This introduction reveals the basics of paper money collecting, including:
* the hobby's attractions
* why it is growing in popularity
* the fundamentals of paper currency collecting
* how surprisingly inexpensive it can be
* housing and displaying your collection
What are the attractions of collecting paper money?
This exciting hobby - known by some as notaphily - is growing in popularity for many reasons. For one thing it's becoming increasingly easy to find interesting and attractive banknotes from around the world - notes with considerable historical, cultural and visual appeal - and often for only a few cents each. A banknote collection can be a fine investment. Many notes have been growing dramatically in value in recent years. The hobby is a great educator. Besides notaphilic concerns, it has something to teach everyone about foreign cultures, history, economics - and plenty more. As communications technology brings the global village ever closer, it becomes ever more advantageous to have a rich knowledge of foreign affairs and cultures. It's amazing how much knowledge of this kind you naturally absorb while enjoying this hobby. Above all, people like banknotes for their visual appeal. A papermoney collection is an art collection of the highest order. Banknotes are perhaps the finest pieces of printing and graphic design to be found anywhere. An incredible amount of work and thought goes into their design, by artists and engravers of exceptional skill. The design and manufacturing process is a field of study in itself. Some of the methods used are kept secret, to make forgery more difficult. A well-presented collection of historic world banknotes and/or checks makes a conversation piece that arouses the curiosity and admiration of all.
As collector's items, banknotes have some important advantages over stamps and coins. For one thing, they have a much larger surface area, making them a better vehicle for interesting information and attractive artwork. Compared to a coin, a banknote is extremely lightweight and thin, making a large collection easier to store and transport. Over the postage stamp, the banknote has the advantage of having two sides, and again, a much larger surface area. Generally, they are also less prone to forgery.
Banknote enthusiasts enjoy individualist status because the hobby is regarded as intriguingly different. It has a certain prestige attached to it; people tend to assume that a banknote collector must be wealthy - although this is often far from true. The hobby also has a *******ing dignity to it. The banknote collecting fraternity is basically an honest, friendly, community, with the genial cameraderie born of a common interest.
Notaphily is still much less widespread than stamp and coin collecting, although the gap is narrowing. Now there are numerous paper money collecting societies, world-wide, and a wide choice of books on the subject. Many stamp and coin collectors are turning to currency collecting as the promising new collecting frontier. In paper money they discover a renewed thrill at finding the elusive item to fill a gap in a series or a set. They experience anew, the reverence one feels about owning something that has been preserved in perfect condition for a hundred years. There is the same satisfaction of travelling to a collector's fair to hunt down bargains and meet fellow enthusiasts and develop one's knowledge.
The cost of collecting paper money
The ever-growing availability of cheap and varied material from around the world has already brought the hobby well within reach of even those on the tightest budget. This is one collecting field where prices are actually falling in many areas, mainly where new issues are concerned. For this, we can thank the effects of inflation. In comparison to the United Kingdom, many countries have steep inflation rates, making their currency sink in value in relation to our own. Thus, their currency notes become ever cheaper for us. Some typical cases from recent years include Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Russia, Mexico, Zaire, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Turkey. In fact, we can even obtain notes with denominations of 50,000,000,000 or more for a dollar or two! Another exciting source of very cheap notes has recently emerged: the new ex-Soviet republics. Here is an opportunity to obtain the very first issues of several new republics for mere pennies. One can only imagine the value these first issues will have to collectors in future years.
For under $1 each, you can obtain some beautiful, older notes from earlier this century - the golden age of banknote design. Germany and Hungary for example, both suffered runaway inflation in the first half of this century, rendering their banknotes less valuable than the paper they were printed on in some cases. Nevertheless, they were wonderful examples of the engraver's art. Even notes from the early 1700's can still be bought for well under $20 - the Assignat notes of the French Revolution, for example.
Conversely, serious collectors world-wide, pay large sums of money for single rare notes. Sometimes this will be to fill a gap in a valuable collection. Sometimes it will be for investment. Sometimes it will be with a view to passing the item on to a fellow collector or dealer - for an even higher price. Collectable banknotes are one field where real bargains and quick profits can be made - if you know what to look for. Experience will soon teach you this. It's a good idea to obtain a comprehensive and up-to-date value-guide pertaining to the type of paper money you collect. For a general guide, the most comprehensive publication is the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, which comes in three volumes. The volume you select will depend on your area of interest. This extensive tome gives valuations for each of the many thousands of banknotes issued world-wide since the dawn of paper money history. For each note, it gives two or three appraisals, corresponding to various grades of condition. For more information, or to order, go to our books for sale page.
