By Steve Carr
Collecting currency is very similar to collecting coins. There are lots of types and denominations to collect. Current collectors often have more affinity for currency than for coins, while us older collectors have more affinity for coins, as they were our medium of exchange when we discovered how to use money.
Just like coins, there are an infinite way to collect currency. Some people collect notes with interesting serial numbers, from winning poker hands to repeaters, where the serial number repeats itself. Others collect the notes for their design, choosing from, for example, the 1896 educational series silver certificates. Still others may be attracted to National Bank Notes, often called “hometown paper money” because a town name is listed on the face (front).
There are twelve different types of currency (see list at the end of this blog). Each type has a number of different “varieties,” caused by a change in the officials whose signatures were on the note or a complete/partial overhaul of the design of the note. Some are common and some are rare.
There are also two different sizes of U.S. currency. Notes printed from late 1928 through 1929 were larger than our current notes, measuring approximately 7 ½” X 5 1/8”. Our current notes measure about 6 1/8” X 2 5/8”. Some people prefer collecting the larger notes, commonly called “horse blankets.” Others prefer the regular sized notes. Whatever makes your day!
The first thing a potential currency collector should do is look at what is available on your budget. Most serious currency collectors prefer notes graded VF or better. In some cases, a lower graded note might be the only one available. Check for currency at local coin shops or coin shows or check on-line. A number of currency dealers have extensive web sites, complete with pictures. What type(s) do you like? Are they affordable?
Probably the best reference for all U.S. currency is Friedberg’s Paper Money of the United States (Friedberg, Arthur L. and Ira S., Paper Money of the United States, 20thEdition, Coin and Currency Institute, Williston, VT, 2013). This book has pictures and valuations for most U.S. currency after 1861 (notes printed earlier were mostly done for private banks and are called “Obsoletes.” More on them in the future.
Different types of currency:
Compound Interest Treasury Notes
Interest Bearing Notes
National Bank Notes
Federal Reserve Bank Notes
Federal Reserve Notes