Paper money was first issued in the United States on March 10, 1862, and became legal tender by an act of Congress seven days later. Today, collecting paper money from around the world (also known as banknotes) is gaining in popularity. With a little imagination, a foreign banknote in your hand can take you on an flight of fancy around the world. Fasten your seat belts, here we go.
Cael Chappell has been collecting banknotes for fifteen years, and has written an excellent introduction to the hobby. His first piece of advice is to collect for fun, not for profit. Second is to choose the type of collection you want. Do you want to specialize in a particular continent or country? Or collect banknotes with specific images such as birds or trains? Many collectors strive for a collection that includes a banknote from every country that produces paper money. Another of Cael's invaluable pages is Anatomy of a Banknote, which explains the terminology of paper money.
Every day the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing prints approximately 22.5 million paper notes in denominations ranging from $1 to $100. This page answers Frequently Asked Questions such as "What is the largest denomination ever printed?" Answer: "$100,000 Gold Certificate of 1934 featuring the portrait of President Wilson. This note existed only for official transactions and none of them ever circulated outside Federal Reserve banks."
Randy Johnson says he is "not a serious collector," but simply starting picking up paper money as he travelled. His online collection from twenty-seven countries is a "feast for the eyes" with samples "chosen not for their value or rarity, but only for their beauty and interest." Each of Randy's scanned banknotes is accompanied by his description. After looking at this collection, you might start wondering, as I did, what line of business takes Randy to all these foreign locales. Making a living as a computer programmer, Randy has spent ten of the last twenty years living overseas.
"I believe I have succeeded in providing at least one banknote example for all current banknote producing countries (and a few that aren't around anymore)." Ron's online collection of international paper money includes scanned front and back images of more than 2,000 banknotes, adding up to over 160 megabytes of graphics. His collection is neatly categorized by continent and country. Many serious collectors list Ron's extensive site as a personal favorite.