A theme for your papermoney collection
A banknote collection is an expression of its owner's personal tastes and interests. There are no set rules regarding collecting themes; you can be as individualistic as you like. Some collectors specialize in notes from one country only - often their own. Some collect from groups of countries; British Commonwealth, Europe, or Africa, for example. Others collect notes from one period in history - WW2 for example. Others collect notes with some rare peculiarity, like those with printer's errors. Some collect forgeries. The scope is limited only by your imagination. Many collectors start out just buying anything that happens to appeal. Then as the years pass, they often tend to become more specialised. A specialised collection has a unique value and appeal. It can often be sold for more than the combined values of its individual components. However, the pitfall of becoming too specialised is that suitable material will be harder to find and often much more expensive. But why not compile a specialised collection while simultaneously building a more general, free-style one?
The profit potential of notaphily
The potential of historic paper money as an alternative investment has been evident over the years. Some items have seen a growth in value of 10,000% since the end of the last war! American Confederate States notes and other 19th Century US bills for example, could then be bought for about 25c each in the USA. Now, they are hard to find for 100 times that amount. Even the indiscriminate collector can expect profit in the long-run, for most collectable banknotes tend to rise in value. Scarcity, and demand, are the factors which govern value, and banknotes are only produced in limited numbers. After production of each note ceases, it can only become increasingly scarce.
Sometimes banknotes soar in value due to historic events. For example: Hong Kong notes have been selling for double or triple the book value since 1997, due to the Chinese take-over. Many collectors were easily able to predict this in advance, and many took a successful gamble and bought up every Hong Kong note they could find. Let's face it, a 300% profit in twelve months is far better than any stock market investor can hope for. Remember the recent volcano in Monserrat? One month, Monserrat notes were just as desirable as any other East Caribbean State banknote. As soon as the volcano rendered the island uninhabitable, the shrewd dealers of the world bought every Monserrat note they could find, knowing that it was unlikely that any more would be printed.
If a banknote collector suffers less fortunate circumstances, he has a valuable nest egg in store, which he can sell at one of the specialist collectors' auctions - often at a good profit. Many collections, however, are passed on, to a son, a daughter or a grandchild. The banknote collection makes a great family heirloom, for besides being a thing if monetary value, it is a gold-mine of fascination and discovery, while at the same time conveying something of the spirit of the compiler. Every collection reflects something of the compiler's personality.
Where to obtain collectable paper money
Many people become interested in paper money after building a small collection of surplus notes left over from holidays and business trips abroad. Apart from this obvious source, old banknotes often turn up in antique shops, street markets, car boot sales, etc. Occasionally you'll hear of a friend who has discovered a small bundle of notes in his attic, or an odd note in a book, placed there for safekeeping years ago, then forgotten.
Most collectors, however, sooner or later start looking for a specialist banknote dealer. When selecting a dealer, your interests will be best protected if you choose one who belongs to the International Bank Note Society (IBNS). This organisation has stringent rules and regulations and a strict code of ethics. Any member who breaks these can be expelled or penalised. If you ever have a grievance with one of them, you have a reputable organisation to seek redress with. Apart from that, you will want to consider such factors as the following:-
a) their prices
b) the accuracy of their grading (see the topic 'How important is the condition of a note')
c) the frequency of their price lists.
d) the variety of notes offered
e) their general friendliness and helpfulness
f) whether their lists include de******ions and illustrations
g) how long it takes them to dispatch your orders.
How to get value for money when buying collectable banknotes
Most well established dealers are more or less familiar with current market values, although their prices may vary a little. If you want to check that you are getting value for money, you will need a comprehensive reference book. The best of these is the Standard Catalogue of World Paper Money. This publication comes in three volumes. Volume Two is the main volume, dealing with national banknotes. Volume One is devoted to specialised issues (notes from private banks, regional notes, etc.) Volume three is devoted to modern issues only and is updated more regularly than the other two, to keep pace with all the new notes that are issued. Together, the three volumes list each of the 50,000 or so notes ever produced, along with illustrations and the current market values in each of three grades of condition. It should be noted, however, that no catalogue can be completely reliable as a guide to values. Values can change very quickly, especially when such factors as inflation are present. Nevertheless, the overall tendency is for bank notes to rise in value in the long run.
How important is the condition of a bank note?
The condition of a note will affect its value dramatically. You should therefore familiarise yourself with the standard gradings of condition. Basically, they are as follows:-
'UNC' = 'Uncirculated' (perfect mint condition)
'EF' = 'Extremely Fine' (almost perfect - a single crease perhaps)
'VF' = 'Very Fine' (a few creases and folds, but no tears. Still fairly crisp.)
'F' = 'Fine' (well used - edge tears, discoloration, etc. Crispness may have gone.)
