On June 13, I had the privilege of giving a talk with Q. David
Bowers at the Memphis International Paper Money Show. (Bowers
was the star attraction, of course; Whitman Publishing senior associate editor
Caitlyn Mitchell and I were there as backup singers, so to speak.)
Our goal was to share Dave’s knowledge of obsolete paper money — its
history, how to collect it, and observations on the general market,
including rarities, supply and demand, and pricing. It was an
entertaining hour of colorful images, fun stories, and expert advice,
in typical “QDB” style.
The Memphis show was the ideal venue for this talk; it’s the hobby’s
premier annual convention for collectors of paper money, and its free
educational programs often include the latest research and
announcements of new books. We used this bully pulpit to formally
introduce the new Whitman Encyclopedia of Obsolete Paper Money.
We invited our audience to pitch in and help us build the best
historical and market reference ever compiled in this field. That’s an
invitation we happily extend to readers of
Obsolete notes are paper currency issued from 1782 to 1866, before
the modern era of national banks and the Federal Reserve. Over the
course of these decades, more than 3,000 state-chartered banks
released their own paper money for day-to-day commerce, in thousands
of colorful and ornate varieties.
At the Memphis show, we rolled out the first two volumes of the
Whitman Encyclopedia. Volume 1 is an introduction for
collectors and historians. Volume 2 is the first of three books that
will cover New England. It shines a light on every town and city, and
every bank, that issued this uniquely American currency in the states
of Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire. (Volume 3 will cover
Massachusetts, and volume 4 contains New Hampshire and Rhode Island.)
We anticipate the entire series will comprise 14 volumes of 400 to 800
Each note is studied in detail, and thousands are pictured (in full
color), with information on grading, rarity, values in multiple
grades, significant auction results, advice for collectors, and other
valuable guidance. Dave has observed that the field of obsoletes
includes thousands of inexpensive rarities — “good opportunities for
today’s collectors,” he says.
We encourage collectors, researchers, dealers, historians, and
others in the hobby community to get involved with this important
project. The Massachusetts volume is in the works now (summer of
2014), and we’ve already started laying the foundations for the rest
of New England, the Southern states, the Mid-Atlantic states, the
Midwest, and territories.
If you collect obsolete paper money, I invite you to join the dozens
of volunteers who are already sharing their knowledge and expertise.
Your images, historical research, market analysis, and general insight
are welcome. Each state has a “state editor” who works closely with
Caitlyn Mitchell, Dave Bowers, and me to track down facts, look into
questions, scrutinize the historical record, gather and examine
images, and otherwise act as that state’s expert. Not all of the
state-editor positions have filled, so you have a chance to take a
“co-starring role,” as C. John Ferreri has done with Connecticut,
Maine, and New Hampshire.
If you have a nice collection of notes, or even just a few favorite
pieces, why not share scans or photographs? You’ll be joining
contributors the likes of the American Bank Note Co., the American
Numismatic Society, and the Smithsonian Institution, all of whom
(among other museums and private collectors) have shared images. If
you’re active in the market — buying, selling, or trading — volunteer
for our valuations panel. If you’re a history buff with knowledge of a
particular state or region, you can review our state, town, and bank
histories — fascinating narratives soaked in Americana!
Anyone interested in volunteering is invited to contact Whitman
Publishing by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers will be credited
in the books’ acknowledgments.
To learn more about the Whitman Encyclopedia of Obsolete Paper
Money and to meet Q. David Bowers in person, come to the American
Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money. At 2 p.m., Aug. 7,
Dave and I will present “Obsolete Paper Money: History, Rarity, and
Today’s Market,” including an opportunity for questions-and-answers
with the audience.