Disneyland and Walt Disney World are happy places that off her first class rides and attractions where you and your whole family can have fun together. I have many happy memories of Disneyland both as a young boy and as an adult. But, did you know, these theme parks also offer something to the currency collector? Since 1987, they have offered Disney Dollars to the public. There are 171 banknotes spanning almost 30 years that make up the entire Disney Dollar collection. This is a rather affordable set to acquire with average prices ranging between two-to ten-times over face value. There are a few rare notes and one error note. They can be purchased in certified condition such as PCGS Currency and PMG or in their natural state from coin dealers and on Ebay. A couple of types can even be purchased for face value while you are visiting these parks or they can be ordered over the phone.
So, what are Disney Dollars?
Disney Dollars are the official currency of Disneyland and all other Disney theme parks in the United States. The exchange rate is one Disney Dollar for one US dollar. They can be used as real money while making purchases within the parks or saved as collectible souvenirs. It all started back in the mid 1980’s with the brain storming from Disneyland silhouette cutter Harry Brice and the marketing genius of Jack Lindquist, executive vice president of marketing and entertainment for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Jack wanted to have Disney currency to have the look and feel of real American banknotes but more colorful.
In 1985, it was decided that one and five dollar notes would be produced with Mickey Mouse taking center stage on the $1 and Goofy on the $5. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle would grace the back of the one dollar note while Mark Twain’s Riverboat would be on the $5 reverse. The United States Banknote Corporation of Chicago, Illinois was employed to do the complex intaglio engraving process.
The state of the art four-color printing would be done by Embossing Printers, Inc. of Battle Creek, Michigan. For security purposes, each banknote would have
a unique serial number. The $1 notes would start with A1 followed by six digits while the $5 notes would start with A2 followed by six digits. This would result
in one million notes minus one being printed.
Scrooge McDuck would sign each note as the Treasurer and Tinkerbell would be on each note’s side. The first Disney Dollars rolled off the presses and into the public’s hands at Disneyland on May 5, 1987. Two million dollars would be printed on a three-month trial to see how they would be accepted. With their initial success, a type II version for 1987 would be printed for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. An 8 digit serial number replaced the original A1 and A2 numbers thus increasing the number that could be printed by 100 times… They would either start with an A for Anaheim, or “Disneyland” or a D for Walt Disney World. They were released on September 9, 1987 at Disneyland and on October 2, 1987 at Walt Disney World. The type II Disneyland version is the only Disney Dollar banknote that has an “A” following the series year.
In 1988, design changes occurred on the reverse of each note. The $1 bill would feature a Main Street horse drawn carriage. The $5 bill would show a view from Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom. This reverse design change would continue on the $5 bill for the next 12 years. In 1989, the reverse of the $1 note changed back to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and this would stay for most of the 1990s.
On November 20, 1989, the $10 bill was introduced for Series 1990 with Minnie Mouse on the front and a scene from Disneyland’s Matterhorn on the reverse. These classic designs showing a waving Mickey, a closed-eye Goofy, and smiling Minnie would be on the Disney Dollars for most of the 1990s. Annual designs replaced the classic designs starting with Series 2000.
The millennium was celebrated with party confetti on all 3 banknotes and the debut of Donald Duck on the $10 bill. A redesigned Mickey and Goofy still appear on the front of the $1 and $5.
A much smaller number of banknotes were printed for 2001 and 2002 making these notes more valuable. In 2001, the opening of Disney’s California Adventure Park was celebrated on the $5 and $10 bills with a vacationing Minnie reappearing on the $10 alongside her best friend Mickey.
In 2002, the logo “100 years of Magic” appeared on the front of all three banknotes since Walt Disney would have been 100 years old. For the first time, the reverses of all 3 notes had the same design showing a variety of Disney characters with the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s hat in the center. Mickey as Steamboat Willie is on the front of the $1 bill, Snow White is on the $5 note, and Tinkerbell takes center stage on the $10 bill. Snow White and Tinkerbell are extremely popular and command higher prices averaging 15 times over face value.
In 2003, the designs were borrowed from Series 2000 but this time there was no party confetti present.
In 2004, no notes were issued with a 2004 date on them.
The year 2005 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland and to celebrate, a large variety of banknotes were printed.
