Del Monte $20 bill set to sell for nearly $60,000 – barring banana skins

Rare printing error – or creative addition by bored employee – makes 2004 banknote a collector’s item, auctioneer says

Officially, it is classified as “an obstructed printing error with retained obstruction”. In reality, it appears to be a simple slip-up.

A $20 banknote which had a sticker from a bunch of bananas attached to it before it was overprinted with security numbering is now up for auction at a Texas dealer, the rare error elevating its worth to $57,500, almost 3,000 times its face value.

The so-called Del Monte banknote is unusual, and so valuable, because the sticker is still affixed and clearly shows a serial number and US Department of the Treasury seal printed over it, according to Heritage Auctions of Dallas.

“Most obstructions fall off shortly after printing, leaving behind a blank area of paper lacking the design, but errors with objects that ‘stick’ to the note and enter circulation are very rare,” a description of the lot on the seller’s website said.

“When this note was printed at the Fort Worth western currency facility, it went through the first and second printings normally before the Del Monte sticker found its way on to the surface,” the seller continued, describing the misprint as “one of the greatest paper money errors in history”.

Bidding on the banknote, from the US treasury’s 1996 design series and released into circulation in 2004, will end on 22 January. According to the Heritage Auctions website on Sunday afternoon, the highest bid was $57,500, which would actually cost the bidder more than $69,000, including a buyer’s premium.

The banknote sold at auction in 2006, for more than $25,000. Two years earlier it was “a bargain” at $10,000, when it was sold on eBay by a student in Ohio who received it as part of an ATM withdrawal.

The original estimate for the current sale was between $25,000 and $50,000, Heritage Auctions said.

All US banknotes produced since 1968 go through three print stages, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), which manufactures paper money for the US treasury, says on its website.

The colorful banana sticker, bearing the words “Ecuador Del Monte Quality” and the number #4011, would have been added after the first two stages, printing the front and back of the note, but before the final print that added the security logo and individual identification detail.

Because of this, Heritage said, “most would conjecture that this error note was no accident and probably the result of some very bored or creative BEP employee”.

Banknotes produced in Fort Worth have been found with “Band-Aid, paper fragments, scotch tape and wood shavings” attached, Heritage Auctions said.

Misprinted banknotes are prized by notaphilists, those who collect paper money. Currency featuring overprints, mismatching serial numbers, misalignments and missing ink regularly sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay.

Heritage claims a world record for the most expensive banknote of its type ever sold, $384,000 for a 1934 federal reserve bill which had a face value of $10,000 in a September 2020 auction.


Richard Luscombe

The GuardianTramp

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