How Do I Start a Banknote Collection?

K. Kinsella

Government entities around the world have been issuing various types of bank notes for hundreds of years. Someone wishing to start a banknote collection must first decide whether to focus the collection on a specific type of note or to collect a wide variety of currency. Many individuals start to build a banknote collection by acquiring different types of bills from local banks. Outdated bills and foreign banknotes are harder to acquire but many people are able to add to their collection by making contact with currency dealers located both domestically and in overseas locations.

A US $2 banknote. This note is relatively uncommon, so some people might like to collect them.
A US $2 banknote. This note is relatively uncommon, so some people might like to collect them.

An individual with a general interest in currency may decide to create a banknote collection that includes currently used bills, foreign currency and promissory notes that are no longer in general circulation. Other collectors attempt to build a collection that contains just one type of note such as English bills that were printed before decimalization or notes that were printed in states that no longer exist such as Yugoslavia. By narrowing down the collection, a collector can acquire notes that do not fit into his or her own collection and trade these bills with other collectors for types of currency that fit in with the rest of the collection. After completing one collection, an individual may decide to start gathering other types of notes.

In many countries, certain types of bank notes are readily available while other types of bills are printed in smaller quantities. Someone trying to build a banknote collection of domestic currency can go to a local bank and request that the bank tellers order certain types of bills from the central bank. Additionally, bank employees may be able to provide a collector with bank notes that were printed during specific years, or notes that were produced to mark historical or political events.

Notes that are no longer in circulation can sometimes be found in antique stores and some stores occasionally organize auctions during which large quantities of collectibles such as banknotes are sold. Additionally, someone trying to build a collection of foreign bills can easily obtain a large number of these items by purchasing money from a foreign currency dealer at an airport or travel office. Obscure and outdated notes can be bought from specialized currency dealers who often buy and sell notes from other traders or from museums. Despite the many options available to a collector, some people acquire the majority of their notes by organizing trades with other collectors who can be found online or through listings of local groups of enthusiasts and collectors.

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