Values of Obsolete and Broken Bank Notes
There are many terms for a bank note that is no longer redeemable at its face value. These are most often called obsolete bank notes. However, the terms broken bank note and wild cat bank note are sometimes used.
Many obsolete bank notes are left over notes from when the bank closed. We call these remainder notes. Unfortunately, there are also many reproductions of obsolete bank notes. We have a full guide to obsolete bank note reproductions. If the serial number on your note matches the serial number on the list of reproductions, then what you have is 100% not authentic. Some of the most common reproductions are:
State of Alabama (Montgomery); $100; Jan. 1, 1864 – serial number 834
Arkansas Treasury Warrant; $1; Apr. 28, 1862 – serial number 128346
State of Louisiana; $100; Mar. 10, 1863 – serial number 2650
Mississippi Treasury Note; $100; Jan. 8, 1862 – serial number 2758
State of North Carolina; $1; Sept. 1, 1862 – serial number 808
Cotton Planters Loan Association; $5; May 15, 1862 – serial number 415
Treasury Note; $100; Oct. 15, 1862 – serial numbers 119, 2875
Bank of the United States (Washington, DC); $10; Jan. 23, 1834 – serial number 646
Bank of the United States (Washington, DC); $1,000; Dec. 15, 1840 – serial number 8894
Most of these reproductions are sold at museums and historical sites. They were first printed in the 1920s and they are made to look old. So just because the paper is brittle and brown does not mean that they are actually old and authentic.
The good news is that there are still plenty of authentic and collectible obsolete currencies. Literally thousands of banks printed their own money. Banks printed their own money because from the early 1800s until the 1860s the United States issued almost no federal paper money. It was the individual bank’s responsibility to print and authorize their own money. As you can imagine, this lead to lots of counterfeiting and totally fake issues. Because of that, people strongly preferred coins over paper money. Paper money was a hot potato that was constantly traded until people could get coins. A one dollar bill from a New York City bank might only trade for 40 cents in San Francisco in 1850. As such, most obsolete money is heavily worn from hard circulation.
Generally speaking, obsolete money from banks somewhere like Utah will be worth more money than a note from an obsolete bank in Indiana. This is because there were fewer banks and fewer people in Utah than Indiana. However, it is not all about geography. It is also about artwork and popularity.
If you have a question about your obsolete bank note, then please send us an email with a picture of the front and back of the bill. We do not appraise obsolete bank notes on the phone. There are just too many varieties and issuers to offer a value without seeing a picture. firstname.lastname@example.org