Collecting paper money (or recently, plastic) is a great way to learn about places, cultures and history around the world. While paper currency has been used for centuries, it’s only in the last century or so that its use became nearly universal. And as its use has become widespread, countries are using it to promote their nations and attractions.

Besides being educational, many banknotes feature interesting and often beautiful designs. That’s why more and more people are collecting them, both as keepsakes and as art. If you’d like to join in, here are some things to know.

Beginning a Banknote Collection

Building a collection can start with specific topics. Some ideas include notes featuring famous people, exotic places, specific eras, countries, or even worthless or counterfeit money.

Once you’re ready to start collecting, you need to become familiar with the ways notes that seem the same can vary in value based on things like serial numbers or who signed them. You also need to know about grading, the way collectors determine the physical quality of the notes themselves. Grading services like Paper Money Guaranty and Professional Currency Grading Service offer lots of information on how notes are rated as well as the opportunity to submit your own notes for evaluation. And while books like Paper Money of the United States list market values for different notes, they are valid only at the time of publication and are almost certainly out of date within a relatively short time.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 many currency collecting sites on the internet. Look at several because prices can vary widely. And always buy from places and people you trust.

Know the Friedberg Numbering System

If you’re interested in U.S. banknotes, you’ll want to be familiar with the Friedberg Numbering System. It’s a cataloging system that lets collectors know that the note they’re looking at is the one they want as opposed to similar ones that may have subtle differences. International note collectors use the cataloging 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 as high-resolution full-color PDF files.

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, fakes, and other scams by getting a few good books about collecting. Then browse our collections and you may just find yourself hooked.

Posted in Paper Money By

Great American Coin Company