Big buck: Rare $1,000 bill sells at auction for $2 million in Baltimore

A rare $1,000 bill from the 1890s sold at auction Thursday night in Baltimore for $2.04 million.

It’s some of the most expensive money that money can buy: A rare $1,000 bill sold at auction Thursday night in Baltimore for $2.04 million.

The note was sold to an anonymous buyer on the first day of the Winter Whitman Expo, a numismatic convention that began in the city Thursday and runs through Oct. 28.


“This is considered the one key item that every collector dreams of owning,” said Peter Treglia, director of currency for Stack’s Bowers, the auction house that sold the item.

The 1890 series Treasury note is nicknamed “the grand watermelon” because the zeros on it — ornately designed to deter counterfeiting — resemble the fruits.

The back of the $1000 "watermelon" bill.

On the face of the bill is General George Meade, who commanded Union forces at Gettysburg. The bill is about fifty percent larger than our current moneys, Treglia estimates.

According to the Library of Congress, 18,000 of the notes were printed before the Treasury Department decided to change the design.

Only three of the notes remain in private collections today, and each one is valued at over $1 million. Another of the bill sold in Dallas four years ago for $3.29 million.

Because the United States never demonetizes its currency, the bill is technically still legal tender, says Treglia. You could take it to the bank to exchange it for $1,000 in cash. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, he said.

It is, after all, worth millions.