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Currency collecting is one of my hobbies. I’m not sure why, but I like it more than collecting coins, which I also do. I’ll share some of the basics that will help if you’re new to this hobby/investment. Yes, collecting anything is more than a hobby and, done correctly, it can be a good investment.
First, I’ll take a moment to compare coins and paper money. A coin’s value can come from its metal or “melt” value, which is different from its face and collectable value. Older and “specialty” coins are/were made with silver as one of the metals. And of course, silver has its own value per the commodity’s market. Paper money has no other value than its face value and what a collector is willing to pay for it.
The US government has never de-monetized any of its currency. That means all currency, no matter how old, is still worth face value to the government. You can take a $500 bill (yes, they used to print five-hundred-dollar bills) to the bank and deposit $500 dollars into you account. Note: if you decide to do this please contact me as I will give you $500 for every $500 bill you can lay your hands on. (Hint: they are worth way more. LOL.) On the other hand, other paper money such as Confederate and old bank issued notes have no face value. But they can have a very nice collector value.
It is common to call paper money a bill, as in a five-dollar bill, but the correct term for paper money is “note.” Notes have a front and back, unlike coins which have an obverse and reverse.
Unlike coins, notes are not printed every year. Okay that’s not quite true. They actually print notes every day, but they don’t print a different year (date) on the note every time the calendar year changes. They have what is called a series. For example, there is a 1957 $1 note, a 1957A $1 note, and a 1957B $1 note. The letter after the year is the series. Usually, a note’s year changes when there is a major change to the design of the note. A series change indicates a smaller change such as a signature change of the Treasurer of the United States or the Secretary of the Treasurer, which is on all notes, although this is not always the case.
There are many ways to collect notes. By denomination, type, large vs. small, errors, and so forth. I will delve deeper into that in future posts. Until then start looking at those dates on you notes in you pocket and see what is the oldest one you can find. Hint: they probably won’t be that old. Paper money wears out much faster than coins, so notes get replaced more often.
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