Paper Money

Looking for more than lint in your pocket or purse

Editor's note: The following is the first of a multi-part Coin World series prepared by Michele Orzano for the September 2014 monthly edition of Coin World.

Read the latest post in the series:

Pull out the paper cash in your pocket or wallet.

What do you see? Probably some $1s and $5s … maybe a $20, if it’s early in the week.

Nothing much to collect, right?


If you haven’t looked closely, you’ve missed some valuable details about those notes.

Let’s start by looking at the $1 Federal Reserve notes you’ve got.

Series year dates

First, look for the series year date. Unlike coins, U.S. paper money has a series year date that traditionally does not change each calendar year.

Generally, the series date changes when a denomination has a major redesign or when a new U.S. Treasury secretary is confirmed. The addition of a letter to the series date generally happens when a new United States treasurer takes office. Though aspects of the process have changed through the years, this is enough information to get started.

The series year date is usually in the lower right of the face of the note. What’s the newest series you have, and what’s the oldest?

You may find it helpful to know that in June and July of 2014, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced Series 2009 and Series 2013 $1 FRNs, Series 2013 $5, $10, $20 and $50 FRNs and Series 2009A $100 FRNs.

Federal Reserve notes continue to circulate based on their physical condition, not current series year date in production.

Printing facilities

Next look in the lower right corner on the face of your note. If you see a small “FW” right next to the plate-letter-number combination you have a “Fort Worth note,” from the BEP’s Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

Notes began to be printed at the Fort Worth facility in February 1991 and all notes bear what is called the FW facility mark to distinguish the notes from those printed at the BEP headquarters in Washington, D.C. Notes printed at the Washington, D.C., facility have no specific designation of origin.

Federal Reserve districts

Searching for the $1 Federal Reserve note can be the easiest way to form an inexpensive collection with plenty of variations.

One of the easiest ways to collect is to assemble from circulation a collection of $1 FRNs from each of the Federal Reserve District Banks.

Twelve Federal Reserve Banks are located across the United States. Look at the Federal Reserve seal to the left of the portrait on the face side of each note $1. The name of the bank appears around a capital letter in the center of the black seal.

The capital letter corresponds to the letter of the alphabet assigned to each Federal Reserve district: A is for Boston, B for New York, C for Philadelphia, D for Cleveland, E for Richmond, F for Atlanta, G for Chicago, H for St. Louis, I for Minneapolis, J for Kansas City, K for Dallas and L for San Francisco.

As an additional challenge, you could look for $1 FRNs printed at both the Fort Worth and Washington, D.C., printing plants for each of the Federal Reserve districts.

For denominations higher than the $1 FRNs, collectors can determine what Federal Reserve district a note was printed for by looking at the double letters before the serial number. The first letter indicates the series year date and the second letter indicates the Federal Reserve Bank. Double-prefix letters in front of the serial number were introduced beginning in 1996 when the $100 FRN was first redesigned.

In addition, a Federal Reserve Bank letter and number combination is located beneath the left serial number. Each of the 12 Federal Reserve banks has a unique letter and corresponding number. 

More of Michele Orzano's feature is on the way! Check back with for the latest, or better yet, let us tell you when a new post is up:

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