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$20 bill with Del Monte banana sticker auctioned for almost $400,000

The 'Del Monte Note' is considered one of the most famous U.S. error banknotes and has become a must-have item for collectors.
Credit: Heritage Auctions

WASHINGTON — A seemingly common item, a U.S. $20 bill, has just sold at auction for the eyebrow raising sum of $400,000. 

The note was printed in error with a "Del Monte Ecuador" banana sticker on its façade, and became a must-have for collectors. The banknote has set some historical milestones since it was found by an Ohio college student in 2004, who received it as part of an ATM withdrawal, according to the auction house which just recently sold it. 

According to Heritage Auctions, after it was first discovered in 2004, the $20 banknote was put up on eBay where it was sold for $10,000. Word of the bill spread in the collecting community and it was later sold again in 2006 for $25,300.

The bill has become so famous in the collector community that it is now known as "The Del Monte Note." The fruit label covers a portion of the printing details on the bill and has a portion of the Treasury Seal and the bill's serial number printed over the sticker. It's a quirky detail that collectors have really been drawn to. 

Credit: Heritage Auctions

"The Del Monte Note is considered perhaps the most famous of all U.S. error banknotes and now it holds a world record as the most valuable ever sold," said Dustin Johnston, the vice president of currency auctions at Heritage Auctions.

Credit: Heritage Auctions

While it is not entirely clear how or why the Del Monte Ecuador sticker ended up on the bill during printing, Heritage Auctions says this is not the first U.S. error banknote to gain attention. Other notes have been printed with various objects stuck on them during printing, including a Band-Aid, tape, wood shavings and paper fragments, the auction house said

Johnston said of the Del Monte note, "there's no telling if the sticker was affixed to test printing standards or just a prank by a worker."

"The Del Monte Note" was sold Friday evening for $396,000 to an unidentified bidder who, according to Heritage Auctions, ended up in a bit of a heated bidding war with another phone bidder and two other live internet bidders. Heritage Auctions says the $396,000 price set a "world record for any error bank note ever sold."

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