It’s always fun to get a cash withdrawal from the bank and be handed a run of sequentially numbered notes, especially when they are fresh out of pack in Gem Unc condition! 🙂 Immediately, you’ve got a few collectible notes from the same series, denomination, and Federal Reserve District; especially important for those that like to collect notes based on geographical regions. In other cases, you can evaluate the notes in hand and use them to upgrade your collection and sell off the rest for a modest profit, especially if they are star notes. Such occurrences are common and nothing to get overly excited about…unless you find a changeover pair.
What is a Changeover Pair?
There are a couple working definitions of what a Changeover Pair really is, mostly based on semantics and the process of printing United States currency.
True Changeover Pair – (Also known as hold-over or cross-over pairs) are a pair of notes, one being the highest serial number printed of one series (usually 99999999 excusing block letters) and the lowest serial number of the next series (usually 00000001 excusing block letters). For example, a series 1928 $2 Legal Tender with serial number A99999999A paired with a series 1928A (notice the “A”) $2 Legal Tender with serial number A00000001A would be a true changeover pair in the most technical definition of the phrase.
Commonly Accepted Changeover Pair – This definition is a much looser version of the “True Changeover Pair”. In this commonly held undestanding, a changeover pair is 2 notes bearing sequential serial numbers, with the first note bearing one series year identification, and the second note bearing the next series year identification. For example, a 1928 $1 Silver Certificate with serial number G37508940A paired with a series of 1928A (notice the “A”) $1 Silver Certificate with serial number G37508941A qualifies as what most people would consider a changeover pair. The first note is always an EVEN serial number, and the second note is always an ODD number.
Commonly Accepted Reverse Changeover Pair – A Reverse Changeover Pair occurs when the first note bears a serial number with the NEXT series year on it coupled with a consecutively numbered note with the PRIOR series year. For example, a series 1934A $10 Silver Certificate with serial number A84119868A paired with a series 1934 (notice it’s only 1934) $10 Silver Certificate with serial number A84119869A would be considered a reverse changeover pair.
These definitions were derived from the Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money: 1928 to date by John Schwartz and Scott Lindquist, 10th edition, page 362.
A good analogy for the loosely used changeover pair definitions: your local US Representative is usually termed “Congressman or Congresswoman”; when in reality, a US Senator also qualifies as a “Congressman or Congresswoman” because they both work in the same bicameral legislature at the US capital. Speaking in absolute terms, a US Rep is a US Rep, just as an US Senator is a US Senator, but technically a “Congressperson” could be either one of the two.
Changeover pairs are largely the result of using face plates “long after the signature holders left office” (Schwartz and Lindquist 362). These notes would infrequently get mixed among different series issues printed on the same sheets of paper. When these sheets were sent off to get serial numbers printed on them, the result would be consecutive notes with different series year identifications.
The thing that makes changeover pairs a relative rarity is that one must hold both sequentially serial numbered notes in order to prove a changeover pair exists. Practically speaking, most people don’t rifle through their cash withdrawals to see if different series years were printed on consecutively numbered notes, which means most changeover pairs are broken up long before a collector has a chance to identify them. When a collector does find them, it is often due to serendipity. Dealers are usually the first people to identify changeover pairs when someone attempts to sell them a run of notes that have different series year identifications.
Is it possible to proactively search for changeover pairs? Yes, but it requires advanced knowledge of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s current production procedures, knowing how the notes get distributed, and most importantly knowing where to find them. One stands the best chance of finding undiscovered changeover pairs among unopened bank packs and bricks of currency. Even though it can be like searching for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”, the payoff can be great and very rewarding. Otherwise, you need to see a regular flow of old notes in order to snatch up any changeover pairs that would otherwise be mistaken as a simple run of notes.
Here’s an example of a what’s commonly known as a changeover pair (NOT the true technical changeover pair)
…so there you have it!
The Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money: 1928 to date by John Schwartz and Scott Lindquist lists a general census of all known changeover pairs and reverse changeover pairs beginning on page 363 of the 10th edition of their guide. Undoubtedly, many more of these unique paper money collectibles will surface in time. They are an interesting anomaly and one of the few instances where notes together are significantly more valuable than notes alone.