'VG' = 'Very Good' (well worn, with tears, dirt, pinholes, etc. Probably somewhat limp.)
'G' = 'Good' (limp, small pieces missing, very dirty, graffiti, etc.)
It is now common practice to use the letter 'A' prefixing these grades when the note described is 'almost' up to the indicated grade. For example an 'AUNC' or 'AU' note is almost uncirculated. In other words, it is almost perfect, with only the slightest fault, such as a bend, a very slight discoloration of the paper, or a tiny edge nick for example. However, it is too good to be classed as EF or EF+.
The same strict grading standards apply, regardless of a note's age. Some dealers wrongly think that very old notes are allowed a little flexibility of grading and will make such misguided statements as "It's EF, considering its age". This is misleading; an UNC note has to be the same as it was when if left the printing press, whether it is 100 days old or 100 years old. Usually, an UNC note is worth at least twice as much as it would be in VF. This is because UNC examples are almost always harder to obtain than well-circulated ones. Unless your budget is unlimited, you will therefore have to make a choice between quantity and quality of condition at some stage.
Housing and displaying your collections
* Use low-slip, inert album leaves, free from banknote-harming solvents. (Multi-Master leaves are excellent value.)
* Keep your collection away from radiant heat, moisture and sunlight, in a safe place.
* Keep it neat and uncluttered. If you have two or three notes on one page, centralise each exactly, for best effect.
* Interleaves between pages add effect, helping the viewer focus on each page in turn.
* Annotating your collection adds meaning, interest and value. Write or type your captions as neatly as you possibly can. If doing it by hand, a good quality black pen should be considered. Avoid blue biro! Centralise your text below the note. Include as many interesting facts as you like - it all adds interest - especially for those who are unfamiliar with the hobby. It will also serve to remind you later of the special features of each note.
* Try to find labels that you can peel off your leaves without leaving a trace. Shop around; they do exist!
* Organise your notes into logical groups, perhaps by country or in time sequence. It makes a better conversation-piece that way.
* Consider including complementary items to add spice to your collections. Relevant newspaper cuttings, photos of issuing banks, and other forms of paper money, like promissory notes, cheques and travellers chequesbills of exchange, money orders and other fiscalia all add interest and value to your collection. In fact, cheque collecting is gaining rapid popularity because of the visual appeal, and the way that a collection of cheques becomes a jigsaw puzzle of the great family tree of the nation's banking history.
* If you know in advance that someone will be viewing your collection, take time in advance, to go over it with a critical, ******ive eye, repositioning items where necessary.
* Allow your viewer a chance to become absorbed. Although you will be keen to convey your own points of interest, remember, a thing of beauty can only best be fully appreciated in moments of undivided attention. When your viewer makes some comment reflecting his or her own points of interest, use that as a cue, and respond with some of your own interesting observations and anecdotes. Remember: some people tend to lose interest in anything that is pushed upon them too eagerly. Others, will be positively influenced by your enthusiasm. Remember that your banknote collection is a rare and important historical archive.
* Don't be disheartened if your viewer does not seem to appreciate the beauty and fascination of banknotes. Most people do, but the hobby is not for everyone! That's why it's a good idea to include some items of almost universal interest. For example: WW2 items, 19th century items, British Commonwealth, hyper-inflation notes, and anything particularly scarce, unusual, exotic, and visually striking.
About AAnotes.com and its founder, A.Ackroyd
AAnotes.com is one of the world's busiest suppliers of collectable paper money. First started dealing in paper money full-time, in 1989 Pioneered the very first collectors' paper money website, back in the dawn of the WWW when it was a dreary, grey place inhabited almost entirely by academic essays, and the only browser around was a crude device called Mosaic. In those days, if you did a search for "paper money collecting", A.Ackroyd's for "collectable banknotes" or suchlike, the A.Ackroyd collectors' paper site was the only site that would come up.
Now based in the United Kingdom, with close affiliates in North America, supplying papermoney collectors world-wide. This is an IBNS member, committed to fair and ethical trading and to maintaining the most competitive prices. A continuous effort is made to offer an ever-changing supply of fresh and exciting material, each item being personally selected for its worthiness as a collector's item. The monthly lists are especially popular, because, aside from the richness of the content, each item is described individually. That makes it possible to search for items fitting your requirements. A.ACKROYD wishes you years of fun, satisfaction and intrigue through this great hobby. Please click on the button below to explore this site.
For more information on notaphily
For more information and guidelines on collecting world paper currency and other forms of collectable paper money, we offer a wide rage of books on the subject. Please click the "Contents" link below, to explore the A. Ackroyd Collectors' Paper Money Site in more depth...