A Quick Guide to Collecting Paper Currency

In the world of currency collection, coins are not the only option for enthusiastic hobbyists. Paper currency is a popular way to enjoy artifact collection that goes beyond metal grading and considers the standalone intrigue of the artwork, print history, quality, and rarity of notes and bills.

Whether you have just begun a paper currency collection or want to get started, discover several of the most popular ways to approach the process.

Discontinued Bills
Today, paper currency is produced in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. In days gone by, larger denominations were printed, as well as iterations of the current denominations with retired portraits, artwork, paper materials, sizes, and features. Discontinued bills vary in value with regard to rarity and condition, and what you include in your collection is largely up to personal preference.

Error Notes
Just as with coin collecting, error notes are valuable assets to a paper currency collection. Because deliberately altering the information on paper money is easier than it is with metal coins, have a qualified professional inspect any interesting bills or notes. In some cases, intentional tweaks hold their own historical value.

Rare Bills
Though some bills are still in circulation, they appear infrequently enough that their market value often exceeds their face value. These bills include misprints, uncommon denominations, recalled bills, early 19th– or 20th-century series certificates, and star notes.

Unique Serial Numbers
Bills and notes have an eight-digit serial number accompanied by a series of letters and other numbers printed directly on the paper that denotes the branch in which it was printed, the year, and the Federal Reserve bank in which it was issued. Serial numbers are a unique way to approach paper currency collecting due to the varied arrangements of numbers that provide significance to collectors. 

Serial numbers can be valuable when they hold meaning, such as important dates or interesting combinations of numbers, or when they reflect a rare number, including low, high, flipper, repeater, and solid serial numbers.

Various Paper Sets
Paper currency collections can take shape based on various categories or the collector’s interests and preferences.

Type Sets
Collectors often form a set of notes and bills of the same type, such as a selection of $2 bills from various years, designs, issuers, or special serial numbers. 

Themed Sets
Paper currency collections can be organized under a specific theme, including different colors, historical events, art details, or hobby-based illustrations.

Seal Type Sets
Since paper money was first printed, issuers have used various colored seals on its currency. Collection sets can be built around these differences to include each variation ever printed.

Location Sets
Collections can include notes and bills printed from a singular issuer, dictated by which federal reserve bank or mint issued or printed the currency.

Vintage Notes
Paper currency prior to 1929 took a different shape and size than modern currency, while various reserve notes and private-issue pieces hold different values the earlier they were printed. Vintage notes, certificates, and bills are popular for their historical significance and rarity, which can make a collection just as monetarily valuable as it is interesting.

Gold and Silver Certificates

Primarily issued between 1863 to 1964, both gold and silver certificates were to be exchanged for actual precious metals. Some of these certificates were actually only for private use between banks, allowing investors to possess the value of precious metals without holding on to them physically. 

While no longer in circulation or redeemable for their initial value, certificates in excellent condition hold value for collectors and historians alike. 

Visit Rocky Mountain Coin to get started or continue to add to your paper currency collection. Our inventory includes rare, unique, and certified notes and bills, and our experts can help you find the right choices for your collection.