There Are Many Misconceptions About What Makes Paper Money Worth Collecting

Written by admin on December 6th, 2010

What makes something collectible? For some items, it’s craftsmanship. For others, it’s age and condition. When it comes to collectible currency values, there are many misconceptions about what makes paper money worth collecting.

One factor in assessing value is the series, or year of printing. While this characteristic can be important, it can also be confusing. One of the best examples of this dilemma is the 1935 US silver certificate. This design was first printed in 1935, but it continued in print until 1956. This means that there were thousands of 1935 silver certificates printed for 21 years, and in circulation for many years beyond that, so it’s nearly impossible to tell a note’s age simply by looking at its series.

Instead of using only the series, experts look for the official Treasury signatures on the note. By determining when the people who signed a particular note were in office, an expert can tell the age of the currency more precisely.

Possibly influenced by antiques and archaeology, many people think that paper money is valuable simply because it’s old, but that’s not how collectible currency values work. Even a currency that’s 200 years old or more has little value if a lot of it was printed originally.

Another part of this misunderstanding is the idea that if something is both old and in “good condition”, its value is greater. Unfortunately, neither of these factors matters much to genuine collectors. Assessing the worth of paper money is quite a complicated procedure, and condition plays a much smaller role in this than most people think. Just because currency is readable doesn’t make it valuable. In fact, if it couldn’t be read, it would have not value at all, since collectors would have no way to determine its identity.

Classifying paper money is actually a complex process that relies on verifiable facts, not on vague judgments. Novices sometimes get miffed at veteran collectors who won’t accept their descriptions of currency as “un-circulated” or “mint condition”, but the experts are right to be skeptical of such fuzzy details. It’s far better to enumerate the facts of a note’s condition, such as creases, tears, holes and so on, because these give a more precise picture of the note’s survival rate. Paper money that’s properly stored in plastic sleeves, under temperature-controlled conditions, is much easier to evaluate for the most important quality of its worth: rarity.

Indeed, rarity is the thing that experts seek most in determining collectible currency values. Despite hopes otherwise, no piece of paper money is ever more valuable than it is on the day that it’s printed. If the annual printing of one-dollar bills shrinks from millions to hundreds, then the notes in that smaller printing may be rare enough to be valuable today. Saving those short-printed dollars for years won’t make them any more valuable.

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