My Paper Money Was Stolen: What Next?

It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while burglars break into people’s homes and steal things; many times including valuable paper money if it happens to be an easy grab. Your average home invader probably doesn’t know much about currency, and takes it just as fast as gold jewelry or diamond rings. In very rare circumstances, organized thieves will break into a dealer’s storefront or a collector’s home and make off with every piece of currency they can find.

The Good News: If you collection or inventory was just stolen, remember that all government issued currency in the $1 denomination or higher has serial numbers. Notes can be found much easier than coins (which are easily melted down or moved unslabbed without raising suspicion). Fractional notes and some proofs lacking serial numbers might be harder to find. Slabbed notes – particularly those that are not taken out of their sleeves – are even easier to track because they are already in a grading company’s database with specific ID numbers. It would be hard to move a particularly valuable note quickly without raising alarm bells in the domestic United States collecting community: most serious collectors and investors acquire their notes through legitimate means. A would-be thief’s attempts to find a “secret buyer” for hot currency – particularly without knowing one before his/her heist – is next to impossible. Your note will popup somewhere, it will just take time and some good detective work.

Some Bad News: If the notes leave the country, chances of recovery become more remote. United States law enforcement has limited or no jurisdiction in other parts of the world. That means you or the FBI would have to contact the authorities in the country where you think your currency was taken, arrange an investigation, and find the currency. Unfortunately, finding valuables for a burglarized USA citizen is a very low priority on most other countries law enforcement list. If your currency is extremely rare, browse foreign auction websites and collectible retailers. It might surface in a venue where the seller can get the most money possible. Otherwise, if your currency is relatively common, you probably won’t get it back.

More Bad News: If the thief damages the currency during the robbery or while attempting to conceal it from police, you might get your note back, but it’s value will be drastically diminished. In this case, you’ll have to hire a lawyer and take the thief to court and sue for the value of the note less its current market value. Getting money out of people is difficult and time consuming. It’s also likely the robber doesn’t have any money to refund you, in which case efforts to be made whole again will be long and protracted, and might be in vain. Insure all high-end purchases, especially if they reside outside bank vaults.

All isn’t necessarily lost: the collecting community is small enough that someone, somewhere, will come across your notes and recognize them as stolen. It might take 1 or 2 years before this happens, but in the end you’ll get everything returned.

In the meantime, you’ll have to get to work notifying all major currency dealers, auction houses, and collectors that your notes are missing.

Major Currency Auction Houses Contacts

  1. Heritage Auctions DBA Heritage Capital Corporation. Visit their Contact Us page – click here to send them a note. You might have to join the website first before sending an email through their system. You can also call Heritage directly using these numbers: 1-800-872-6467 or 1-214-528-3500. Fax: 1-214-409-1425. Heritage is one of the world’s leading collectibles auction houses, and they are usually very good about removing items from auctions that have been determined to be stolen. You might have to hire a lawyer to assist you in filing the right paperwork with Heritage to get your notes back.
  2. Lyn Knight Currency Auctions. Lyn Knight is another leading currency auction house, equally committed to returning stolen notes to their proper owners. Their contact email is: support@lynknight.com. Use these numbers for phone and fax: phone 1-913-338-3779, fax: 1-913-338-4754. Again, you might need legal help to get all the required paperwork completed in order to retrieve your currency. The last thing any auction house wants is bad press, and they will be sure to assist you as much as possible.
  3. Ebay.com. Ebay is the world’s leading online auction site, and boasts a healthy selection of coins and paper money for sale. Thousands of items go up for sale daily. If you see one of your stolen notes being advertised on eBay.com, contact their support team immediately. Another thing you can do is fill out the “Report Item” online form, which flags a particular lot for review. Report an Item online form – click here. Call eBay.com using this number: 1-866-877-3229. Ignore all automated prompts and demand to speak with a support representative. If you’re already an eBay.com member, you might have to get a 6 digit security code first before you’re allowed into the phone system. Visit this page and click the phone icon or “call us” text to get your temporary code, which expires in 15 minutes or less.

Major Currency Dealers

  1. PaperMoneyAuction.com has this covered: our A-Z listing of major paper money dealers is available on this page – click here. Ask each dealer to refer you to others who can help find your notes.

Report Your Notes as Stolen at These Websites
These active paper money sites maintain a constant list of stolen and missing notes. Send your note’s denomination, series year, type, signatures, serial number, and any identifying marks (courtesy autographs, authentic printing errors, unique serial number). If your note is slabbed, include the sleeve identification number and respective grading service.

  1. Numismatic Crimes Information Center – This major numismatic crimes site will circulate lists of stolen items to major coin, currency, and collectibles dealers.
  2. Banknotes.com Stolen Items Page
  3. NBNCensus.com (National Bank Note Census) Stolen Note List
  4. FBI.gov Contact and Report Page – You might get referred to your local bureau depending on jurisdiction. Also, depending on how substantial your losses are, the FBI might or might not take the case.
  5. SPMC.org – Society Of Paper Money Collectors Website – Nearly every major paper money dealer and most collectors have a membership with this society, which has been in existence for decades. They will assist you in disseminating the information to the right people.
  6. PCGS Collector’s Forum – This active and lively forum has thousands of members and a regular flow of new posts on a daily basis. Fellow collectors and currency dealers will be happy to assist you. If you’re not already a member, you can sign up for free. Then, make a new post in the paper money section.

