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    

Hgr 1923 $1 Silver ((the Only Star For Series)) Pmg Gem 66epq(star)Hgr 1862 $1 U.s.note ((x-rare Grade)) Cga Superb Gem 67-opqHgr 1914 $5 Red Seal Philadelphia ((finest Known)) Cga Superb Gem 68-opqHgr 1899 $5 Indian Chief ((x-rare Grade)) Cga Superb Gem 67-opq$1 1862 Red Seal Legal Tender Pcgs 63 Gorgeous Early Note Scarce 16c$1 1875 Huge Pink Floral Seal Cga 64* Opq Rare Bright Pack Fresh BeautyHgr 1917 $1 U.s.note ((rarely Offered Grade)) Pmg Gem Unc 65epqSeries Of 1934a $1000 Federal Reserve Note, San Francisco,ca "l" Low Serial! VfFr#282: 1923 $5 "porthole" High-gradeHgr 1899 $1 Vernon/treat ((scarce Date Below)) Pmg Choice Unc 641896 Two Dollar Ed $2 Silver Certificate Bill Education Fr248 Fr 248 Bruce Very Rare - 1836 $10 Charlotte North Carolina Bank Note - No Reserve! - 43971899 $5 Silver "chief" Fr-278 About Unc,cga 55 Stunning Chief!1907 $5 "woodchopper" Legal Tender Fr-87 Gem Unc,cga 65 Opq Bold Appearance!Hgr 1922 $10 ((gold Certificate-epq)) Pmg Vf-35epq1934 $500 Dollar Bill Federal Reserve Note No Reserve!!!1907 $10 Gold Certificate ~~ High Grade~crisp Almost Uncirculated ~~Fr 1908a-1974 $1 Federal Reserve Note..pmg Gem Unc. 66 Epq..inverted Overprint1934 $500 Frn Fr-2201-b Light Green Seal! Desirable $500 Denom!1928 $20 Gold Fr-2402 Gem Unc,cga 65 Opq Gorgeous Eye Appeal!1896 Two Dollar Ed $2 Silver Certificate Bill Education Fr247 Fr 247 Tillman Hgr 1934a $500 Key Minneapolis ((x-rare)) Cga Gem Unc 66-opq$1000 Federal Reserve Note Chicago 1934a Pcgs Very Fine 20Hgr 1917 $2 Speelman/white ((red Seal Beauty)) Cga Gem 65-opq"key" 1896 $2 Silver Certificate Education Strong Mid-grade+ ExampleBeautiful 1928 $50 Gold Certificate Superb High Grade1862 $1 Legal Tender Fr-17a Very Fine,pmg 20 Net Rare Note!1928 $10 Gold Fr-2400 Woods/mellon Gem Unc,cga 65 Opq (2nd Of 2 Consec)1946 Nd Japan Amc "a" Underprint 100 Yen Cga531880 $5 United States Legal Tender Fr. # 71 Pcgs 63 Choice New1934a 500 Us Dollar Bill New YorkHgr 1917 $2 Rare Elliott/white ((key Signatures)) Cga Gem 66opq1901 Scarce $10 Red Bison Note Original Lewis & Clark $2 1896 Educational Silver Certificate Cga Au58* GorgeousFr#357: 1891 $2 "mcpherson" Treasury Au/uncFr. 2202-d, $500 Federal Reserve Note, Cleveland Branch, Better Bank 1901 Us Large Note $10 Buffalo Lewis & Clark - No Reserve & Free Us Shipping15 Cents 3rd Issue Grant Sherman Obverse Reverse Pcgs 58 & 63 Autograph + Error!1899 Five Dollar Indian Chief Silver Certificates Spectacular 1928 $100 Gold Certificate Gem A/uUltra Rare 1882 $20 Date Back National Only One In ExistenceHgr 1922 $10 ((gold Certificate)) Cga Choice Unc 64-opq$500 Five Hundred Dollar Federal Reserve Note Series Of 1934 Bank Of Chicago2009 $20 Frn Solid Serial Number All 4's A/u.1901 $10 Bison Ten Dollar Note Legal Tender Circulated No Reserve! 1906 $20 Gold Fr-1186 Very Fine,pcgs 30 Ppq Blazing Reverse!1899 $1 ~~ Large Size ~silver Certificate Note ~black Eagle~nearly UncirculatedUltra Rare 1902 $50 "dallas" National Tied Finest Known$500 1934a Richmond Mule Pcgs Au58$1 1918 Frbn New York Cga Gem 67* Federal Reserve Banknote Rare Quality1899 $1 Black Eagle Fr-230 Gem Unc,cga 66 Opq Gorgeous Eagle!Government Of Texas - Original 1838 $50 Banknote - Sam Houston Signed!$1000 Federal Reserve Note New York 1934a Pcgs Very Fine 20Us 1890 $10 Treasury Note Rosecrans-huston Lg Brown Seal Solid Fine++1934 $500 Dollar Bill Federal Reserve Note No Reserve!!!1901 10$ Ten Dollar Bison United States Note Lewis & Clark 1917 $1 Legal Tender Fr-37 Gem Unc,cga 66 Opq Handsome Legal Tender!Fr# 1374: 50 Cent Lincoln Fractional Pmg Ch. Au 58epqHgr 1918 $5 Frbn Kansas City ((finest Known)) Cga Gem Unc 66-opq1928 $500 Federal Reserve Note

Recent News: US Paper Money

Source: Google News

'Bitcoin Billionaire' from Noodlecake is the Hottest Way to Mine Fake Bitcoins ...
Touch Arcade, October 28th

The game's not just going to feature goofy fake fake currency collection, but also an opt-in ad system for not just incentivized video, but also rewards for enabling banner ads. We live in a strange era. Sadly, you can't mine actual bitcoins with this...Read more