When Is a Mistake Acceptable?

When it is a Bureau of Engraving and Printing mistake, of course. United States paper money errors have always held a special appeal for collectors young and old. For many examples it is clear how the error was caused, while others leave the most knowledgeable experts and fervent collectors scratching their heads.

One of the more valuable error types released into circulation is the Double Denomination which features a front and back of differing monetary values. Backs of U.S. currency are always printed first and then paired with the face that matches the value of the back. Sometimes though, things do not go according to plan. The last major Double Denomination error of the 20th century was the Series 1974 $20/$10 from the Dallas district. The press operator failed to notice that the wrong denomination was being used when printing the faces. Houston, Texas seemed to be the hotbed of where initial reports of these odd notes surfaced. Many were soon retrieved and destroyed by the Federal Reserve, although several examples did survive in collector hands. Today, these special notes are known as the “King of Errors.” Could another release of misprinted Double Denomination notes escape and enter circulation? Only time will tell. But this blogger sure hopes so. Keep checking those notes!

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has stepped up their quality control procedures as compared to the 1970s and 1980s as fewer and fewer error notes are escaping the safeguards now in place. The last example of the famed Dallas $20/$10 we offered sold for $25,850 in August 2012. If offered at auction today this note would likely realize more than double that figure.

Error Notes. Fr. 2071-K. 1974 $20 Federal Reserve Notes. PCGS Gem New 65 PPQ. Double Denomination. | Stacks Bowers

Errors are what propelled me into the currency hobby after my wife found an AU $1 Foldover Error in circulation in 1990. After many years of being enthralled with coins, my focus soon shifted to U.S. paper money and error notes. I have enjoyed my various pursuits, the many conversations with my peers and the many neat discoveries over the years. I look forward to many more.

Collecting error notes can be quite varied as there are Blank Backs, Missing Third Printings, Inverted Third Printings, Mismatched Serial Numbers, the list and goes on and on. Keep an eye on the serial numbers of the bills you encounter daily, because you just never know when the left may be different from the right.

Fortunately for collectors the BEP continues to make mistakes and we all benefit.

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