Collecting Vintage Bank Notes

1901 $10 Bison
1901 $10 Bison

While coin collecting has been a widely popular hobby for decades, until recently paper money wasn’t quite as popular. There still aren’t near as many collectors of paper money as their is of coins, but it is becoming more popular every year.

Most collectors fit into one of two categories, either they collect only U.S. currency or they collect paper money from around the world. Some collectors concentrate on specific time periods such as World War II or the Civil War era. While other collectors search for specific designs such as animals and political figures.

Paper currency can be traced back to the 13th century, China realized that it was cheaper to produce more money made of paper than it was to make coins. The first European banknotes were issued in the 1600’s by  France. And, by the 20th century almost every country in the world was issuing paper money along with their coins.

Unlike coins, the dates that appear on bank notes can be very confusing, especially to new collectors. The dates on coins were changed with each years minting, but the dates on paper money refer to the date that the design was first issued. So, the date don’t always reflect the year the bank note was printed.

Grafton Ten Dollar Bill
Grafton Bank Ten Dollar Bill

Just like with any other collectable, the value depends a lot on the condition of the item. There is a general grading system for bank notes, however the description may differ between dealers. What one dealer sees as a good bill, might be considered fair by another.

The problem that arises with the lack of an exact grading system can literally mean thousands of dollars difference in the bank notes value. Even a slight increase or decrease in a notes grade can either raise or lower the value by one third or even as much as half.

While some collectors only purchase bank notes that are in un-circulated condition, this is unrealistic for most collectors. Un-circulated bills are of course, the most expensive and many collectors enjoy bank notes more as a hobby and not an investment. Although, the rarity of the bank note also adds much to the ultimate value.

Confederate bank notes are very sought after forms of paper currency. In April of 1861, the first notes from the Confederate States of America was issued and continued to be printed throughout 1864. These bills generally have rough edges since they were actually cut out of sheets with scissors. Another interesting fact about Confederate money is that it was numbered and signed by hand!

It’s interesting to note that counterfeit bills was a big problem with  Confederate money. And, that the majority of counterfeit bills came from the North as a ploy to increase inflation! Some of the original Confederate bank notes are worth tens of thousands of dollars today!

Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2008

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