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September 26th, 2012

How to Ship Paper Money in the Mail? Safest Way to Ship Paper Money by Mail?

In the old days, one could walk into a currency dealer’s store or approach their stand at a show, find a cool note, pay for it, and get it handed to them in person. Face-to-face transactions are actually still preferable, especially for high end notes, and can be completed in minutes. When a dealer sells a note from his or her inventory over the internet, however, the note has to reach the customer safely. That means old fashioned “snail mail” or express services must be used. Sorry, Star Trek style transporters are not yet available, but we’ll be the first to let you know when Mr. Scott is available for a paper money transaction! 🙂

How do I ship paper money to a dealer or third party grading service?

We’re glad you asked, because we have some experience in this area. Unlike a plastic coin case, which can take a ding or two and not adversely affect the coin’s grade, paper money that gets bent, warped, twisted, or crushed in the mail usually means that PMG Gem Unc 65 note you just bought suddenly becomes PMG Very Good 10 in an instant. Yes, paper currency is durable, but it isn’t immune to mishandling, human error, or damage when sent in the mail, even under the best circumstances.

Conservative Method of Shipping Paper Money by Mail

You just found an old bank note in the family safe and need to sell it for cash. A dealer made an offer and you need to send it off to him to finish the transaction. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a legal size envelope or medium sized manila envelope normally used to mail documents.
  2. Important: Use a pair of scissors to remove the gummed edge of the envelope, even if you don’t think it could ever come into contact with the note you’re mailing. If a dealer receives a note that is adhered to the gummed edge of an envelope, they will likely want some or all of their money back and will return the note. Don’t take any chances when mailing currency: just get rid of the gummed flap altogether. If you’re using a manila envelope with a metal clasp, remove it as well. Notes that get caught on these clasps during shipment get ruined.
  3. Once any obstructions are removed, carefully place the note inside the envelope, making sure not to bend, fold, or otherwise alter the condition of the note. If the envelope is too small, don’t force the note into it. Instead, find a larger envelope that can adequately accommodate the note and allow for free movement during shipping.
  4. Set the envelope containing the note aside for a moment. Again, do NOT tape, glue, or staple the envelope shut at this point, since you potentially risk the same problems discussed step #2 above.
  5. Find a small box that will hold the entire envelope you’ve made comfortably, allowing some room for the envelope to move around a bit. Place the envelope containing the note inside the box. Do not force it in or otherwise bend, fold, or crush note or else you risk fundamentally altering the note’s condition and value.
  6. If you have any small pieces of newspaper handy, carefully place them inside the small box to act as a rudimentary buffer to protect the envelope containing your note. Important: Do NOT sandwich the note between layers of crumpled up newspaper. Instead, place the envelope holding your note flat inside the box and THEN place loose newspaper pieces above it.
  7. Now head off to the Post Office, Fedex, DHL, or some other express service. Request a standard cardboard shipping box. Do not use a flimsy envelope or other low quality container. Place your small box inside the shipping container, adding newspaper pieces, packing peanuts, or plastic bubble wrap as needed to allow the small box room to fit comfortably inside. It should be free to move a little, but not bounce around uncontrollably. Err on the side of caution and add extra packing materials if necessary.

That’s it for packing, now it’s time to purchase the right kind of shipping!

Important: Before you mail your note to the dealer, ask the dealer or grading service if they have insurance that covers shipments ADDRESSED TO THEM. Some dealers who regularly send and receive high value currency have insurance policies that will cover loss or damage of packages containing paper money during shipment. If they do have a policy, ask what type of mail service is required to have your note covered. In some cases, dealers require notes to be sent Express Mail or Registered Mail with signature required upon delivery. The less time the note is out floating around in the mail system, the better.

If they DO NOT have insurance on note shipments, follow our advice below.

United States Postal Service Shipping Advice

  1. Carefully seal your package personally and make sure it stays shut. Add extra tape on the outside if necessary.
  2. For notes valued up to $3,000: Ask the postal clerk for Express Mail Insured service. The insurance value is the amount of money the dealer has paid for the note. Express mail ships packages much faster and more securely than normal service. Don’t let them talk you into a different mailing method or promotion, even if it costs less. Express Mail Insured is the best way to go. If shipping costs are a concern, see if the dealer will chip in extra cash to assist with the mailing fees.

    Keep your receipt and most importantly the package’s tracking number. You can track the package at www.usps.com. Be sure to contact the dealer and advise him that the package has been sent and give them the tracking number as well, so they can monitor the shipment’s progress.

