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When it Comes to Bank Notes, Stars are Special
By Bank Note Collector Series
July 27, 2010

Currently, the Federal Reserve Notes, which have been in use for the $1 bill since 1963, are issued by each of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks that comprise the Federal Reserve System. Each one of them has a letter designating what it is. “A” is for Boston, “B” is for New York, right down to “L” is for San Francisco.

On each serial number, this letter is followed by eight digits and another letter, giving each note its own identity.

But there’s more.

Sometimes the Bureau of Engraving and Printing messes up a note as its printed. It can’t be issued. It must be destroyed, but the accounts must be balanced. What to do? Well, since 1910 the BEP has employed a star at the end of the serial number in place of the letter to indicate that it is a replacement note for one that was destroyed.

Collectors love star notes because they are scarcer than regular notes and some of them are downright rare.

The percentage of spoiled notes is very small; hence the number of star notes is rather limited. In the early series of U.S. small size notes, the spoilage percentage has been accurately estimated at less than 1 percent of toal notes. No attempt is made to replace any defective note with the same serial number star note.

In price guide listings for bank notes there are often two entries for each catalog number. A star at the end of the serial number refers to a replacement note, one which replaces a note damaged during the production process. There are fewer of these printed and therefore they are more expensive.
A common listing has a serial number format of letter - eight digits - letter.











A replacement star note listing follows the format format of letter - eight digits - star.











For more information on star notes and U.S. bank notes check out Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money, 28th edition and Standard Guide to Small Size Paper Money at



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