How To Tell Canadian Paper Money Value By Serial Numbers

Canada has a diverse history with paper currency, including many forms of bills that lack basic security features. Some of it is worth much more than its assigned denomination. If you have old bills lying around, it’s worth learning how to tell Canadian paper money value by serial numbers.

You can tell Canadian paper money value by serial numbers by researching serial number databases. Because Canada has the paper bills history it does, moving to a more formal currency system has left a lot of paper money unusable but still valuable.

With the changes in the making regarding formalizing Canadian currency, the value of what is now unrecognized currency has become a question. By performing some basic research into the serial numbers of paper bills, you can find out the true value of your outdated currency. Read on to learn how.

Primer On The Status Of Canadian Money

In January of 2021, multiple denominations of official Bank of Canada paper currency were no longer recognized as legal tender. The official reason for this was that many older bills still recognized as legal tender lacked basic security measures to help prevent counterfeiting.

The bills in question are the $1, $2, $25, $500, and $1,000 notes. All other banknotes issued by the Bank of Canada remain legal tender. In response, many Canadians began to examine their paper bills and wondered if what they have in their possession was:

  • Still legal tender
  • No longer recognized as legal tender
  • Worth more than its face value because of its age

Regardless of whether or not a banknote is still legal tender, banks in Canada have a policy that the institution will accept all currency turned in and pay out the face value of that currency once it is deemed not to be counterfeit. Some Canadian paper bills, though, are worth much more than their face value.

How To Tell Canadian Paper Money Value By Serial Numbers

There are a few ways to determine if your Canadian paper money is worthless, worth the face value of the note, or worth more than the face value.


You can take your Canadian paper money, prior to 2013 (the year the polymer security strips appeared in Canadian bills), to a bank and the bank can evaluate the value of the bill.

If the bill is deemed to be valid, the bank will pay out the face value of the bill. This is the case for all bills that were decommissioned by the Canadian government that lack a polymer strip security feature.

Bills that are not clearly valid and might be counterfeit, based on several indicators, may still be honored by the institution in question. The determination to honor them is up to the institution’s policy on the matter. If the institution will not honor the bill and it cannot be proven to be counterfeit, the owner of the bill is entitled to receive it back.

If the bill is determined to be counterfeit, the bank is compelled by law to seize and hold the currency. A person with a counterfeit bill will not receive compensation for that bill.

Private Organizations And Serial Numbers

A person with older Canadian paper currency can take their currency to a private organization or dealer that specializes in evaluation of currency. These organizations can be found online. Their process is straightforward.

Bill Condition Grading

The organization you take your bills to will evaluate each bill and determine if it is a valid form of Canadian currency. The organization then evaluates the condition of the currency and grades it. The grade is almost always based on the internationally recognized Sheldon Grading Scale.

That is as follows (this description is general as the Sheldon system has over 70 different grading designations):

Good: A bill has some obvious circulation issues such as cracking, creasing, rips, smudges, etc., but overall, the condition would still allow the bill to be collectible.

Very Good: This type of bill has some wear and tear, but none of it really alters the appearance of the bill.

Fine: The bill has some wear but none of the image is affected, including by creases or tears.

Very Fine: A bill in this condition has what most of us would consider to be almost no flaws including fold marks, creases, or faded imagery/lettering.

Extremely Fine: The bill has very little wear and all the high points are in order and crisp. Any blemishes that do exist are barely visible to an untrained eye.

About Uncirculated: This type of bill shows almost no wear or tear. The luster is great, the points are clear, and there are no creases, folds or rips.

Uncirculated: The bill is basically as it was when minted. It has no wear because it has never been circulated. This is about the highest-level bill a nonprofessional collector might possess and it would likely come with validating paperwork.

The person evaluating your bills will give each one a grade based on the scale above. Not included in this grading scale are bills that would be considered in Mint Condition or Proofs.

The + Grade Designation

In addition to being assigned a condition category (Good, Very Good, etc.) each higher end grade designation can be given a “+” evaluation if it’s judged to fall within the top 30% of any specific grading category.

For example, if a bill is in the top 30% of the Very Fine 35 level (VG-35,) it would get a + designation. A bill in the top 30% of VF-30 would also get a + designation.

Because of this, in some cases, it pays to have a bill receive a + designation for the grade below what the bill might score. This can mean it will be valued at the higher grade but stand out because of the + designation. It can be pitched as “almost VG-35,” which can be a motivator for a collector to buy it.

Database Comparison Search

The organization evaluating your bills will then compare them with an official currency serial number database and determine the corresponding serial number and its going rate. This figure is based on professional evaluations and does not necessarily reflect market prices.

Once the price has been established, the evaluating organization may make a bid to buy the currency from you, based on the value of the currency and the market report. The best approach to this scenario is to ask that they honor the estimated payout price to give you time to decide to sell to them.

Evaluation Time

If the organization is legitimate, unless you have an exceptionally rare and valuable bill, evaluation time will be quick. The time it takes for the price to be honored will range from 24 hours up to a week, depending on the bill and its estimated value.

Your Own Research

While going through a dealer or official currency grader can ensure your grade value is official, some people like to grade their own bills and look up their value on their own. This can be done by using any of the multiple online resources that allow a person to match the serial number of a bill to a database that stores paper currency values. This system works as follows:

  • The person investigating the value of a bill or bills enters the serial number into the search function of the database and a query is performed.
  • If the bill serial number is found, a general range of value will be displayed. For example, if your serial number comes back and the bill is worth face value, the database result will reflect that. If your bill is worth more, that will be reflected as well.
  • What will not be reflected is the condition of your bill. While some databases have general value for specific bill condition, at best it is just a guess.

A Baseline

The value that is stored in a database is the best estimate of the value of a bill the last time the database was updated. Additionally, the condition of your bill will factor greatly into the overall value of your bill. The database value is just a baseline from which you can ascertain the market value of your bill.

If your bill is in Mint condition or near-Mint, you can probably go with the baseline value of the database and assume that any differential will be minimal. If, however, your bill is questionable in terms of condition, you want to verify what your assessment of its condition is before selling the bill.

Get A Professional’s Assessment

Assessing your own currency is great, but unless you are an expert, you’re really just guessing when it comes to the bill’s grade or classification. You should have a professional appraiser and currency grader certify that your bills meet the criteria of the assessed grade. The only exception to that is if your bills are in poor condition.

If your bills are in poor condition, you may want to forego any official evaluation. Take your chances that the person buying will evaluate your bills to be on the higher end of the grade or classification.

The best recommendation, however, is that after you have determined by your own research that your bills are worth more than face value, you should have a professional assess your currency and give it an official grade.

Final Thoughts

To tell the value of Canadian paper money by serial numbers, you can have an organization search for your bill’s serial number in a database. This, along with the condition of the bill, can determine its value. You should have any older bills assessed as they may be worth more than their face value.

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