Collectors of U.S. paper money have a rich array of notes and certificates to choose from. Most people begin with the Colonial paper issued between 1690 in Massachusetts and 1788 in New York. Paul Revere engraved some of the Massachusetts Bay Colony notes — an image of a codfish graces one side of his bills.

Continental Congress notes were printed between 1775 and 1779 to underwrite the Revolutionary War. Continentals, as they are known, were produced by Hall & Sellers, who used the former press of none other than Benjamin Franklin to create the precursor to contemporary U.S. currency. The bearer was promised a set amount (four dollars was the most common denomination) in “Spanish milled dollars” (one Spanish dollar being equal to one “piece of eight”).

This promise assumed that enough taxes could be collected upon victory in 1781, which did not happen as the Founders had hoped. At one point, holders of Continentals were getting two and a half cents on the dollar for their paper. Collectors do much better today.

In the early part of the 19th century, currency was a hodgepodge. Bridge builders and railroad tycoons were routinely given banking privileges, and even the Ohio Mormons had their own currency, signed by church leader Joseph Smith.

The Civil War revived the government’s interest in paper money when the Confederate States of America issued notes in 1861. A $50 bill from Montgomery, Alabama depicts slaves hoeing cotton. Other cotton-themed Confederate notes show the Southern crop being loaded onto a steamboat. The U.S. government responded to the Confederate States’ show of financial force with seven and a half by three and a quarter inch Demand Notes that same year; U.S. Notes followed in 1862, and National Bank Notes in 1863. These are the original greenbacks, so called because of the hue on their non-face sides.

One of the many fallouts of the Civil War was the hoarding of coins. With so many coins out of circulation, the government introduced Postage Currency in 1862 and Fractional Currency in 1863. As its name suggests, Postage Currency was tiny, so an enterprising entrepreneur named John Gault customized a button machine to encase the fragile stamps in brass and clear mica.

The mica face let the bearer see the denomination of the stamp (5, 10, 25, or 50 cents). The brass back served as a vehicle for advertisements. Thus, pitches for Ayer’s Cathartic Pills and Ayer’s Sarsaparilla, which promised “to purify the blood,” lived in economic harmony with the stern images of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, whose portraits were on the face side of these early stamps...

Encased stamps are very rare, but Fractional Currency is more widely available and popular with beginning numismatists. In a famous case, one of President Lincoln’s Treasury Department employees, Spencer M. Clark, put his own bearded mug on a piece of Fractional Currency, prompting Congress to pass a law banning images of living persons on notes.

After the war, National Bank Note use spread widely. The size of the note shrunk to six and 1/8 by two and 5/8 inches in 1928, and by the end of the National Bank Note era in 1935, most of the 14,000 banks in the country had their own notes. People collect them for condition ('crisp uncirculated' is an almost perfect note; 'good' is not prized by serious collectors because they are usually dirty and may have holes or tears), but also for the personal connection they may have to a particular town or bank.

As with Stock Certificates, some currency collectors are drawn to the vignettes and engravings — Franklin experimenting with lightning; Pocahontas being baptized.

Concurrent with National Bank Notes, the government issued both Gold and Silver Certificates, which promised the bearer the note’s face value in either metal. The first Gold Certificates were issued on 1865 for transactions between banks; a general-circulation Gold Certificate came along in 1882. Gold Certificates were recalled as part of the Gold Reserve Act of 1933, and it wasn’t until 1964 that it was again legal for private citizens to own them. Silver certificates coincided with the surplus of silver in 1878 but they were discontinued in 1963.

Finally, even though just about every currency collector would like to find that rare bill whose serial number or other distinguishing feature is printed upside down, some bills were deliberately tweaked. For example, during World War II, special currency was issued to troops in North Africa so that if it was captured, the currency could be easily demonetized. Similarly, to protect the money supply in the event of a Japanese invasion of Hawaii, currency there was overprinted with the word “Hawaii” on it, front and back, to make to easy to remove the bills from the money supply in the event of the worst.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

American Currency Exhibit

American Currency Exhibit

This collection, from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, covers currency from 1690 through half a dozen era… [read review or visit site]

Bank Note Bank

Bank Note Bank

This world banknote and currency image-sharing database is notable for its breadth of contributors and content (abo… [read review or visit site]

