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Coins & Currency | 04.07.2021


The first recorded use of paper money dates back to the Tang Dynasty in first century China.  Sixteen hundred years later, the New World colonies began issuing their own currency to facilitate trade. This was the beginning of “American” paper money. Over the coming two centuries, our nation has taken currency through a number of changes. And from these early colonial pieces to now, examples of these iterations are now valuable and widely collected. The passion for collecting U.S. currencies is a great way to learn about finance, economics, geography and the colorful history of this great nation. Following is a quick primer on the types of currencies produced in the New World and can serve as a guide to get you started in the fascinating world of notaphily.

The Colonial Notes started it all, with the first being produced in 1690 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Other colonies followed suit and all of these notes are considered rare and highly collectible. Many eastern collectors living in one of the original thirteen build denomination sets from examples created in their state. These collectors and also collectors worldwide seek out examples of each to form a thirteen piece type set from the original colonies.

With exchange rates and the costs of the Revolutionary War, the colonial notes faced many problems. The formation of the Continental Congress was formed and new paper monies were produced. These notes are often collected in adjunct to the colonial series. This short lived production run gives way to the signing of the Constitution and in 1791 the formation of the Bank of the United States.

The forming of this Bank and the creation of the Treasury department see’s the creation of a new group of notes. Modern collectors group the following century of notes into a group call the large size notes due to their measurements in relation to today’s paper money. This group of notes encompasses a number of different currencies and bonds and represents the largest section of collectible currency today. Too numerous to delve into in this article the scope of the large size catalog is immense.

The earliest are Treasury notes that were large bearer notes. Along with these the Treasury created demand notes, and interest bearing notes. Most of these were used as banking instruments and larger business transactions. This subset of the large size registry was the mainstay of U.S. paper money and is relegated more to the aficionado than common collector. These notes continue through  the Civil War years when changes to our nation’s currency creates some exciting new modern collectibles.

The fractional currencies are born from this era and these obsolete denominations were small sized notes produced in smaller denominations under a dollar. These were strictly used to facilitate trade when coinage and the precious metal within were difficult to keep in circulation. Many collectors build denomination sets and or seek out the large shield produced by the Treasury to thwart counterfeiters.

Despite the popularity of these smaller notes, the Large Size category remains the collector darlings. Most important of these are the National Bank Notes and the Silver and Gold series. These notes were produced from the early 19th until the early 1920’s and represent the most collectible portion of all U.S. Paper money.

Collectors work to build sets in a number of different manners including but not limited to, thematic sets, denomination sets, rarity sets and Bank sets. Due to the colorful and varied motif’s printed on these notes, many collectors from other genres seek out examples that coincide with what they collect. It is not uncommon to find coin collectors buying large sized notes that feature pictures of our nation’s coinage, or locomotive enthusiasts buying examples with train motifs. This constant demand drives pricing and furthers the desirability of many issues.

The National Bank notes are likely the widest of all large size notes collected. Early banks were allowed to print their own paper money once granted charters from the U.S. Treasury. This practice continued until 1922 with the earliest of notes bearing various motifs and imagery created specifically for that Charter.  The charters were granted for a period of twenty years, and the issues spans three of such period from the Civil War years until the roaring twenties. Collectors work this issue in a number of ways including, obtaining examples from within their state from each charter, or by focusing on an individual charter building denomination sets. Regardless of intent, the National Bank notes are paper monies most sought after issues. Examples within range from common to extremely scarce and enthusiasts scour websites and auction sites seeking out the scarce issues.

No review of the paper money collectibles would be complete without mentioning our great State of Texas. Once declared its own nation, Texas produced its own currency. Highly collectible within the state, collectors nationwide seek out this specie to add depth to any robust collection. The piece within range from simple modern check like representations to vivid creations with color and motifs that satisfy the most artful minded.

Regardless of what you collect and whether you are a paper money expert or just looking for something adjacent to your collecting desires, you can find it within the myriad of monies created within our great continent. At U.S. Coins and Jewelry we carry a wide range of notes for the collector from early colonial notes to errors created by our modern Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Visit our showroom to hold these windows into our colorful past or visit our website and page through our available selections. And remember, whether you’re looking to buy or sell coins, jewelry, watches and of course paper money consider U.S. Coins and Jewelry.

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US Coins hosted my son's BSA Scout Troop to help them work towards earning their Coin Collecting merit badge. They were very helpful and willing to answer all of the questions that they had. My son wanted to get as much written down on his worksheet as possible before leaving, and Ms. Johns was kind enough to sit down with him and go through the remaining requirements that did not involve actually building a collection. A lot of us parents looked at buying US Mint Proof Sets for our Scouts, and their prices were very good. Thank you to US Coins for being great community members!
Andrew Wong