Princeton— From bills printed to represent amounts of coinage to special “Hawaii” notes used in World War II, the face of American notes has changed throughout the years in size, shape, design and designation. Several iterations of U.S. currency were produced and have a value far beyond face value to many collectors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, “The Department of the Treasury redeems all genuine United States Currency at face value.”
In 1913 the United States Government introduced the Federal Reserve System with twelve banks located in major financial centers across the United States. In 1914, the “Fed” began printing Federal Reserve Notes, which is the currency that we are familiar with and circulates in our wallets today. All Federal Reserve notes are printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and only denominations from $1 to $100 are in circulation.
Demand Notes represented the first type of currency issued in the United States in 1861-1862 as a way to “pay for goods and services related to Civil War costs,” according to the Bureau, and were essentially IOU’s from the government and were called demand notes because they, “were payable on demand.” Demand notes were replaced by United States Notes
United States Notes, also known as legal tender notes, were the first widely used American currency. The U.S. Department of Treasury reminds everyone, that these notes are, “still redeemable at face value.” Demand Notes and United States Notes are according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, were the origin of the term, Greenbacks, which is still used as slang for the U.S. Dollar today.
Gold Certificates were introduced in 1865. Only four of the nine issues of gold certificates were circulated among the public, as the others were reserved by financial institutions “to settle their gold accounts.” Collectors often seek after these certificates because of the inherent beauty of the items, for in 1933, legislation prohibited, “the redemption of currency for gold in the United States.” Officially the United States Government stopped the “redemption of dollars for gold altogether, thereby completely abandoning the gold standard,” according to the Treasury Department.
Silver Certificates are often more commonly found. Silver certificates, like their gold counterparts were redeemable for silver coinage. Although most silver certificates are still considered valid currency, silver certificates have not been issued since 1965. After 1968, these notes are no longer redeemable for silver coinage, but can be exchanged or used as currency or trade for federal reserve notes. Some silver certificates are still in high demand for collectability, so it is often a good idea to have a currency or coin expert to give them a glance before popping into the local bank branch.
National Bank Notes, issued by private banks, but backed by the federal government were common currency, but holders were often charged exchange rates when spending or redeeming the currency. Exchange rates, “as well as acceptance of individual bank notes” varied widely across the United States. Banks were required to purchase and place securities with the U.S. Treasury supporting this currency and were issued between 1863-1938. National Bank Notes were identical in design, differing only in the name, place of issue and charter number of the issuing bank.
Numismatics is the hobby and science that is involved with collecting coinage and currency. Numismatic collectors are interested in these older or obscure notes and will often pay top value (far over the face value) and others are obviously face value (a buck can be just a buck). If you have a treasure trove of old currency, or would like to explore it further, numismatic shops like The Bronze Look in Princeton, WV can help you start, evaluate or maintain your collection today. You can visit the store location on 311 Mercer Street or call (304)425-5005.