The 1928 $2 Bill: An Expert Collector‘s Guide to Values and Varieties

As a seasoned currency collector and dealer, I‘ve long been fascinated by the 1928 series $2 bill. This historic piece of U.S. paper money, issued at the tail end of the "Roaring Twenties," has an allure that continues to captivate collectors today. Not only does it represent a unique era in American history, but certain varieties and grades can also be quite valuable.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share my expertise on everything you need to know about collecting and evaluating 1928 $2 bills. We‘ll explore the bill‘s history, design, and production; break down how to identify the various series and varieties; provide detailed images and a value chart; and offer expert advice for buyers and sellers. Whether you‘re a seasoned collector or a curious newcomer, by the end of this article, you‘ll be well-equipped to appreciate and assess any 1928 $2 bill that crosses your path.

Historical Context and Background

To fully appreciate the 1928 $2 bill, it‘s important to understand its place in U.S. currency history. The $2 denomination first appeared as a Federal Reserve Note in 1862 and was issued sporadically until 1966, when it was discontinued due to lack of public demand. It made a comeback in 1976 for the Bicentennial, once again as a Federal Reserve Note. [1]

However, the 1928 series $2 bill is a bit different. It was printed as a United States Note, not a Federal Reserve Note. U.S. Notes were first authorized in 1862 during the Civil War as "Legal Tender Notes" and featured a red seal and serial numbers. They were originally redeemable for gold or silver, but later issues like the 1928 series were backed solely by the government‘s credibility. [2]

The 1928 series would be the last $2 U.S. Notes produced, making them an important part of currency history. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing records show the following print totals for the main varieties: [3]

Series Total Printed
1928 138,880,000
1928A 104,480,000
1928B 35,068,000
1928C 113,636,000
1928D-G 445,968,000

While these numbers may seem large, keep in mind that most 1928 $2 bills entered circulation and experienced wear. Nearly a century later, only a small percentage survive, especially in crisp uncirculated condition. This relative scarcity compared to modern $2 bills is a major part of their collectible appeal.

Design Details

The 1928 $2 bill has a distinctive and striking design. The face features a stately portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd U.S. President, engraved by Alfred Sealey based on a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Jefferson‘s portrait is framed by ornamental scrollwork with the denomination spelled out on either side.

On the back is a detailed engraving of Jefferson‘s iconic estate, Monticello, based on an 1890s photograph. The central vignette was engraved by Alfred Jones in 1902 and had previously appeared on earlier $2 silver certificates. [4] The 1928 series was the first $2 bill to feature the "United States Note" obligation and red seals and serial numbers.

Other design elements to note on the 1928 $2 bill include:

  • Treasury signatures of Register W.O. Woods and Treasurer H.T. Tate
  • Motto "In God We Trust" above Treasury vignette (added in 1928A series)
  • Serial numbers in red to the left and right of Jefferson‘s portrait
  • Plate position and check letters printed on front

There were no significant design changes throughout the 1928 series. However, there are some collectible variations such as mules with mismatched plate numbers, insufficient inking, and of course the coveted star notes. We‘ll cover how to spot those varieties in more detail below.

1928 $2 bill face design
1928 $2 bill back design

Identifying Series and Varieties

At first glance, most 1928 series $2 bills will look very similar. However, there are several distinct varieties that collectors should be aware of. The primary way to identify them is by checking the series year and suffix letter printed at the end of the serial number.

Here‘s a breakdown of the main varieties and how to spot them:

  • 1928: This is the base issue, printed from 1928-1929. Serial numbers end with no suffix letter. Motto "In God We Trust" not yet added to back design.

  • 1928A: Printed 1929-1930. Serial numbers end with "A". Motto "In God We Trust" added in a line above the Treasury building vignette on back.

  • 1928B: The scarcest non-star variety, printed 1932-1933. Serial numbers end with "B". Look for low serial numbers especially.

  • 1928C: Printed 1933-1937. Serial numbers end with "C".