The best way to avoid theft is to take preventative measures. If you want to keep your collection at home, make sure to put it inside a safe when you’re not enjoying it. Otherwise, safety deposit boxes in strong bank vaults are the best location. You can still showoff your collection even if the “real” notes are deep inside a bank vault: buy replicas or copies on purpose and build a “dummy” collection of notes. Put these notes inside a currency album, on your wall, or within a display case. Most people won’t know the difference. That way, if and when burglars break in, they’ll get nothing more than worthless replicas.

NBNCensus.com: An Invaluable Tool for National Bank Note Lovers

The tastes and preferences of National Bank Note collectors can be fickle: some only collect notes from their hometown, others only collect notes from a certain state, while others might only like a certain issue (ie. 1902 Red Seals). The one thing ALL of these collectors have in common is a need for reliable reference information on the existence of all known National Bank Notes, their rarity, recent sale prices, and reported serial number ranges. Without such information, there would be little basis for a note’s market value other than someone’s personal evaluation.

Large Size note lovers have the Martin Gengerke Census, Small Size note lovers have Schwartz and Lindquist’s Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Paper Money: 1928 to date. What about Nationals? Is there any all-encompassing guide for them?

First Things First – A Brief Look Back

Prior to the dawn of the internet, there were indeed guidebooks for National Bank Note lovers. A few of the paper money hobby’s foremost members took on the enormous task of researching notes issued from every known National Bank, their approximate market value, and population count. These ground-breaking works immediately established a baseline for determining the rarity of certain National Bank Notes as they came to market, and were of immeasurable importance to serious collectors and paper money dealers.

Among those responsible for the most important work in National Bank Note collecting were John Hickman, Louis W. VanBelkum, Melvin Warns, Peter Huntoon, Martin Gengerke, and Don C. Kelly. Of this core group, most National collectors will recognize Mr. Kelly as the author of National Bank Notes, first released in 1981. Since then, Mr. Kelley has produced a total of 6 editions, each containing an exhaustive listing of notes produced for every National Bank, the number of notes known to exist, and their market values. You can purchase Mr. Kelley’s National Bank Notes, sixth edition – click here.

Along the way, the various record keeping efforts of all these gentlemen was aggregated and used extensively by serious collectors, paper money dealers, and major auction houses. Both Heritage Auctions and Lyn Knight Auctions regularly reference Mr. Kelley’s reports and Mr. Gengerke’s census numbers in their lot listings, in addition to other major National Bank Note book authors. Some collectors might also own a copy of National Currency: An Analysis with Values by Robert Liddell and William Litt, a compendium of National Bank Note information similar to Mr. Kelley’s cornerstone work.

For years, these authors and National Bank Note experts diligently updated their record keeping, wrote articles for various paper money publications, and amassed substantial National Bank Note collections of their own.

Then, along came the internet…and with it, new possibilities for putting all of this important information together for everyone to use.

NBNCensus.com – The Best Online Resource for National Bank Notes

The internet as we know it and its vast potential for collecting, sharing, and distributing information is one of the most remarkable human innovations in the last 20 years. The original “internet” was created by various university and government agencies beginning with the first computers created in the 1950s. Later, the basic concept of email was invented by DARPA in 1962. Slowly, as computers became mass marketed and people began to realize the promise of a new online universe, the modern internet was born.

Andrew Shiva rightly saw a perfect opportunity to organize all known information about National Bank Notes into one comprehensive, authoritative website. Mr. Shiva is the creator of NBNCensus.com, an online guide for National Bank Note collectors, paper money dealers, and collectible retailers. It represents the culmination of all the work initiated by Mr. Kelley, Mr. Gengerke, and others many decades ago, with the additional benefit of being conveniently located at your nearest internet connection for a very reasonable annual fee.

According to NBNCenus.com’s About Us Page:

The National Bank Note Census (NBNC) promises to be the most comprehensive resource ever created for collectors, dealers, and researchers of national bank notes. This all-encompassing census combines the data of both Don Kelly and Martin Gengerke into a single fully searchable database. In addition, the Van Belkum data (revised, corrected, and updated by Peter Huntoon) is available in a searchable bank title and note issuance database. With over 350,000 bank note records, this fully searchable database incorporates the work of four pioneers in national bank note research.

Additionally, Mr. Shiva matched up extensive sales data from major auction houses and leading National Bank Note sellers to all the notes in his online census. That means you can view how the market value of a particular note has changed over the years as it hit the auction block. Graphs are included along with the venue where the note sold.

If you haven’t visited NBNCensus.com, you should definitely have a look. It’s amazing tool for National Bank Note fanatics and a great source of numismatic information!

PaperMoneyAuction.com received no compensation for writing this article, reviewing NBNCensus.com, or providing links to various National Bank Note resources. It will NOT be compensated if someone reading this page purchases a product from any National Bank Note reference seller. This article is meant to act as a source of information and personal endorsement of a great paper money website.