Can two banknotes have the same serial number?

Can two banknotes have the same serial number? It’s a question we often get from our customers here at Leftover Currency. The obvious answer is that if two or more banknotes have the same serial number, they are forgeries. But in some cases it’s more complicated. We’ll explain.

If two banknotes have the same serial number, are they forgeries?

Likely so, yes. If two banknotes have the same design and the same serial number, they are forgeries. In the vast majority of cases it’s as simple as that.

The only two exceptions to the rule are so-called specimen banknotes and error banknotes. Specimen banknotes have the text ‘SPECIMEN’ in capital letters on both sides. Specimen serial numbers are typically a row of zeroes, or numbers such as 123456789. Error banknotes are explained in more detail below.

same serial number forgery banknotes

What should I do if someone hands me over two or more banknotes with the same serial number?

Is someone trying to hand you over banknotes with the same serial number? You should firmly reject them. Do not accept the banknotes for payments. The Bank of England made a helpful video about it. The video explains what you should do when someone tries to hand you over counterfeit banknotes.

What should I do if i have a counterfeit banknote?

If you suspect that you have a fake banknote, you should take it to your nearest police station. You will receive a receipt, an NCO-1 form and an incident number. Counterfeiting directly funds organised crime. By reporting forged banknotes, you help with investigations and you will alert the police about a problem in your area.

Can I pay with specimen banknotes?

No, you cannot pay with specimen banknotes. They don’t have any monetary value. Banknote printers make specimen notes to familiarise users about new designs. They should not enter circulation and you cannot use them to make payments.

Specimen banknotes have easily identifiable non-unique serial numbers, such as ‘000000000’ or ‘123456789’. The word ‘SPECIMEN’ is printed on both sides. Specimen banknotes often have the same serial number but they are not forgeries.

Do you have specimen banknotes? Lucky you. Specimen banknotes are often printed in limited quantities. Take them to a banknote dealer. Make sure not to fold or crease them, In uncirculated, mint condition, specimen banknotes can be worth a lot of money.

Can two banknotes have the same serial number and be genuine?

Theoretically, yes. It would be similar to finding two cars with the same registration number (number plate / license plate). As long as the cars are registered in different countries, all is fine.

The same goes with identical serial numbers on banknotes. If you find two banknotes from different countries that have the same serial number, it would be a huge coincidence, but it wouldn’t automatically mean that the banknotes are forgeries.

If the banknotes have the same design and the same serial number, and they are not specimen banknotes, it’s simple: They are forgeries (*).

(*) There is a tiny, minuscule chance that the banknotes with the same serial number are not forgeries, but that they are error banknotes instead. We discuss these in greater detail at the end of this blog article.

I have banknotes with Arabic character serial numbers that are identical. Are the banknotes fake?

We’ve received a number of customer queries about banknotes with Arabic numerals that have the same serial numbers. Let’s look into this specific case to find out more about identical serial numbers on Middle East banknotes.

Are the serial numbers really identical?

If you are unfamiliar with Arabic numerals, the serial numbers may look the same to you, but are they really? Have a look at the table showing Arabic and Western numerals. Notice how the ‘2’ and ‘3’ in Arabic numerals look almost the same. And how the ‘7’ and ‘8’ are the same but upside down.

The picture shows two similarly looking serial numbers in Arabic. The banknotes in the picture are Iraqi Dinar banknotes. The serial numbers look identical, but they are not. They are consecutive instead, with one ending in ’92’ and the other ending in ’93’.

When pointing out these similarly looking Arabic numerals to our customers, it has been identified in all cases that the banknotes did not have the same serial numbers after all. If you are planning to buy Iraqi Dinars it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with Arabic numerals.

You can read more about Arabic and Persian numerals on this page of world-banknotes.nl.

Arabic and Western numerals for serial numbers
Iraqi Dinar banknotes not same serial numbers
similar Arabic numerals

Can banknotes with the same serial number be error banknotes?

Yes. If you have banknotes with duplicate serial numbers, there is a small chance that they are error banknotes. But this is a very small chance. In the vast majority of the cases, banknotes with the same serial number are counterfeit banknotes.

How can I know if my banknotes are error notes?

A good way to start is to check the security features of the banknotes. These could be things like micro printing, raised ink, UV ink, a watermark, a security thread, a hologram etc…

You could do some research online about the security features the banknotes should have. Pay extra attention when you evaluate the watermark. On a counterfeit banknote, the watermark is often printed in white ink on the paper. A real watermark is not printed but made of paper fibers of various thicknesses.

I believe my banknotes with duplicate serial numbers are error banknotes. What next?

If you have two or more banknotes with the same design and the same serial numbers, and you believe that they are genuine banknotes, not counterfeits: Consider yourself very lucky if that is indeed the case. But before you start celebrating, let’s have the banknotes verified independently by an expert.

The way to do this is to get your banknotes graded. On the picture you can see two banknotes with the same serial number. They are real error banknotes of five Haitian Gourdes from 1979. This has been verified independently by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG).

Duplicate serial number banknotes error notes 5 Haitian Gourde

image credit: Patrice Salnave

What is the value of error banknotes with duplicate serial numbers?

Error banknotes with the same serial number are very rare. Their collectible value far outweighs their monetary value. Graded error banknotes with duplicate serial numbers can fetch thousands of pounds at auction.