More small-size notes to collect, and many surprising ways to do it, than large-size

Paper Money Analysis column from the Feb. 2, 2015, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 01/15/15
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A characteristic of nearly every auction of U.S. paper money is that while the bulk of the promotional emphasis is on large-size notes, these rarely form the bulk of the sale’s contents.

They are regularly outnumbered by the total number of small-size notes, fractional notes, national bank notes, Colonial issues, Confederate notes, military payment certificates and obsolete notes.

When we talk of the state of the market we nearly always concentrate on large-size notes as an all-encompassing barometer.

With United States paper currency, large-size notes still draw the most attention. These notes are well-documented, diverse in appearance yet somewhat uniformly attractive (especially compared to the paper money of today), and are the subject of interest to a vast market of buyers and sellers.

While the lack of attractiveness of small-size notes may have an effect on the market, in many other respects the small-size notes surpass large-size currency.

Small-size notes are far more readily available at low price points, most of which have been stable. Many small-size Federal Reserve notes can even be acquired from circulation at face value.

More collectors seek small-size notes than large-size notes, and the ways of collecting the small-size notes can be surprising if not mystifying to noncollectors. In no surprise to collectors, though, the methods of collecting small-size notes parallel those of collecting large-size notes, for example by seal, i.e. red (United States notes) or blue (silver certificates), and so on.

Fractional notes continue to have a small and stable market, except for the greatest rarities, which provoke feverish and unpredictable bidding. Otherwise prices have been mostly unchanged.

National bank notes (issued in both large- and small-size forms) often constitute the biggest part of an auction. With the exception of very rare “trophy” notes, prices are dependent on the existence of a strong collector base. Sometimes, even if a national bank note is rare, the supply is greater than the demand in the market.

Among the biggest winners of late are those who began buying obsolete currency, also known as “broken bank notes,” years ago, and who are now sellers. Thanks to the entry of new collectors who are attracted by low prices relative to rarity, interest and results have skyrocketed far out of proportion to what should be expected.

Keep reading about paper money:

Learning about obsolete notes by following in the footsteps of a master collector

Greta Garbo on a note? Sweden recognizes 20th century icons on new series

Always look for ways to expand knowledge and build your collection of obsolete notes

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