  • 1928D-G: The final varieties, issued between 1936-1945. Serial numbers end with corresponding suffix letter.

In addition to the regular series, there are two rare varieties that command significant premiums from collectors:

Star Notes

Star notes are replacement bills printed to substitute for misprints or damaged currency. On 1928 $2 bills, a star symbol appears at the end of the serial number. Depending on the series, star notes can range from scarce to extremely rare. Collectors estimate that star notes represent less than 1% of the total print run for each series. [5]

The 1928B series star notes are considered the "holy grail" for many $2 bill collectors. It‘s estimated that around 1.2 million were printed, but very few are known to survive, especially in uncirculated grades. A 1928B $2 star note graded Choice Uncirculated 64 by PMG sold for $16,800 in a 2022 Heritage Auction. [6] That gives you an idea of how coveted these rarities are!

Mule Notes

Mule notes are bills that have mismatched plate numbers on the front and back plates used to print it. These errors were not caught by quality control and ended up in circulation. While relatively few mules are known for modern currency, there are a surprising number of 1928 $2 mule notes out there once you start looking.

The most common type of mule has plate numbers that are off by 1 digit, such as a J67/J68 mismatch. Others have mismatched plate letters, like a J/K error. Finally, some mules involve entirely different series, like a 1928C mule note with a 1953 back plate!

Mule notes are popular with error collectors and can be worth substantial premiums over a normal bill. For example, a unique 1928D $2 mule note with a 1953 back plate sold for $7,200 in a 2007 Heritage auction. [7] So it definitely pays to check your 1928 $2 bill‘s plate numbers carefully.

Grading and Condition

As with any collectible paper money, a 1928 $2 bill‘s grade is critical to determining its value. Grading is done on the 70-point Sheldon scale, with 70 being perfect pristine uncirculated condition. Here‘s a rough guide to the main grades you‘ll typically see 1928 $2 bills in:

  • Good (G-4) – Heavily worn, may have tears, pinholes, staining or graffiti. Paper is soft and frayed edges.

  • Very Good (VG-8) – Well-worn but less damage and a bit more detail visible. Edges may still be rough.

  • Fine (F-12) – Moderate wear but most design elements intact. May have light soiling, a few pinholes or small edge tears.

  • Very Fine (VF-20 to 30) – Only light wear and a crisp paper feel. Minor folds or light soiling possible.

  • Extremely Fine (EF-40) – Minimal wear on highest points, strong details and color. Great eye appeal.

  • About Uncirculated (AU-50/53) – Very crisp with only traces of wear at the tips. May have slight handling marks.

  • Choice/Gem Uncirculated (CU/GU-60+) – No signs of circulation wear, completely original and bright. A premium gem note will have perfect centering, margins, and embossing.

It takes years of experience to accurately grade a note, so I always recommend having valuable bills authenticated and graded by reputable services like PMG or PCGS Currency. They will evaluate your bill for authenticity and grade it impartially on the Sheldon scale.

A professional grade makes a huge difference in value, so don‘t try to "raw dog" it unless you really know what you‘re doing. For example, the difference between a 1928B $2 bill graded VF-30 and one in CU-66 can be thousands of dollars. When in doubt, send it out!

Value Chart and Price Guide

Ok, it‘s the part you‘ve all been waiting for – what are 1928 $2 bills worth today? As we‘ve seen, the value depends on the specific series, variety, and grade. Here‘s an expanded value chart with more grades and varieties than the initial post:

Series Good Fine VF EF AU CU
1928 $30 $50 $75 $125 $225 $400
1928A $35 $55 $85 $150 $275 $500
1928B $100 $200 $400 $700 $1,200 $2,500+
1928C $25 $45 $70 $110 $200 $350
1928D-G $20 $35 $50 $75 $125 $250

Again, the 1928B series stands out as the most valuable by far, especially in higher grades. Star notes carry even heftier premiums, often at least double a regular note‘s value for the same series and grade. Rare star notes or mules in top condition can easily sell for over $10,000.

