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Market Insights: IBNS Membership Offers Plenty
By Bill Brandimore
April 21, 2014

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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If you collect world paper money, joining the International Bank Note Society would be a wise move. It provides great information on world notes and also keeps you up-to-date on various dangers to the hobby—counterfeiting, unscrupulous individuals and much more. This is accomplished through a daily email on the latest in world currency. You may ask questions on this chat room site.

I enjoy the daily email. It is educational, as well, as collectors share their information on which reference books to consult, or where to get more information on a country they might be interested in. For more information, go to the IBNS website,

I recently had a thoughtful email from a reader who suggested shopping more on eBay and saving the costs of airfare and hotels at major shows. This is one strategy to follow. I enjoy shows and the social contacts, however, so it continues to be show time for me. The key, basically, is to follow your personal strategy and focus on what you can afford. Don’t let the hobby control you. Rather, set your goals and stick with them.

We continue to see great prices for great notes. The recent Baltimore show seems to reinforce that message from what I read in trade publications. Condition, condition, condition—that seems to be the most important issue if you’re in this for financial gain.

To me, the enjoyment is more related to the stories our notes whisper to us. With the Internet as a resource, a lot of history is out there to be discovered.

I recently put together an exhibit of Canadian notes that featured birds. The Internet had lots of information on the various birds, ranging from the familiar robin to the more exotic Arctic owl.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Arctic owl. Then public television featured Arctic owls and the recent heavy exposure of birds in the southern parts of their range, driven down to our area due to the severe winter we just experienced. How neat.

Obsolete notes can fuel your interest in Greek and Roman mythology, as these notes are studded with gods such as Ceres, the goddess of grain and agriculture. Zeus, Neptune, Mars—they are all represented.

I see that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is offering the new $100 notes in panes of four, eight or 16, depending on your budget for such things. I think this is a bad investment. They are sort of like U.S. proof sets in that regard.

Proof sets were worth a lot of money in the 1960s, when collectors realized how scarce some of the earlier sets were. With only 3,837 1936 sets issued, they had become a nice investment. Those early sets still are, but with more 3 million sets issued each year in the early 1960s you could wait a bit and pick them up cheaper than issue price at your local coin store. I became aware of this when I purchased a proof Eisenhower dollar from the Mint in 1971 for $10, only to see it at $8 a year or so later in coin shops.

The Mint had apparently learned something from the post office. The lesson was how to ruin a hobby.

Of course, having said that, and then not purchasing the $100 sheets, they will sell poorly and will be worth a fortune in a few years. When everyone starts to save something future investment value is nil.

Early large-size U.S. type notes have two things going for them. First, not a lot of them were saved by collectors. Second, they are really beautiful. This makes it easier to invest in a nice Educational note. You like it and most other people will as well.

I think that bodes well for the future of paper money collecting. I never did get very excited about world coins. But I’m excited about world paper money. The engraver’s art is certainly in evidence there.

As an early stamp collector, I really loved the engraving on U.S. postage stamps. That transferred to paper money when I first saw Civil War-era Fractional Currency, and expanded even more with large-size type notes.

The engraving is beautiful. Also, the notes stay attractive down to nice Very Fine grades. Coins really lose it, even in Extremely Fine. The design palette is also larger. Postage stamps were a struggle to enjoy. Coins below half dollar size can’t get too ambitious. Our small-size notes offer a reasonably-sized palette and even Stuart’s Washington engraving on the $1 bill is a thing of beauty if you stop to admire it. When the Federal Reserve Note $2 bills were issued, I was excited over the portrait on the back. I hoped it would spill over to other backs to rival the First Charter National Bank Note backs. I could stand a little of the Pilgrims Landing or the Baptism of Pocahontas on our paper money backs. The Big Head designs were different, but in most cases they are not as attractive as the earlier issues, especially the Lincoln portrait. BEP, please give us some more great backs from the National Gallery.

Fancy serial numbers and error notes seem strong. The more dramatic the error, the more enjoyable it is.

Solid serial numbers, especially 9s, bring handsome prices at auction. You won’t find them in circulation, but up and down ladders or palindrome or radar notes can be found if you look hard enough, as well as repeaters. This is an area for the circulation searcher to look into. Star notes, of course, are always fun. I read recently in a Lyn Knight auction catalog that only one in 1,000 notes are stars. Certainly stars are much scarcer in higher denominations, and a number of people save them just out of curiosity.

Spice up your collection and use star notes for the more common issues. I got hooked that way on small-size Silver Certificates. It is an enjoyable pursuit.

Most of the 1935 Silver Certificates are affordable, particularly from the 1935 E series on, although the 1935 G with motto is more difficult, especially in grades of 65 or higher. Only 1 million or so of this issue were printed and the centering was less than admirable. Thus, this note is a pretty nice condition rarity.

Condition rarity is an opportunity for the cherrypicker to pursue. Fully struck Buffalo nickels, branch mint Walking Liberty half dollars in the 1940s and many small-size U.S. paper issues are good cherrypicker fodder. When collecting small-size notes, especially prior to 1963, look for really nicely centered notes.

I’ll be looking for you at the Memphis International Paper Money Show in June. Put together a Fractional Currency exhibit for Memphis, join the Fractional Currency Collectors Board and get a free meal at the FCCB dinner meeting this year at Memphis.

Email me at with your questions and comments.

More Coin Collecting Resources:

• Kick-start your coin collection with the Fundamentals of Coin Collecting set of essential resources and tools.

• Strike it rich with this U.S. coins value pack.

• Build an impressive collection with Coin Collecting 101.


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