You’ve just spent the afternoon looking at a friend’s impressive collection of United States Currency. You saw many notes you never thought existed: 10 cent Fractional Currency, $10 Large Size Gold Certificates, and even a Small Size $500 Federal Reserve Note. Up until now, you thought USA currency has looked the same throughout the history of country; but now you know otherwise. Encouraged, you think about starting your own collection. What are some ways to start collecting United States Currency?
First off, you don’t have to be a millionaire to collect United States currency, although having a big bankroll certainly helps when you want to purchase very rare notes. It’s important that beginners know there are many affordable and interesting notes that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Like any other hobby, you need to ease your way into it, learning as much as possible and following where your collecting tastes take you.
Common Ways to Start Collecting USA Currency
- See what’s in your wallet – To be clear this isn’t meant to be a wise crack. If you’re stuck trying to find where to start collecting, see what’s in your wallet. Do you like $1 notes, $5 notes, or $50 notes? Do you have any “old design” notes from 20 years ago or more, prior to the introduction of the new $20 note in the series of 1996? See what strikes your fancy and soon enough you’ll know what to collect.
- Buy a United States Currency Guide Book – It’s important to educate yourself about the type of notes you want to collect, including their series date, appearance, rarity, signatures, design variations, and other distinguishing features. Perusing a currency guide book is a great way to see the vast treasure trove of US currency available to collectors without having to visit a coin shop, bid on an eBay.com auction, or visit a currency show far away from you.
We highly recommend buying and making your way through Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, 19th edition or later. This book is considered the “Bible” of currency collecting and contains an amazing amount of information meticulously gathered over decades of research. A good quick and dirty guide that can be purchased in paperback is The Official Blackbook Price Guide To United States Paper Money, available from House of Collectibles publishing company.
- Search the Internet – Although the currency collecting fraternity is still catching up to current day internet marketing and publication practices, doing a search for “Old $1 notes”, or “$10 Silver Certificates” at your favorite search engine will generally put you on the right path towards honing your collecting interests. Many of the nation’s top currency dealers have great websites that contain many notes for sale, in addition to their own research on currency they find interesting.
You could also email a dealer directly to inquire about notes that interest you: most currency dealers are happy to share their knowledge. For the time being, we don’t recommend jumping in head-first at eBay.com unless you are already familiar with a currency dealer offering notes for auction. eBay.com can be a great place to buy currency, but it also has its pitfalls. Play it safe and buy from recognized dealers first.
- Start With $2 Bills – Most people don’t realize that $2 bills are actually legal tender, let alone a simple way to start collecting currency. Although $2 bills aren’t produced in numbers remotely close to the $1 or $20 bill, the government has continued to sporadically issue them since the series of 1976. Stop by your local bank and ask for some $2 bills when you make a withdrawal, you never know what you’ll get. If none are available, it’s possible to order a delivery from the bank, in which case you’ll have to fork over at least $200 for a pack of circulated $2 notes. Notes from the series of 1976, 1995, and 2003 are commonly available.
- Fractional Currency – As with any sub-genre of currency US currency collecting, Fractional Currency – notes issued during the Civil War Years in denominations of 3, 5, 10, 15, 25 and 50 cents – have various levels of note availability and rarity. Most coin shops will have some of the more common examples of the Fractional Currency Type notes in stock, including 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent notes. The cost of these notes depends largely on their condition, and many can be bought for less than $50. If you’re a serious Fractional Currency collector, however, and actively seeking the rarities, you’ll have to pony up as much as $1000 or more. Fractional Currency is “cool” because it’s very old, impressive for non-collectors to see, and affordable.
- Fancy Serial Numbers – Are you a “numbers” guy or girl? Do palindromes (radar serial numbers), ladder serial numbers (consecutive numbers), or repeating numbers (a serial number with a discernible pattern, ie. 06060606) interest you? If so, this is also a great way to get into the hobby, and you can start searching notes you get as change anytime you visit a store or bank.
Like Fractional currency collecting, there are various levels of Fancy Serial number collecting that are more expensive according to the rarity of a particular note. For example, a note with a serial number of 00001234 is a great find and carries a premium value, but a non-specimen note with serial number 12345678 is extremely valuable and highly sought after by fancy serial number collectors. In short, the more difficult the serial number (like getting a straight in poker versus 2 pair) the more valuable the note.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our overview of how to start collecting United States Currency. Now that you have a better idea of what to collect, feel free to browse our regularly update catalog of notes from the nation’s leading currency dealers.
Have fun and Good Luck!