5 million views says that if you find a $20 bill with a mismatched serial number, you can sell it for more than $500. In the interest of getting you some serious bang for your buck, we talked to the experts to get the facts.

QUESTION:

If you have a $20 bill with mismatched serial numbers, could it be sold for more than $500?

ANSWER:

Yes, and some have sold for much more.

SOURCES:

  • Dustin Johnston, Vice President of currency auctions at Heritage Auctions in Dallas and one of the world’s leading auctioneers of U.S. currency and paper money
  • Dr. Jesse Kraft, curator of the American Numismatics at the American Numismatics Society of New York City

PROCESS:

Despite the rigorous quality control that exists when printing U.S. currency, every now and then something slips through the cracks, Dustin Johnson says. And when those errors are found, he says they can become pretty valuable.

"The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has pretty stringent standards to prevent errors like this from getting out. And they're very scarce as a total number of surviving errors that get out of the facilities and enter into circulation," Johnston says. "We sold a unique mismatch serial number from a Bureau of Engraving and Printing release that was printed for a bank in Red Wing Minnesota that had mismatched serial numbers, we sold it for $69,000. So that's the most expensive world record for a mismatch serial number."

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You can search through the archives of what kind of currency printing errors have been auctioned off on Heritage Auctions.

One of the coolest currency errors, and holds the world record for most expensive, sold in January for $396,000. It's a $20 bill that found itself with a Del Monte banana sticker stuck on in the middle of the printing process. Kraft says it sold for such a high price because of rarity, of course, but also the novelty factor.

Credit: HA.com

"I mean, that one is extreme," Kraft said. "Just because it's so in your face and bright colors. And it's just a sticker that most people recognize."

Johnston agrees, saying the more noticeable the error it is, the more interested buyers and collectors tend to be.

"The more dramatic the error, typically, the more value it has," Johnson said. "There are so many different ways that the printing process can go awry that we've got a really wide range of mess-ups that we're able to offer to our collectors.

So we can verify that yes, you can make some extra money off of a bill with mismatched serial numbers. But, the crazier the error, the more money you'll get.