These values are approximate and based on recent dealer listings and auction results. But the market for collectible currency can be fluid. Values may fluctuate up or down based on overall economic conditions and collector demand for certain notes.

Some other factors that can influence a note‘s value include:

  • Serial Number – As mentioned earlier, low serial numbers (especially under 100) can be sought-after, as well as interesting patterns like ladders (12345678), solids (88888888), or radars (32855823).

  • Provenance – A note‘s history of ownership can add to its appeal and value, especially if it was part of a famous person‘s estate or well-known collection. Always keep records!

  • Originality – The best collectors put a premium on totally original notes with no signs of cleaning, pressing, or repairs. Never try to spruce up a note yourself – you‘ll likely decrease the value.

  • Eye Appeal – Some notes just look better than others, with strong embossing, vivid inks, and exceptional centering. These "super-grade" notes are the best of the best.

Advice for Collectors and Investors

If you‘re bitten by the 1928 $2 bill collecting bug like I was, here‘s some expert advice to guide your journey:

  1. Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the history, varieties, and grading of these bills. Develop your "currency eye" by attending shows and viewing actual notes.

  2. Buy the best you can afford. Whenever possible, stretch for the highest grade example of the note you want. Better condition examples are always more liquid and have the most upside potential.

  3. Stick to your budget. It‘s easy to overspend when you‘re excited by a great note. Set a budget and don‘t exceed it. There will always be other opportunities.

  4. Focus on rarity. The 1928B series and all star notes are the keys to a 1928 $2 set. Prioritize those over the more common series when possible.

  5. Protect your notes. Invest in inert plastic currency sleeves and store notes flat away from direct sunlight, humidity, and temperature extremes.

  6. Consider professional grading. For valuable notes, a professional authentication and grade is well worth the small fee for the peace of mind and added value.

  7. Be patient. Building a complete set or landing that trophy note can take years. Enjoy the hunt and don‘t force things. Great notes will find their way to persistent collectors.

  8. Buy the note, not the slab. Don‘t get hung up on chasing a specific grading service or holder. Focus on the eye appeal and originality of the note itself.

  9. Network with other collectors. Join collector forums and clubs to learn, trade tips, and find new notes. The paper money collecting community is friendly and always eager to help!

  10. Have fun! At the end of the day, collecting is a hobby to be enjoyed. Don‘t stress over "investing" in currency. Buy notes that speak to you and enjoy the thrill of the hunt!

Whether you‘re aiming to assemble a complete set or just looking for that one special 1928 $2 bill to treasure, I wish you the best of luck on your collecting journey. These may "only" be two dollar bills, but they hold nearly a century of history and endless fascination. I never tire of studying them and imagining the stories they could tell about their past.

Until next time, keep those presses printing and those eyes peeled for those elusive 1928B stars! Feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions – I‘m always happy to talk shop with fellow collectors.

Sources and Further Reading

[1] Friedberg, Arthur L. & Ira S. The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Paper Money. Whitman Publishing, 2022.

[2] Bowers, Q. David. The Comprehensive Catalog of U.S. Paper Money. Whitman Publishing, 2009.

[3] Schwartz, John J. & Scott Lindquist. Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money – 1928-Date. Krause Publications, 2011.

[4] United States. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 1862-1962. 1962.

[5] Bauer, Fred. "Collecting U.S. Small-Size Star Notes." Paper Money, vol. 40, no. 4, 2001, pp. 208-215.

[6] "Very Scarce 1928B $2 Legal Tender Star Note." Heritage Auctions, https://currency.ha.com/itm/small-size/2-1928b-2-legal-tender-star-note-pmg-gem-uncirculated-65-epq/a/162004-29081.s. Accessed 22 April 2023.

[7] "Unique 1928-D $2 ‘Mule‘ Legal Tender Note." Heritage Auctions, https://currency.ha.com/itm/error-notes/unique-1928-d-2-mule-legal-tender-note-pmg-choice-uncirculated-64/a/390-2016.s. Accessed 22 April 2023.

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