I’ll Grant You That, Lincoln.

1928 50 dollar bill

Oh man, just came across a couple of old bills I picked up the other month while cleaning up my desk. A $50 bill from 1928, and a $5 bill from 1934. You don’t see those every day! Nor such clever blog titles, right? ;) ‘Cuz Grant and Lincoln are featured on these bills? Sigh…

Here’s the story of how I came to own them:

  • I hit up a local antique show
  • I found a vender selling marbles and was like “Marbles?? Is there good business in that?” To which the vendor retorted, “You have NO idea man. Just sold one for $70 before you got here, and I’ll probably make a few hundred on the others too. People go silly for these!”
  • I have to take a seat because I’m in shock. And continue asking him more questions on this unbelievable business of marbles…
  • Some things I learn: Some old ones can go well into the thousands. But just like coins and currency, condition matters. Also, they’re super cheap to pick up because most people have no idea they’re even worth anything! My (old) self included. Contrary to popular belief, all marbles do *not* look the same and you can tell a lot about the history depending on the color as well as the way they were made (bubbles = old). That’s good to know since there aren’t any dates on them like coins!
  • After our fascinating chat, I peer into the next glass case near the marble one and this one was filled with old Indian Head pennies along with some old silver pieces as well. Including these two older bills.
  • I ask him how much they’re going for, and he says $12 for the $5 and $78 for the $50 – which is always funny to hear when you’re using money to buy OTHER money :) And you’re dishing over more of it in the process! (Though at least you know you can always get $55 from ’em :))
  • I have no idea if these are fair prices, but my limited knowledge says it sounds about right, and that maybe the $50 could even be worth more ‘cuz it’s not in too terrible shape. Especially since it says “Redeemable in gold upon demand”! And anything relating to gold has to be worth something, right? :)
  • I ask him where he picked them up, and he said he got the $50 at a golf charity event he runs (someone tipped him w/ it!), and the $5 he received in change from his bank. He couldn’t believe they hadn’t taken it out of circulation, and neither can I! It’s 80 years old!
  • I tell him I really want them both, but not sure I want to pay full price for them especially since I’m more of a coin collector than paper currency. I ask if he’d take $80 for the pair instead of $90 and he says sure, why not. (Remember – everything’s negotiable in this hobby! There’s a saying that typically you can get stuff for around 20% off…)
  • I shake his hand and pass over my $80 to get $55 in return :)

Then once at home, I hurry to look them up in my Guidebook of United States Currency to see what I’m the new proud owner of, and here’s what I find:

  • 1928 (3) $50.00 Federal Reserve Note, Friedberg #2100C. With my limited knowledge I grade it a Very Fine – 25, which according to the book is worth about $100. Which means either I got a good deal at $30 off, or my grading sucks and it’s right on the money. We should probably go with the latter… [UPDATE: It was only worth $70’ish]
  • 1934 (C) $5.00 Federal Reserve Note, Friedberg #1955 (“Light”). With “light” meaning the neon-like green symbol there on the right, as compared to the darker green version. With this bill I gave it a grade of Very Fine – 20, which clocks in at $16.25 according to the same book. So again I either get a good deal, or my grading’s way off. [UPDATE: It was off – it’s about $12]

I’m not sure how to incorporate the writing marks on either bill when it comes to grading, but I gave it the ol’ college try. I feel like they’re just pencil marks anyways and could probably even be erased off lightly? No way I’m going to try, of course (cleaning coins/currency is a cardinal sin!), but you do have to wonder about these things ;)

Regardless, they make an excellent addition to my currency collection, of which now I have around 5 pieces I believe. Outside those Military Payment Certificates I recently picked up (I’ll probably re-trade them at some point).

Here’s a snapshot of the 1934 $5.00 bill:

1934 5 dollar bill

I find the text in the upper left of both these bills pretty fascinating. The paragraph on the $50.00 bill states:


While the paragraph on the $5.00 bill reads:


As you can tell, times were a lot different then. Guess they wanted to make sure people knew the money was real and not to worry, eh?

I thought it would also be cool to compare these guys to more modern day bills as well. So you can see the difference of the major designs over the years :)

The History of The $50.00 Bill:

history 50 dollar bill front

The backs:

history 50 dollar bill back

The History of the $5.00 Bill:

history 5 dollar bill front

The Backs:

history 5 dollar bill back

Pretty drastically different! If you’re one to pay attention at least :) And really makes me miss the older more elegant looking bills too. Not much a fan of the new stuff, ugh…

This also reminds me of that last $20.00 bill I picked up. Same design just 60 years newer. I’ll have to make it my mission to find an older version of that one too to match my new friends here, and then snap some history pics of those as well! I bet you can’t wait!

Happy hunting.

PS: Sorry for the lighting with these pics – took them in my office at night and didn’t have the patience to wait for daylight ;)


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