Series 2005 started off with Chicken Little on the $1 bill which essential was an advertisement for the upcoming movie. The serial numbers on the $1 bills changed to 7 digits long. Also, the introduction of the “T” before the serial number showed that these banknotes were made for and could be purchased at The Disney Stores. The 50th Anniversary Series – 2005 started off with Dumbo on the $1 bill, Donald Duck on the $5 bill, and Stitch on the $10 bill. The reverse of all banknotes had the same design showing Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in the center, “1955” on the left, and “2005” on the right. Barcodes were printed on the backs of most of these notes which proved to be unpopular and were never seen again in future issues.
The $50 bill was only issued for the 50th anniversary in two types. One showed a close-up of a smiling Mickey. The other one was designed by illustrator Charles Boyer showing Mickey looking at a reflection of his younger self.
Only 1,500 of these Boyer notes were issued with the serial number starting with a “B”. These have a purchase price of around $2,000 in today’s market. Charles signed 100 of these notes at Disneyland on July 17, 2005. Also, some were signed by his son, Bruce. These signed and framed notes have a price tag range of $5,000 to $20,000. These Boyer notes are true rarities either signed or unsigned.
In 2006, three different banknote types were issued for the 50th anniversary series – 2005. Cinderella was on the $1 bill, a smiling Goofy was on the $5 bill and Minnie returned to the $10 bill.
In 2007, the 20th anniversary of Disney Dollars was celebrated with two new series and the serial numbers on the $1 bills reverted back to 8 digits. The first was the Princess series. Ariel, from The Little Mermaid, was on the $1 bill, Princess Aurora, from Sleeping Beauty, was on the $5 bill, and Cinderella returns to be on the $10 bill. The same reverse design was on all 3 banknotes showing Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in the clouds. The second series for 2007 was the Pirate series, celebrating the 3 movies of The Pirates of the Caribbean.
This series is made up of three types of $1 bills each showing a skull and version of cross bones on the front. The serial numbers had changed. Those starting with “E” were from Disneyland and those starting with “F” were from Walt Disney World. Those ending with “F” showed The Flying Dutchman ship on its reverse, those ending with “B” had The Black Pearl ship on the back and those ending with “E” had The Empress sailing on its reverse.
In 2008, Mickey turned 80 years old and this was the Disney Dollar theme. The $1 bill showed Mickey in 1928, the $5 bill showed Mickey marching in 1955, and the $10 bill showed Mickey how he is today in the 21st century. The reverse design of all three notes showed Mickey changing or morphing from his earlier self to the present self.
The theme for 2009 was “Celebrate Today at Disney Parks”. The $1 bill shows Mickey and Pluto with a birthday cake, the $5 bill shows Minnie and Daisy Duck celebrating and the $10 bill shows Goofy blowing the candles out and cake frosting all over Mickey. The reverse design was the same for all banknotes showing the Castle with balloons. After 2009, no banknotes, or “T” notes, would be issued for the Disney Stores.
No Disney Dollars were printed for 2010.
For 2011, only a $1 bill was issued celebrating the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie “On Stranger Tides”. The serial number had changed to six digits with the same letter ID as from the 2007 pirate series. The Queen Anne sails on this notes’ back. Again, no Disney Dollars were printed for 2012 even though it was their 25th anniversary.
For 2013, 4 new $1 bills were issued for the “Villains & Heroes” series with the Villain on the front and the Hero on the back. The six digit serial number changed back with “A” for Disneyland and “D” for Walt Disney World. One error note in this series shows Cruella De Vil on the front with Pongo and Perdita on the reverse. This is an error because the label 101 Dalmations is spelled wrong. Once the error was detected, all production stopped making this series and this note much more valuable.
In the Mountain Series for 2014, the attractions were on the front with the characters, this time only Mickey, on the reverse. The $1 bill shows Splash Mountain, the $5 note shows Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the $10 bill shows Space Mountain. Mickey is seen on the reverse of all three banknotes enjoying his ride.
No Disney Dollars have been issued since 2014, and Disney has just announced that effective May 14, 2016, the Disney Dollar will be discontinued and all sales will cease. This is due to the rise in use of gift cards and digital money.
Kyle Anderson “Disney Dollars: Currency with Character” In The California Numismatist • Summer 2016