Error notes are examples of paper money that somehow managed to make it into circulation, despite the obvious printing mistakes displayed on their faces (fronts) and backs. It shouldn’t be too surprising that a certain number of error notes exist. After all, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces more than 10 billion notes a year, so a statistically tiny number of errors is hardly an indication of lax quality standards. But that very scarcity is precisely what makes error notes so interesting to collectors.

Errors are often organized by when the error occurred during its printing and handling. U.S. paper money produced during the 20th century is printed in three waves. The first printing creates the image on the back of the note, the second printing is for the face, and the third printing adds serial numbers and seals to the face. Other errors are due to the way the paper is handled (folding and cutting errors) during any of these printings. In all cases, the more dramatic and glaring the error, the more valuable it is to collectors.

The so-called “king” of paper-money errors is a note with mismatched denominations on its face and back, which means the mistake occurred during the second printing (sometimes a mismatch error is perpetuated through the third printing, too). A less-valuable but related error is a note whose face is inverted. Double printings at any stage are also sought, evidence that a sheet has gone through the press more than once. The result is usually a note whose face, back, or overprints appear blurry, since the images are not perfectly aligned.

Lack of ink, or too much, is a relatively common error. In general, the bigger the blank spot or smear, the more valuable the error. Offset printing errors refer to those goofs that result in some of the face appearing on the back of a note, or vice versa. Notes printed out of register are also fairly common. In these situations, the image intended for the back or face of a note might appear to be cut off at the top or bottom. In fact, the error is due to the printing of the note, not its cutting.

That said, sometimes an error in cutting is exactly the problem, although such notes are only considered valuable if you can see approximately 50 percent of bottom and top halves of the face or back, stacked on top of each other like a movie projector that’s gone haywire.

Finally, errors committed on the various types of large-size notes issued from 1861 to 1928 are even more rare than the ones that have been produced since. In general, that means that an error on a large note such as a Silver Certificate will be worth more than the same error on a modern Federal Reserve Note. Still, as always, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, the value of an error found on most National Bank Notes, which were issued from 1863 to 1935, generally has more to do with the inherent rarity of that particular National note rather than the type of error on it.

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1981-a $1 Federal Reserve Bank New York Insufficient Ink Error Pmg 35 Epq CvfHgr ((error)) 1957b $1 X-rare ((mismatched Serial#)) Pmg Gem Unc 66epq1935 Fr. 1607 $1 Silver Certificate Inverted Back Error Pmg Very Fine 251977 $20 Dollar Federal Reserve Error Note Reverse Offset Print Front To Back1988a $1 Frn Insufficient Inking Of Back Printing Error Pcgs Gem New 65ppq1981a $20 Federal Reserve Note -- Offset Printing ErrorFr.1935-b 1976 $2 Sequential Mismatched Prefix Error Notes Appear Gem Pack Fresh Fr1935-b 1976 2$ Sequential-mismatched-prefix-error-notes-appear-gem-pack-fresh$1 Note Error Missing Print Pmg 58 Epq Fr-1928-d Cleveland1974-$1-inverted Overprint-error Note-type 1-fr 1908-f-pmg-choice-unc-64 Epq!!!Error Note - $1 1935 Pmg Choice About Unc 58 Epq1981a $5 Frn New York District Error Note Pmg65epq$$ One Dollar Bill Shifted Stamp $1 Misprinted 2003 $$Unc-1969-$1.00-misaligned-error-star Note-currency-paper Money-really Neat!!!1988a $10 Frn Gem Unc Odd Numbers L50000005a1974 $20 Federal Reserve **error** Offset Print Note1981 Frn Rare Major Front/back False Cut Boston Note1963 Star - $2 Vf - Ef Red Seal * Fancy Low S# 000.16203 * NoteNoblespirit No Reserve{1004}dramatic Reverse Printing Error On $5 Frn Choice Vf+2003a Two Dollar ($2) Bill - Uncirculated Laminated (error Look) New Mexico2003a Two Dollar ($2) Bill - Uncirculated Laminated (error Look) Idaho 2 Dollar MisprintMisprint 2 Dollar Bill 2005 Bill Error Money2003a $1 Federal Reserve Note **insufficient Ink Mint Error** Pcgs 67ppq Gem New1988 A $1.00 **error** Note Off Center Seriel Number1974 $1 Dollar Bill Misaligned Overprint Error Fed Note Currency Paper Money1995 $1 Federal Reserve Error Note, Dollar Bill (222127w)Double Sided Mis-cut Dollar Bill