Two Cent Revenue Stamped Paper

Two Cent Revenue Stamped Paper

Everything you'd ever want to know about revenue stamped paper (first authorized in 1862). This site features infor… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1899 $5 Dollar Silver Certificate, Indian Chief Large Note, Fr. 277, Circulated!1934 Usa Five Hundred $500 Dollar Money Bill San Francisco Federal Reserve Note 1899 Five $5 Dollar Indian Chief Silver Certificate Note1934a $1000 One Thousand Dollar Bill Cash Note Pmg Choice Cu 64 - No Reserve ! Tt Fr 255 1899 $2 Silver Certificate Blue Seal Pmg 64 Epq Choice Uncirculated!1918 2 Dollar Note National Currency. #751 Nice! Battleship!1928 Fr 2210-h $1000 Dollar Bill Frn St. Louis District Pmg 30 Very FineHgr 1896 $5 Rare ((stunning Educational)) Awesome Grade1928 Fr. 2210-j $1000 Dollar Bill Frn Kansas District Pmg 30 Very Fine $2 1899 Silver Certificate Pmg Extremely Fine 40 Epq Fr. 249 Au Or Cu $2 1899 Silver Certificate Friedberg 255 No Reserve1901 $10 Legal Tender Pcgs Vf35 Bison Fr. 115Series Of 1901 $10 Bison United States Note Red Seal Circulated *last One*$10 1901 Legal Tender Note (bison) .......1928 Fr. 2210-l $1000 Dollar Bill Frn San Francisco District Pmg 30 Very FineHgr 1914 $100 Minneapolis ((rare 59 Known)) Near Uncirculated1922 Pmg Vf-30 Fifty $50 Dollar Gold Certificate Note Fr#1200 Large S/nTt Fr 358 1891 $2 Treasury Note Red Seal Extremely Rare Fr # Pmg 20 Very Fine!1928 Fr 2210-edgs $1000 Dollar Bill Frn Richmond District Pmg 20 Net Very Fine 1896 $2 Circulated "educational" Silver Certificate1934 $1000 Dollar Bill Note Under Graded Scarce Atlanta Pmg Ef 45 - No Reserve Hgr 1902 $10 Date Back ((serial#83 Lowest Known)) Very High GradeNice 1934-a $1000 Federal Reserve Note From Chicago * No Reserve *$500 1934 Cleveland Dgs Pcgs 35Hgr 1934 $5 Hawaii Mule ((scarce Grade)) Pcgs Choice New 64ppq1899 $5 Silver Certificate Pcgs Xf45 Fr. 280m Mule1918 $2 Frbn Kansas City Pmg 53 Fr. 774Tt Fr 122 1901 $10 Legal Tender Bison Red Seal Pcgs 20 Very FineHgr 1934a $500 New York ((appears Gem)) Au - UncirculatedFr 223 1891 $1 "martha" Silver Certificate! Very Choice Uncirculated Pcgs 64!1934a $500 Five Hundred Dollar Bill Currency Cash Note Pmg Ef 40 - No Reserve$500 1934a Cleveland Pmg 30 Epq1928 $500 Five Hundred Dollar Bill Note Rare Minneapolis Pmg Vg 10 - No ReserveDramatic 1935d $1 Silver Certificate Inverted Overprint Error Note Pmg 25$1200 Fv: Two 1929 $100 Frbns And A 1934 $1000 BillTt Fr 124 1862 $20 Legal Tender Small Red Seal Pmg 12 Fine "vastly Scarce Note!"Popular 1928 $1000 Circulated Federal Reserve Note-minneapolis W/ 40+ Pin HolesRare 1891 $2 Treasury Note Superior Almost Uncirculated Condition$1 1899 Silver Certificate Fr#228 Pmg 64 NrLovely 1862 T-41 Confederate $100 Note Pcgs Gem New 65ppq!!!1928 $1 Legal Tender Red Seal Note Pmg Choice Au 58 Epq - No Reserve1934a Fr2212-j $1000 Bill Frn Kansas City Dist Pcgs Choice About New 58 ApparentMckinley $10 Bill, 1918, P11161$500 1934a New York Frn Mule Pcgs 35Fr. 275 1899 $5 Silver Certificate Pcgs Very Fine 35Hgr 1922 $10 Gold Certificate ((rare Grade)) Choice UncirculatedThe First National Bank Of Mason City, Iowa $10 Large Size Note 18821934a 2212-b $1000 Bill Frn New York Dist Pmg 63 Choice Uncirculated Hgr 1899 $5 Indian Chief ((rarer Vernon/mclung)) Super Grade$2.00 1891 Fr.246 William Windom Scarce Silver Certificate Very FineHgr 1928 $10 Gold Certificate ((x-rare Grade)) Pcgs Gem New 65ppqTt Fr 29 1880 $1 Legal Tender Sawhorse Pmg 63 Epq Large Brown Seal More Rare Fr#Tt Fr 40 1923 $1 Legal Tender Red Seal "george Washington" Pcgs 62 New!$5 1875 The Des Moines National Bank, Iowa Charter 2583 Pmg Choice Fine 15Hgr 1929 $20 National ((pensacola Florida)) Pmg Gem Unc 66epq (trophy Grade)Tt Fr 39 1917 $1 Legal Tender Pmg 55, 50 Epq Set Of Two Serial Sequential Notes!1928 Fr. 2210-f $1000 Dollar Bill Frn Atlanta District Pmg 35 Choice Very FineRare 1880 $20 Silver Certificate "decatur Note" High End Very FineFr 2405 1928 $100 Gold Certificate! Choice About New Pcgs 55!Rare $5 Silver Certificate "silver Dollar Back" Gem Uncirculated Note