  3. For notes valued $3,001 or More: Ask the postal clerk for Registered Mail Insured service unless the dealer has instructed you to ship otherwise. Registered mail is the most secure method of mailing any item in the United States Postal Service. Each time the package moves from various post offices to distribution points, it is manually inventoried. A postal service worker must sign for the package each step of the way. Insure the package for the value of the transaction. If the value of your note exceeds the highest limit available offered by the USPS, call the dealer and ask them for advice about insuring the package before you send it off in the mail. The last thing you want to happen is to insure a $50,000 note for $10,000 and then find out the shipment was lost or stolen. Now you’re out $40,000!

    Keep your receipt and most importantly the package’s tracking number. You can track the package at www.usps.com. Be sure to contact the dealer and advise him that the package has been sent and give them the tracking number as well, so they can monitor the shipment’s progress.

Fedex, DHL, UPS, or other Express Parcel Service

  1. Carefully seal your package personally and make sure it stays shut. Add extra tape on the outside if necessary.
  2. Express services already send packages as fast as possible, so no need to request expedited service unless the currency dealer wants the note even quicker.
  3. Insure your package for the value of the transaction between you and the dealer. If the transaction value is higher than what is offered by the express service, call the currency dealer and ask them for advice before sending the note out. Sometimes people staffing drop-off points for express services are not always familiar with all the ways valuable packages can be sent. Your dealer will know exactly what type of service and insurance you’ll need.
  4. Keep the receipt from the express service and most importantly the tracking number. Major express services all have online tracking capabilities. Be sure to send your dealer the package’s tracking number as well so they can monitor the shipment’s progress.

That’s it, you’re done! Congratulations on selling your currency!

We realize our instructions for shipping paper money may seem long-winded and overly detailed, but we can’t emphasize enough how important proper note shipping procedures should be followed. It’s a rare event when a package containing a note is lost, stolen, or damaged, so you can rest assured that better than 9 out of 10 times, your note will make it to the dealer unscathed.

For particularly valuable notes, don’t leave anything to chance, especially when it comes to insuring the package. Yes, it costs more and might seem unnecessary, but if your note disappears or comes to the dealer banged up, you could be out a lot of money. Your options for legal recourse are limited if you fail to insure and/or mail a note properly.

Always ask dealers if they have a preferred method of receiving notes before sending off a shipment. Our procedure might be too much or not enough depending on the particular transaction value. Above all else, make sure everyone has the package tracking numbers once the note is in the mail!

by Brendan Meehan | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment » |
September 19th, 2012

How to find Father’s, Mother’s, Grandma’s, Grandpa’s, Brother’s, or Sister’s Paper Money Collection?

The passing of a beloved relative can be a difficult time. In addition to grappling with the emotional grief of your loss, you eventually have to go through your loved one’s will and litigate matters with various attorneys in Probate Court. The government comes in first and gets its piece of the pie, then you and your relatives get whatever was bequeathed to you, and finally any charitable donations on behalf of the estate are made. If there are no provisions for a loved one’s individual belongings, some families decide to have estate sales and auction off silver, gold, antiques, cars, paintings, military service items, and other assets for cash. It’s not free to die in the USA, and everyone from your family lawyer, to estate executor, to estate auctioneer will need to get paid.

Contrary to popular belief, you just don’t show up at your relative’s house with a U-Haul and divvy up the goods; there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

When reflecting on the times they spent with a recently deceased relative, inevitably reminders of their possessions or favorite items pop into mind. My Mom settled the estate for an elderly woman who was an artist throughout her life. Her works were featured in local galleries and reproduced as prints. On some days during the twilight years of the older lady’s life, she would talk about her pictures with vivid detail. On other days, she completely forgot she was an artist and accused my Mother of trying to sell her life insurance in the convalescent home. 🙂 When people grow old, sometimes memories disappear and important details of their life are misplaced or forgotten.

Naturally, when it came time to settle the woman’s estate, everyone wondered where the paintings and prints were. There was no mention of them in the will because the elderly lady changed it many times late in her life and she forgot about many things she owned. The artwork itself didn’t have tremendous market value, but it did have sentimental value to those who knew this lovely lady throughout her life. Later, much of the artwork was discovered in the back of closet, stacked behind old clothes and shoes. We were all relieved it was finally found, but of course, that meant it had to be inventoried and dispersed appropriately.

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve just recalled that a recently deceased loved one had a paper money collection. Maybe they only collected for a few years; maybe they were “lifers” with multiple albums of United States currency purchased right up until they could no longer take care of themselves. The whereabouts and value of any numismatic collection can become an important issue in regard to settling the loved one’s will, particularly if the collection is very valuable. As mentioned above, the cash value of some collections (art, antiques, sculptures, coins, stamps, or currency) may have to be litigated in probate court and put “on the record”.

I don’t know where the collection is, where should I look?

