Collecting U.S. Colonial and Continental Currency

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Continental $20 May 10, 1775. Heritage Auctions,
Colonial Massachusetts 30 shillings Aug 18, 1775. Engraved and printed by Paul Revere. Heritage Auctions,

Collecting U.S. Colonial and Continental Currency home page

The earliest U.S. Colonial Currency was issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690 to pay for a military expedition to Canada during King William's War. Between 1690 and 1788 all 13 of the original colonies plus Vermont issued currency denominated in pounds, shillings and pence. However, each colony had different valuations for their pounds, shillings and pence, complicating commerce between the colonies. Some of the Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey notes were printed by Benjamin Franklin, and some of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire notes were printed by Paul Revere, which enhances their value.

Continental Currency was issued from 1775 to 1779, denominated in dollars, and payable in Spanish Milled Dollars (Pieces of Eight). Eleven issues were authorized by the Continental Congress, as indicated by the different dates on the notes. Over time as more and more Continental currency was issued, its value depreciated. On October 9, 1787, Continental currency was selling at $250 for $1 in specie (coins), illustrating a popular saying at the time 'Not worth a Continental'. Eventually, from 1790-1798, the currency became exchangeable into U.S. Treasury bonds for 1% of face value. Some signers of Continental currency were signers of the Declaration of Independence, or members of the Continental Congress, which enhances the value of those notes.

Historical Background

This Wikipedia article provides a brief history of early American currency, along with a Thirteen Colony set of colonial currency from the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Colonial Currency Issues by Colony

Colonial New York 10 pounds Feb 16, 1771. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

The following table lists the First & Last Year of Issue, Number of Issues and Number of Types (denominations) for each of the 13 original colonies plus Vermont.

Colonial Currency Issues
Colony First Issue Last Issue # Issues # Types
Connecticut 1709 1780 44 240
Delaware 1723 1777 14 92
Georgia 1735 1786 27 131
Maryland 1733 1781 16 138
Massachusetts 1690 1781 25 289
New Hampshire 1709 1780 21 186
New Jersey 1709 1786 28 233
New York 1709 1788 35 214
North Carolina 1712 1785 25 206
Pennsylvania 1723 1785 38 274
Rhode Island 1710 1786 37 301
South Carolina 1703 1788 44 203
Virginia 1755 1781 32 225
Vermont 1781 1781 1 8
This is a link to the online Newman Numismatic Portal Edition of Early Paper Money of America by Eric P. Newman, listing all Colonial Currency Issues (by Colony). Each issue links to a page with historical information and note images for that issue.

Continental Currency Issues

Continental $50 Jan 14, 1779. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,
This is a link to the online Newman Numismatic Portal Edition of Early Paper Money of America by Eric P. Newman, listing all of the Continental Currency Issues. Each issue links to a page with historical information and note images for that issue.

SPMC Paper Money Articles Index (Colonial)

This Index page has links to all 35+ articles on Colonial & Continental Currency that have appeared in the Paper Money Journal since the first issue in 1962.

Research Resources

Standard References on Colonial & Continental Currency

This is the standard reference on Colonial and Continental paper money, and is now publicly available on the Newman Numismatic Portal. Click on the title link above to View/Download this reference book.
  • Paper Money of the United States. A complete illustrated guide with valuations (22nd Edition-2021) by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg
This standard reference guide on all types of U.S. paper money has sections on both Colonial and Continental Currency including valuations.



An active forum for all paper money collectors and all paper money collecting topics.
This article on (Economic History Association) provides an in-depth overview of money in the American Colonies, and how it evolved over time.
This is a link to the Heritage Currency Auction Archives for Colonial & Continental Currency.


  • The SPMC Paper Money Journal is published bi-monthly and covers all facets of collecting paper money. Online and print options available for membership.