Recent News: US Paper Money

Source: Google News

Stansted Airport's unwanted currency collection awards £837 to Stortford ...
Herts and Essex Observer, February 8th

Stansted Airport's unwanted currency collection awards £837 to Stortford dementia group. By HertsAndEssexObserver | Posted: February 08, 2016. DSC.6929 Cllr Patricia Moore visited our group in Bishops Stortford on 23rd December and joined in with the ...Read more

Annual Civil War show highlights history, displays unique story
Chattanooga Times Free Press, February 7th

"This was probably one of the best shows that I remember," said Greg Ton, a Confederate currency collector from Franklin, Tenn. Ton said he attends about 10 shows per year. "From my standpoint, it's better to come to a Civil War show and spend eight or...Read more

???? ??? ??? 210 ??? ?? ?????? ???-??????, 28 ??? ?? ?? ??? ??????
????? ??????, January 29th

??????. ????? ??????????? ?? ??????????? ??? ???? ???? ?????? ????? ?? ??? 210 ??? ?? ??????? ?? ????? ?? ??????? ??? ?? 28 ??? ?? ?????? ???-?????? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ??? ?????, ??? ?? ??? ...Read more

Sheeran tops currency chart
The Visitor, January 29th

However, currency collector Sheeran was beaten to the distance trophy by winner of last years critic's choice award, James Bay. Bay takes the top spot for number of miles travelled, racking up an impressive 126,748 miles during his 2015 tour, which...Read more

Currency chronicles history: Money from around the globe tells stories for ...
Reporter-Times, January 18th

One piece of Yousefi's currency collection depicts merchants carrying heavy bags, with stamps at the top representing the note's worth in coins. Yousefi is studying computer engineering at Ivy Tech and plans to finish his studies at Indiana University...Read more

'trillionaire's' currency collection continues to grow
Timaru Herald, May 7th

Sam Langton with just some of the foreign currency he has on display. Above Langton's head is a $50 trillion note from Zimbabwe. Forget millionaire or billionaire, a Timaru man can call himself a trillionaire as his foreign currency collection...Read more

1500 currency collectors gather for annual coin show
OurQuadCities, April 12th

Eighty dealer tables were lined with both foreign and U.S. currency with everything from ancient Roman and Greek coins to "more recent" money. Collectors say the excitement is in holding a piece of the past. "Its a great hobby because it teaches you a...Read more

Royersford man has $10 bill worth $500000?, October 23rd

Billy Baeder, a Royersford currency collector, who co-owns a car-repair shop, holds what could be the most valuable piece of currency printed since 1929: a 1933 Silver Certificate with the serial number A00000001A. Travel Deals. $1169 & up -- Oahu 4...Read more