Don’t be “Obsolete” When It Comes to Obsolete Bank Notes


One of the interesting sub-genres of the paper money hobby is collecting Obsolete Bank Notes. Simply put, these notes were issued by non-government sanctioned private banks to cover debts and payments in their respective locale. For example, the Saybrook Bank of the Connecticut shoreline issued its own currency at one point for use by its customers and area residents. This sort of “do-it-yourself” currency production was usually short lived. Once the Federal government began issuing currency – or more commonly, if the bank failed – these types of notes immediately lost value and were no longer legal tender. They became obsolete by virtue of the fact that they were completely useless.

Fortunately for Obsolete Bank Note collectors, many specimens of this bygone banking era in the United States still exist. Some of the notes come in unusual denominations, such as $3 or $4 bills. For the most part, however, the standard $1, $2, $5, and $10 denominations are the most common surviving examples. Obsolete bank notes can be collected individually by bank like National Bank Notes, or by state. Some obsolete collectors enjoy pursuing uncut sheets of notes that never made it into public hands. These sheets command a higher premium on average compared to most other obsolete examples, except for true rarities that sometimes go for in excess of $1,000 when the hammer falls at major auctions.

Have a look at this $3 note from Saybrook Bank, CT, formerly located near the home base of this website:

1858 $3 Essex Saybrook Bank Connecticut Obsolete Note - Good Condition, ex. Don Kelly
1858 $3 Essex Saybrook Bank Connecticut Obsolete Note - Good Condition, ex. Don Kelly


This next example is a $4 note from the Commercial Bank at Macon Georgia:

$4 Commercial Bank at Macon Georgia Ex. David Marsh
$4 Commercial Bank at Macon Georgia Ex. David Marsh


Where can I find out more about Obsolete Bank Notes? We’re glad you asked. The following is a brief list of resources perfect for building your collection or learning more about these interesting banknotes:

  1. Obsolete Bank Notes for Sale – – Mr. Kelly is well known for his lifelong work in the National Bank Note side of USA paper money collecting. You can find a vast selection of Obsolete Bank Notes listed state-by-state at his website, ranging in value on average from $40-$1,000. One particular note from the Dakota Territory is unique and will set you back $17,500, but it is well worth the purchase price due to its extreme rarity!
  2. Heritage Auction Galleries Currency Archives – – Heritage Auctions’ archives are a great way to get market values for your Obsolete Notes. Heritage is one of the leading currency auctioneers in America, and chances are if you want to know the value of a note, they’ve probably sold it before. Archives go back as far as 2001.
  3. Michigan Bank Notes – – Love Michigan Obsoletes? Well look no further: has a wealth of notes available for purchase, in addition to offerings from several other states. Definitely worth a look!
  4. Georgia Obsolete Currency – – Mr. Marsh has a great website dedicated to Obsolete banknotes from Georgia. A new website feature lists some notes for sale. You can also find some great information about the currency hobby on this website.
  5. What is Obsolete Currency? – – Want to know more in-depth information about the origins of Obsolete Currency? This website has an expansive page that covers all the basics of Obsolete Notes, including a good explanation about “counterfeit” and “spurious” notes, two types that one will come across while chasing various Obsolete notes.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief look at Obsolete Currency. It’s an interesting field of the hobby that will only grow in the years to come as more and more collectors become curious about non-government banks that issued currency prior to the Civil War.

If you would like to purchase or inquire about any of the notes listed above, please visit the website listed below the image, where you can contact dealers directly with your questions or want lists.