Big money? Large size dollars and their value

Waaay back in the early 1920s, my mother was her class’s spelling bee champ for several years running.

The principal hands out large dollars bills to winners of my mother's spelling bee team, circa 1923

The principal gives large dollar bills to the teacher for my mother’s spelling bee team, circa 1923. (Sadly, tears in the rest of the photo obscure most of the other students’ faces, including my mom’s.)

Her prize? A freshly-minted dollar bill. That was really big money in those days. Literally.

1923 Series dollar bills. Note the difference in size compared to a modern bill.

1923 Series dollar bills. Note the difference in size compared to a modern bill.

From 1862 until 1928, all United States paper currency was about 40% larger than it is today.
(So were men’s wallets, which often folded into thirds. So if you’re looking to buy a vintage wallet, measure it to make sure it’s really pre-1928!)
Because of the bills’ size, they were often referred to as “horseblanket” or “saddleblanket” dollars.
In 1929, the government began printing the “1928 Series” dollars in the size we’re familiar with today.

Your large size dollar bills could be worth…..TWO DOLLARS!
That’s because they were probably circulated and have creases, tears and discolorations. But a bill in mint condition? Why, it could be worth…$15!
The fact is that too many people still have them. And they’re holding on to them, hoping the value will go up. It probably won’t, at least in our lifetime.
But if you do want to buy or sell large size dollars, here are some hints, because some bills can command higher prices.

Condition is everything.
Notes in rough shape will be worth at least 9 times less than those in uncirculated condition, because mint-condition bills are extremely rare. Those in “fine” condition are more affordable, and can be had for less than $100.

The seal color matters.
Depending upon the year, bills with red seals tend to be worth more than those with blue seals. This is especially true for 1914 $5, $10, $20 and $100 notes.
And, if some clairvoyant relative saved 100 $2 red seal bills from 1928, and IF they’re in mint condition, they could be worth $20,000!

The signatures make a difference.
A silver certificate bill signed by Speelman and White or Woods and White could fetch $45 to $50 if it’s in uncirculated condition. And a Woods-Tate signature could go as high as $600 – again only if it’s perfect.

This bill has a Speelman and White signature. But it also has a blue seal, and it isn't in uncirculated condition.

This bill has a Speelman and White signature. But it also has a blue seal, and it isn’t in uncirculated condition.

Hold on to your large dollars.
Who knows? One day they could appreciate in value, especially if paper currency disappears altogether. And it couldn’t hurt to run them by an expert. Vintage currency isn’t usually the domain of the average vintage or antique dealer, so you’d be better served by a specialist in numismatics.

About sarathurston

I'm a marketing communications writer who also loves antiques and collectibles. You can find my shop on Etsy at
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