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Advances to Numbering System
By Bill Brandimore, Bank Note Reporter
October 21, 2013

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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Why does everyone use the Friedberg numbering system for small-size notes? When dealing with large-size notes, the large number of signature combinations in various issues, such as the $1 1899 Silver Certificate series, makes sense. With small-size notes, however, signature combination changes, or small design changes called for a new series indicator.

I find it confusing to wade through meaningless numbers, such as Fr. 1607 to indicate a 1935 Silver Certificate, and it doesn’t provide for mules or non-mules that appear in that series.

In the 1935A Silver Certificate series, which has a number of star blocks, there is no allowance for blocks, although a “w” and an “n” are appended to indicate wide and narrow varieties. I would prefer to see a logical designation.

For example, $1 1928 Silver Certificate should be cataloged as $1 1928SC or SC*. The SC or just S would separate Legal Tenders of the same date series, which could be listed as $1 1928 LT. 1929 notes could be listed as $5 1929N for the New York District. 1928 Federal Reserve Notes could be listed as $5 1928n for New York district. $5 1928A notes would be listed as 1928An. Other districts would be designated by a small letter for the district, such as $5 1928Aa for an Atlanta District note, or the No. 6 for this district or the letter “f.”

I think this would make for easy recognition by beginning collectors. Also, using the first letter of the Federal District Bank location would not involve any duplicate letters and is easier to remember. Thus Dallas would be “d,” not “k.”

When dealing with Hawaii notes, $1 1935Ah and block designations to insure an SC block doesn’t get the same treatment as an “ac” block or an “fc.” North Africa notes could also be $1 1935An.

I notice that block letters are used very little by catalogers for World War II notes. Without a photo, one would not recognize a really scarce block combination such as “ac” when no mention is made.

Block letters don’t seem as important in most cases, but I think block collecting is especially challenging in the Silver Certificate issues, as some are all but impossible to find, while a number are out there but challenging. I believe this would enhance small-size collecting.

Also, catalogers and third-party graders could save double descriptions when describing notes. Who would guess that a 1935A $1 Silver Certificate could also be an Fr. 2300, or a 2306, or a 1609, or 1610 when “er” or “es” could be added to indicate experimental R or S notes?

If I use these designations you will know exactly what I’m talking about and I can also describe scarce block letter combinations, with no extra research on your part.

I would also like to see the grading companies use the terminology “reinforcement” for obvious strengthening of old obsolete or colonial notes. “Repair” indicates trickery to me. It sounds like an intent to deceive. When an old-time collector used an obvious piece of paper to hold a fragile note together, it was not the same as cleverly weaving in matching paper from another obsolete note.

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Restoration is an acceptable term. It implies a professional curator caring for a note, much like an art restorer at work on flaking paint from an Old Master. Why does this practice not offend art collectors, but it drives currency collectors crazy?

I am now officially through complaining for this month. In the greater scheme of things, I think we have seen a general return to normalcy in the currency market.

Fortunately we, as a fraternity, do not seem to react as violently as Big Oil does whenever there is an excuse to raise prices—be it refinery downtime, pipeline breaks, possible trouble in the Middle East, etc.

I am of the opinion that we can look for growth in the hobby over the next financial cycle. I must warn you, however, I am not a financial advisor. My function is to encourage you to enjoy the hobby with the proper amount of knowledge and appreciation for our collectible notes.

As you read this, the Michigan state show will be coming up on the horizon. This Thanksgiving show has been a tradition in the Detroit area, much like the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Lions football game on the same day.

It’s sort of a bummer if you’re traveling from out of state, as you won’t be home for a Thanksgiving dinner, but it is great for Michigan collectors. Again this year the show will be at the Macomb County College Expo Center at 14500 E. 12 Mile Rd. The show runs from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

As a new currency collector in the 1980s, I always found lots of currency at this show. This show, the Chicago Paper Money Expo in Chicago and the Central States Numismatic Society show in Schaumburg, Ill., are probably the best Midwestern shows for currency collectors. Exhibits are always exceptional as well. Put this show on your schedule if you’ve not attended before.

Have you ever considered collecting Military Payment Certificates? They are colorful, there are several good guidebooks out there, and the MPCGram, edited by Roger Erse, is a great fountain of information on all things military currency wise.

This is a feature and outgrowth of the MPC Fest held every spring in Ohio. Email Roger at for information.

I look forward to this email on a regular basis as it is filled with questions, answers and information.

This publication isn’t limited to U.S. MPCs, but seems to cover all facets military with POW material, occupation currency, and emergency currencies of various types. Look into it and you won’t be disappointed. Check out the Fest, as well, as it is a fun-filled convention of like minded collectors who are interested in your stuff as well as their stuff.

Are you eagerly awaiting the new $100 bill. I hope it is out there by the time you read this article. They seem to be having their hands full making it work.

I will be curious to see how the new Canadian bills hold up, the see-through hologram windows would seem to be likely to catch on each other as you’re counting? Has anyone had any experience in that area?

Have you given your heirs the name of a dealer or collector who would help your family out in the event of your sudden demise? At least make up a note to put in your material with some information on value and possible contacts.

My heirs are completely uninterested. So I have lined up a dealer and left information in my collection. In that way, at least my heirs will benefit from the value of the collection.

Email me with your questions and comments at

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