The Friedberg Numbering System for U.S. Banknotes
By | March 25, 2016

Over the course of our nation’s monetary history paper banknotes have had many more designs and issues than coins. Besides numerous variations in artwork, the bills vary by series and the signatures of various Treasury officials. This has led to a baffling number of banknote variations that can make collecting them a source of confusion.

To bring some order to banknote collecting, paper money expert Robert Friedberg (1912-1963) developed a method for cataloging U.S. currency by assigning a unique number to each issue of banknotes and released it in his book Paper Money of the United States in 1953. Since his death it has been updated periodically by his sons Arthur and Ira, the latest issue being the 19th edition, released in August 2010. It is considered the international standard for cataloging U.S. currency.

Paper Money Catalog for Reference and Classification

It’s important to note that the Friedberg Numbering System is NOT a grading scale. It’s strictly for cataloging, sort of like assigning SKUs to money. Grading is done by independent companies such as Paper Money Guaranty and Professional Currency Grading Service. And while Paper Money of the United States lists market values for different notes, they are valid only at the time of publication and are almost certainly out of date within a relatively short time. Current prices are available at various currency collecting sites on the internet.

What the Friedberg System does, though, is let collectors know that the bill they are looking at is the one they want. For instance, a 1935 Series D $1 Silver Certificate, Narrow Design with Clark-Snyder signatures is Friedberg #1613, N, whereas a $1 1935D with the wide design is FR-1613, W. A 1935 Series E $1 Silver Certificate has Priest-Humphrey signatures and is Friedberg #1614. This system lets collectors and sellers instantly locate a specific note without having to wade through long verbal descriptions.

Catalogs for International Currency

Collectors of worldwide currency look to the numbering system developed by German collector Albert Pick called the Pick Number. Other catalogs include Colnect's online banknote catalog and The Banknote Book, a catalog available exclusively as high-resolution full-color PDF files.

Get to Know the World of Coin Collecting

Collecting paper money can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but it can become confusing with all the subtle differences among the thousands of notes out there. If you’re collecting, avoid confusion, counterfeits and other scams by getting a few good books about collecting. Then browse our collections and you may just find yourself hooked.

The Great American Coin Company offers a wide selection of collectible U.S. coins and paper currency as well as currency from around the world. We keep adding unique collectibles as they become available, so be sure to visit us frequently. And while you’re here, make sure to browse the rest of our blog for interesting and timely articles about currency and precious metals.

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