Currency

Bellevue Rare Coins is interested in buying, selling or trading most types of collectible paper currencies. The paper money market is vast and incorporates all countries, both flourishing and extinct. Condition and rarity are the two most important factors in determining the value of paper currency. Gold and silver certificates, for example, are no longer redeemable for their intended purpose and are no longer produced, so there is a limited supply, making them highly collectible. As always, if you cannot find a specific item on this page, please contact us for a current list of our most recent inventory.

PAPER MONEY

Colonial
When English colonists arrived in the New World, they brought their currency with them, the pound, shilling and pence. The original thirteen colonies commonly used British currency and Spanish dollars, but there were not enough coins in circulation to sustain the growing economy. To address this shortage as well as other issues, colonial governments issued their own paper money. In an attempt to manage various currencies, the British Parliament passed several Currency Acts that regulated colonial paper money. With exchange rates fluctuating, terms like “Lawful Money” (signified with the letters L.M.), “Proclamation Money” and “Current Money” were added to paper money, indicating that it conformed to legal statutes.
In 1788 the United State Constitution denied the right for individual states to coin and print money, and in 1792, the Coinage Act inaugurated the era of a national American currency.

Confederate
In April 1861, the Confederate States of America issued and circulated its first currency. Most Confederate notes were hand signed and numbered. These note sheets were typically hand cut with shears, so individual notes often have uneven or rough borders. Most Confederate currency carried the phrase, “TWO YEARS AFTER THE RATIFICATION OF A TREATY OF PEACE BETWEEN THE CONFEDERATE STATES AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA… CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA WILL PAY {amount of the bill} TO BEARER.” Confederate currency was not actual money, but bills of credit, like the currency issued during the Revolutionary War, meaning it was not secured or backed by any assets like gold or silver.

Almost immediately, counterfeiting became a major problem for the South. The issue was exacerbated when the North printed counterfeit Confederate notes, causing massive inflation. Near the end of the Civil War, Confederate currency became worthless, though now a handful of rare notes in good condition are quite valuable and collectible.

Federal Reserve Notes
Federal Reserve Notes (also known as banknotes) are legal tender. The words “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE” appears on each note.

Federal Reserve Notes used to be backed by an equivalent amount of gold held by the U.S. Treasury. But in 1971, President Nixon took the country off the gold standard, creating a fiat currency. Now, Federal Reserve Notes are solely backed by the government’s declaration that it is legal tender in the United States.

Federal Reserve Notes are often confused with Federal Reserve Bank Notes, which are issued, backed and redeemable by each individual member bank. Depending on the condition and the bank issuing them, some Federal Reserve Bank Notes can be quite valuable as they were phased out by the mid-1930s.

Gold Certificates
Gold certificates were used as a form of paper currency in the United States from 1882 to 1933. Each certificate guaranteed the holder a corresponding amount of gold coin and was intended to replace gold coinage. The 1882 series was the first that was payable to the bearer, meaning it was transferable, and anyone could redeem it for an equivalent amount of gold. In 1933, the U.S. government ended the policy of redeeming these notes for gold coins. In fact, it was illegal to own these notes up until 1964. Older notes in good condition are highly collectible for their historic value. Gold certificates were made in two sizes — a larger size from 1865 to 1928 and a smaller size from 1928 to 1934. Woodrow Wilson is depicted on the 1934 $100,000 gold certificate. It was only intended for use in fiscal channels, not for general circulation. It is the highest denomination paper money ever printed by the Federal government.

Silver Certificates
Silver certificates were printed from 1878 to 1964 in the U.S. as paper currency. Each certificate indicates how much silver the government will pay to the bearer upon request. On most large-size silver certificates, the obligation reads: “THIS CERTIFIES THAT THERE IS ON DEPOSIT IN THE TREASURY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA {NUMBER} SILVER DOLLARS(S) PAYABLE TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND.” The Coinage Act of 1873 eliminated silver from the bimetallic (gold and silver) standard that had been created by Alexander Hamilton, touching off a national debate. Shortly thereafter, the government issued silver certificates.

At the time, the government controlled the price of silver, so it was able to link the number of bills in circulation and the amount of silver on deposit. However, by the early 1960s industrial demand for silver skyrocketed. Eventually, the decision to halt redemption for silver metal was required because speculators were trading silver and silver certificates back and forth based on the fluctuations in the value of silver. In March 1964, the Secretary of the Treasury halted redemption of silver certificates for coined silver dollars.

Fractional
First issued in 1862 and produced until 1876, Fractional Currency is one of the least known of the United States currencies. Those first issues were called Postage Currency, a term which was eventually changed to Fractional Currency. Fractional Currency was produced in denominations from 3 cents to 50 cents. There are twenty-three distinct designs of Fractional Currency, all of which are highly sought after by collectors. Produced for only 14 years, they are relatively scarce, although moderately priced.

Error Notes
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is the branch of the United States Treasury Department responsible for printing our nation’s paper money. A legitimate error note is a note created by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing with a rare mistake that escaped electronic or human inspection. Any mistake released by them is perfectly legal to own, and many are extremely collectible. Error notes have been around for as long as money has been issued.

Misc. U.S. Currency
Currency comes in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and denominations, so everything doesn’t always fit neatly into standard categories. Our most unique items are often found in our miscellaneous section. If you are searching for something in particular and do not see it listed, please call or come by. We would love to help you find it.

Foreign Currency
Coin currency is almost as old as civilization, dating back thousands of years. But paper currency is a relatively new concept. The Tang (618–907) and Song (960–1279) Dynasties are credited with developing a representative paper money system where merchants exchanged heavy coins for receipts of deposit. These and promissory notes from wholesalers were some of the earliest paper currencies. Later, the Song government gave certain shops the sole right to issue banknotes, but later took over these shops to produce a state-issued currency themselves. During the same time period, the Islamic world was developing a stable currency system. In Europe, the first paper money was introduced in Sweden in 1661.
Paper money is more than payment for goods and services or repayment of debts. It is history. It is art. Almost every society in the world has developed some of paper money system, which reflects the story of their culture. We are happy to share our collection of paper currencies from around the world with you. Please let us know if we can help you locate something specific.