PMG-certified “Del Monte” Error Note Sets a Record with $396,000 Sale

Posted on 1/25/2021

With its banana sticker and amazing story, this Holy Grail of paper money errors exceeded all expectations at auction.

An error banknote certified by Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®) raced to a new world record when it sold for $396,000 at a Heritage Auctions sale on Friday, January 22, 2021. The world-famous 1996 $20 Federal Reserve Note is known as the "Del Monte" note due to a banana produce sticker that became attached to it during the printing process.

PMG certified the Obstructed Printing Error on the $20 bill and graded the note PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ. An Obstructed Printing Error means the ink was blocked from being printed on the paper as it should; this one is a "retained obstruction" because the sticker remained on the note.

The "Del Monte Note:" a US $20 1996 Federal Reserve Note (Fr.# 2084-H) graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ with a notation of Obstructed Printing Error with Retained Obstruction. Realized: $396,000
Click images to enlarge.

This extraordinary error occurred at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The BEP prints $20 Federal Reserve Notes on sheets of 32 notes, with the sheets going through three distinct stages of printing before they are cut into single notes.

The banana sticker became affixed to the sheet sometime after the second stage of printing, partially obscuring the word TWENTY behind the green seal of the Treasury Department. However, the banana sticker picked up some of the ink from the third stage of printing, including from the green seal itself and the adjacent serial number. This confirms the error as a genuine one that occurred at the BEP facility.

Close-up of the front of the "Del Monte Note" showing the banana sticker retained obstruction.
Click image to enlarge

The Del Monte note was found by an Ohio college student making a cash withdrawal from an ATM in 2003, according to Numismatic News. It was sold on eBay that year for $10,000, and then was sold again in 2006 through Heritage Auctions, realizing $25,000. It was recently submitted to PMG under its popular CrossOver service, which enables a note encapsulated in a PCGS-branded holder to be considered for PMG certification without first being removed from the holder.

"Occasionally, a stunning numismatic discovery is made completely by chance, reminding us all to carefully check the currency we encounter in our daily lives," said Mark Salzberg, Chairman of PMG. "PMG has the expertise and specialized equipment to authenticate, grade and preserve the world's rarest, most unusual and most expensive notes."

The $396,000 price realized was several multiples above Heritage's pre-auction estimate of $25,000 to $50,000, and it set a world record for any error note, according to Heritage. It also set a record for any piece of small-size US currency, eclipsing a PMG-certified 1934 $10,000 Federal Reserve Note (Kansas City) graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ that Heritage sold for $384,000 in September 2020.

“Heritage Auctions was thrilled to offer the famous Del Monte Note to collectors,” said Dustin Johnston, Director of US Currency at Heritage Auctions. “I am certain that PMG certification reassured collectors as they competed to bring home one of the greatest paper money errors in a truly exciting, record-breaking sale."

Another PMG-certified note was the second-highest lot in the recent Heritage sale. A 1934 $10,000 Federal Reserve Note (Chicago) graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated realized $234,000, beating its pre-auction estimate.

1934 $10,000 Federal Reserve Note (Chicago) graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated. Realized: $234,000
Click images to enlarge

As the highest denomination ever used for Small Size Federal Reserve Notes, these $10,000 bills are eagerly sought by collectors due to their history and rarity. Denominations of this size were used for high-dollar transactions between financial institutions.

Other PMG-certified lots in the sale included:

Prices realized include buyer's premium.

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