You’d be surprised how many emails we’ve received about people finding notes in weird places that were a deceased relative’s property. Here are the most common places currency or paper money is kept:

  1. Currency albums, often resembling large 3 ring binders. If the collection is substantial, you may need to look for multiple albums. The collector will probably have them stored in a cool, dry, place away from sunlight. The albums might be bound by leather, plastic, or cloth. Some might bear the brand names of well known numismatic companies on their covers.
  2. Safety deposit boxes. Many heirs to estates are surprised to discover that their relative had a safety deposit box at the local bank. Some older folks liked to keep an ample supply of cash on hand for emergency purposes. Safety deposit boxes are equally great places to store a valuable currency collection. While you’re cataloging all the notes in the collection, be sure to get the legal authority necessary to research if your relative had any other safety deposit boxes at the bank, or any other area bank. Some families who don’t check their relative’s banking history are often surprised years later when a bank official calls them to report a safety deposit box has been found in their name. This happens more often than you might think!
  3. Among other collectibles that don’t appear outwardly valuable. Grandpa might have a few boxes of baseball cards that don’t have much collector value, but there could be many other treasures hidden among them. Collectors sometimes behave like “hoarders”: they stockpile anything and everything in random places known only to them. A junky set of old cigar boxes might have banknotes stored inside them. An ordinary looking scrap book might have a currency section. Old books chronicling historical events (Civil War, World War I, World War II) might have notes stashed inside them. People are quirky. That means be prepared to find almost anything, anywhere.
  4. Inside antique furniture. Sure, that wooden bureau looks ordinary and plain, but it’s former owner could have hidden notes inside its drawers or even beneath the drawers. True story: I was assisting my parents moving tables out of a deceased relative’s house, and one had an inconspicuous drawer. Naturally, I opened it out of curiosity, and inside were old newspapers from the moon landing and Apollo missions. These tables were headed for a tag sale, but luckily the real treasures were found just in time!
  5. Household safes of all types. This one is obvious, but still worth mentioning: check any safe in the house for currency, even if it is an antique safe meant for decorative purposes or as a conversation piece. Some people might also keep a stash of currency inside gun safes, document safes, or some other item under lock and key. Check them thoroughly. There’s a reason why they’re called “safes” and used to protect valuables. 🙂
  6. Suitcases, luggage, old travel items. Although a true currency collector probably won’t house their notes inside a suitcase, some people might save cash for spending purposes inside a suitcase for travel and then forget about it. As time progresses, the suitcase might get pushed deeper into a closet or tossed in the attic, all the while containing old banknotes. Most of the time these notes aren’t particularly valuable, but you never know. A grandparent that visited Europe during World War II might have put some Yellow Seal North Africa Silver Certificates in their suitcase for spending money. If the notes are well preserved and/or have star serial numbers, you might have a nice find on your hands!
  7. Military uniforms, old coats and jackets, work uniforms. Ever found a $20 dollar bill in an old raincoat, or rediscovered a $50 dollar bill inside a sport coat you wore to a fancy event? Well, chances are, your relative may have left some cash or other valuables inside their coat pockets, forgotten long ago. This is particularly true for those who served in the military. Some family members processing estates will find pictures, autographs, USA and foreign currency, coins, or wedding rings inside old military uniforms. Don’t ever handover an old Army coat or pants without inspecting them first. Military service is important to many people and it encapsulates many memories in their life. To commemorate their days in the service, people save all sorts of things inside their uniforms.
  8. Old family Bibles or family tree books. Some families have well established traditions of passing down a Bible or family tree album to subsequent generations. Along the way, various items get placed inside these books or albums, representing an important event in someone’s life. Additionally, a relative might put something valuable inside a family Bible because he or she knows that his or her heirs will eventually discover it. It’s not uncommon to find banknotes inside Bibles or between the sheets of a family tree, particularly families that have roots in the country back to the 1800s or earlier. Always thoroughly search any sort of heirloom no matter how commonplace it might be. A valuable 1891 Treasury Note might be stuck inside waiting for you to discover!

When you do find an old banknote, feel free to contact us! We appraise for free. Simply send a photo of your note and a brief description by email to: papermoneysite@gmail.com .

Important: The rules and regulations of settling estates varies from state to state in the USA, as do the amount of taxes levied on the value of the estate. Please consult an attorney and all heirs listed in the relative’s will before assuming control of a coin or currency collection. In many cases, the collection may have to be inventoried and appraised by a third party and then entered into Probate Court proceedings. Take all precautions necessary to avoid any legal entanglements resulting from the discovery of a valuable item that wasn’t declared line-item in your loved one’s will.

by Brendan Meehan | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments » |
"Friedberg Numbers" from Paper Money of the United States (19th ed.) by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg are used with permission of the Coin & Currency Institute
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