Some $2 bills are worth more than $20,000 — here are three ways to check

Here’s how to see whether your $2 bill is worth a small fortune

Some $2 bills could be worth 10,000 times their face value. But you know what to look for.

MarketWatch/Terrence Horan

Turning $2 into $20,000 has never been easier — if you’re lucky.

Some uncirculated U.S. $2 bills may be worth up to $20,000, but it depends on a few factors, according to Heritage Auctions, one of the largest auction houses in the world. And it’s possible that you could have one tucked away in your wallet or in your kitchen junk drawer.

Why? Because many of us are obsessed with holding on to these particular banknotes. 

“Americans don’t spend $2 bills, because they think they are markedly scarce. However, the numbers tell us a different story,” Dustin Johnston, vice president of Heritage Auctions, told MarketWatch. “Just in the last five years, they’ve printed 100 million $2 bills. The fact that they don’t circulate and are kept as mementos is a little bit odd. Very few of them have numismatic or collector value.”

So, because there’s an abundance of $2 bills, odds are that your own legal tender in that denomination is worth face value. But it doesn’t hurt to check to see if it’s worth more, right?

So what sets apart the $2 bills that may have significant value? It all comes down to three key factors: serial numbers, when the banknotes were printed and their condition.

The serial number is the big one. It’s printed on the left and right sides of the front of the bill, typically with a letter at the front. “What we look at is fancy serial numbers,” Johnston said. “A serial number ‘1’ for a 1976 $2 bill would be worth $20,000 or more. But [for] a majority of those people holding 1976 $2 bills, they are only worth face value. There are very few that actually exceed face value.”

Other high-value serial numbers include what collectors call “solid” or “ladders.” Solid serial numbers are codes that are all the same digit, like 88888888888, while a ladder number features digits listed in ascending order, such as 12345678910.

See also: The U.S. dollar has peaked — now it gets ‘messy’: SocGen

And, as one might guess, older $2 bills tend to be more rare than newer ones. Bills considered “older” by collectors are over 100 years old.

“Beyond the fancy serial numbers, most of the value is going to be in the large size notes [from] 1918 and prior. [The] 1918s are very common. They typically start at $80 to $100 and go up from there,” Johnston added. “The more recent ones, the 1920s and beyond, well over 99% are going to be worth marginally over face value.”

But it’s not as simple as saying that the older the $2 bill, the more value it may have, as the number of bills printed in a given year and the total number in circulation may also impact rarity.

The last major factor that people should look for in their $2 bill is condition. A crumpled and ripped $2 bill from a high-value year such as 1880 would be worth less than one in great condition. Like other collectibles, banknotes can be graded and encapsulated to help preservation. Notes and other collectibles sold at auction are typically graded.

“Grading can be expensive; it can be $20 to $30 a note. So we don’t always have everything grade,” Johnston said. “Many of the modern $2 bills, they can [be] crisp uncirculated and grade pretty high, but have marginal values, enough that they are not even worth being graded, so condition is not everything.”

There are several different organizations that grade collectibles, such as PCGS, PSA and SGC.

For those with further inquiries about the value of their $2 bill or any other collectible banknote, Heritage Auctions offers free online appraisals where collectors can upload images to their website here.

The $2 bill dates back to 1862, and versions of the bill feature the likenesses of, initially, Alexander Hamilton and then later Thomas Jefferson. More $2 bills will likely be printed in the coming years, too, so Johnston doesn’t recommend holding on to today’s $2 bills in hopes of seeing them become valuable years from now.

“Holding on to the common ones for another 30 years — they are common now, [and] they are going to probably stay common,” he said. “You’re almost better off spending them now, or depositing them in the bank vs. holding on to them.”

Read on: Mickey Mantle’s childhood home is being sold as a collectible. Could it be the next big IPO?