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United States of America

The currency of the United States of America is probably the best known in the world, as it is used as a universal currency, not the least in countries with an unstable national currency. The banknotes are not known for their beauty or splashing colour. The design is uniform with all denominations dangerously like one another, all with a black front and a green back, with a portrait in the center of the front. This design has been nick-named "Dead presidents", not without some reason. Recently, the notes have undergone some redesign, but the basic design has otherwise been unchanged since 1929.

For those interested in detail, however, US banknotes offer large opportunities. For one, the uniformity of design is a trait of modern notes, while the pre-1929 notes are both larger and display large variations in design. (The colours, on the other hand, are very much black and green). There is also a large number of different types of note, distinguished by the colour of the seal and of minor differences in wording. And there are minor design changes, changes in signatures, star notes (replacement notes) etc. that can keep the collector working for years.

One major division is to distinguish between large-size and small-size notes. The latter are the notes we know from present-day circulating notes, introduced in 1929 and currently being redesigned.

Major types of US banknotes are:

  • Colonial notes, i.e. private notes issued when the states were still colonies
  • Continental notes, i.e. notes issued by the Continental Congress to finance the rebellion against the British
  • Notes of The Bank of the United States, the first national bank of the US
  • Broken bank notes, i.e. notes from the large number of private banks operating under state laws between 1790 and 1865
  • Confederate notes issued by the Confederate States of America during the American civil war
  • Large-size notes issued by the US National bank system and the Treasury of the United States
  • Fractional currency, i.e. small notes denominated in cents issued during and after the Civil war due to a shortage of coinage. Encased postage stamps were also issued during the Civil war due to this shortage of coins.
  • Small-size notes issued by the US National bank system and the Treasury of the United States
  • Notes of areas outside the continental US:
    • Alaskan sealskin notes
    • Hawaii as kingdom and republic prior to becoming a US territory
    • The Philippines from 1898 until 1946, during which the islands were a US territory
    • Puerto Rico, which became a US possession i 1898 and had their own banknotes for the first years
    • The US Virgin Islands, which until 1917 (when bought from the Danes) were the Danish West Indies. They had their own currency (Danish West Indies Francs), and notes were issued until 1934. Uniquely, these notes in Danish and English, in another currency, bearing the portrait of a foreign monarch, were legal tender in the US.

2005 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Paper Money (37th edition) is a necessary investment for anyone seriously collecting US notes, with updated market prices for most US notes.

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© janeriks Jan Erik Frantsvåg 2001 Reg.no. NO 983 140 831
Contact me by e-mail: mn@janeriks.no