The Happiest Banknotes on Earth

The emergence of Disney Dollars into the collectors market.

Most of the banknotes we grade here at PMG are issued by a bank, but some notable exceptions are Disney Dollars, issued by Disney for use as currency within their parks and gift stores. The idea was conceived by Harry Brice, who worked as a Disney World silhouette artist. While attending a Disney merchandise convention, Brice was struck by the demand for Disney items, and he had the idea for a currency that doubled as both money and souvenir. Disney Dollars were first introduced on May 5, 1987 at Disneyland in $1 and $5 denominations. Employees had received one Disney Dollar one week prior, and Disney World followed suit later that year. In addition, 400 sheets of 18 proof notes each were released.1 Below is an example of the first design:

$1 1987 Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ, front
Click image to enlarge.

$1 1987 Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ, back
Click image to enlarge.

However, it turns out that these notes were not actually the first Disney Dollars. In 1971, Disney World issued “recreation coupons” to VIPs visiting the park. These coupons differ from Disney Dollars in that the coupons were nonrefundable, while the dollars could be exchanged for cash. Interestingly, these coupons were not valid in the Magic Kingdom section of the park.

$1 1972A Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Click image to enlarge.

$1 1972A Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, back
Click image to enlarge.

As Disney began to build parks around the world, one of these new parks had its own version of the Disney Dollar. Tokyo Disneyland had two series of notes starting in 1988, with denominations of 500 Yen and 1,000 Yen. Below is the 500 Yen from the first series:

500 Yen First Series Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Click image to enlarge.

500 Yen First Series Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ, back
Click image to enlarge.

For those of you wondering about the highest graded Disney Dollar to date, that distinction goes to a 1997 $1 note featuring Mickey in his sorcerer outfit from Fantasia, while the back features Cinderella’s carriage and castle along with a 25, signifying Disney World’s 25th anniversary that year. The note graded at a 69 EPQ:

$1 1997 Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 69 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Click image to enlarge.

$1 1997 Disney Dollar,
PMG Graded 69 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, back
Click image to enlarge.

One of the most popular series was the 2013 $1 Villains and Heroes set, which sold out in one month. In addition, the 101 Dalmatians note had a spelling error on the back of the note, which Disney caught and promptly ceased production, increasing its value. Below is the highest graded 101 Dalmatians note we have seen. Note the “Dalmations” spelling error on the back of the note:

$1 2013 Disney Dollar with "Dalmations Error",
PMG Graded 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Click image to enlarge.

$1 2013 Disney Dollar with "Dalmations Error",
PMG Graded 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ, back
Click image to enlarge.

On May 12, 2016, Disney announced their discontinuation of all Disney Dollars; citing “the rising use of gift cards and digital currency,” while stating that the notes would still be accepted at parks and gift stores.2 If this article has piqued your interest, now is a great time to start collecting Disney Dollars. Collectors Society members can access the PMG Population Report on Disney Dollars, where you can see a record of the highest graded notes of each series. Also, the PMG Registry is a great way to share your collection with others as well as participate in the PMG Registry Awards. Since there will be no new Disney Dollars, there is a greater demand for these notes, so get out there and start collecting!

Sources:

1. Rodgers, Charles T. (2009). The History of Disney Dollars. Lakewood, CA.
2. http://www.coinworld.com/news/paper-money/2016/05/disney-dollars-abruptly-canceled-but-collectors-still-enjoy.all.html#


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