Apophenia is defined as the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. Think John Nash, the main character in “A Beautiful Mind.” While Nash was looking at much larger number sets and seeing the patterns within, numismatists need only to look at one number set: serial numbers.
Traditionally, numismatists have been concerned with scarcity, condition, mintmarks and even age to determine paper money and coin values. But there’s a new criterion on the rise. The patterns found in paper money serial numbers can significantly affect the value of a bill.
Such unusual or “fancy” serial numbers display a variety of patterns that can interest collectors. From solid patterns to ladder patterns to repeater patterns, a simple $1 bill can explode in value to $4,000 or higher. Some numismatists are even willing to pay more for a bill with a serial number representing a meaningful date of historic or personal significance.
Patterns to Look For
Here are some examples of what to look for in paper money serial numbers.
- Repeaters – come in series of two or four: 85858585 or 41314131
- Super repeaters – pairs of numbers repeated: 77772222 or 33335555
- Ladders – counting up or down: 23456789 or 87654321
- Radars – same backward or forward: 23455432
- Solids – same number: 99999999
And while not necessarily pattern-oriented, serial numbers of extreme lows or highs can achieve more than face values.
Dates can also affect the value of a bill. Think about a serial number displaying 07041776. Collectors with an affinity for American history might pay a hefty chunk for that bill. Or considering the approaching season, how about 12252013? Could make quite the stocking stuffer.
There are so many ways to see a string of eight digits, but if you notice certain patterns , and those patterns have certain significance, you could be holding a ten spot worth a cool ten k.
But keep in mind, if your friend needs to break a bill and says he’ll give you a twenty for two fives, don’t assume he can’t add. Instead, you better check the serial numbers on those fins.