Collecting U.S. National Bank Notes

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Original Series $2 bank note issued by Second National Bank of Winona, MN with pen signatures of J. A. Prentiss, Cashier and Thomas Simpson, President, Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,
Series 1929 Type 1 $20 bank note issued by First National Bank of Deadwood, SD with printed signatures of C.O. Gorder, Cashier and W.E. Adams, President

Collecting U.S. National Bank Notes home page

National Bank Notes were issued between 1863 and 1935 by 12,631 National Banks in all 48 states (in existence at that time), as well as the territories of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. All National Bank Notes show the town and name of the issuing bank and were signed by the local bank officers. Since these notes represent Hometown Bank Notes, with historical ties to the town/bank that issued the notes and the bankers that signed them, many collectors avidly collect notes from their home town, county, or state. Four distinct Series of Large Size notes (with 9 different types) were issued between 1863 and 1929, and one Series of Small Size notes (with 2 different types) was issued between 1929 and 1935. With the end of the National Bank Note Era in 1935, the vast majority of these notes were redeemed and destroyed, leaving relatively few notes for collectors to enjoy.

Historical Background

The following articles provide historical background on the U.S. National Banking system and National Bank Notes.

This 2008 Encyclopedia article by Richard S. Grossman provides an in-depth history of U.S. Banking during the National Bank Note era.

National Bank Note Types

National Bank Notes were issued from 1863 to 1935 in five different Series including eleven Types. This article gives an overview of these Types, with links to a page displaying note images for each denomination issued for that Type.
This article explains why some National Banks have Notes issued with serial number ranges where the Type is still uncertain. A current list of those banks is also provided. Collectors are invited to help us identify surviving notes for these banks that would allow us to assign the proper Type to these serial number ranges.

Territorial National Bank Notes

Series 1875 $5 Territorial bank note issued by the First National Bank of Miles City, Montana Territory. Courtesy of Lyn Knight Currency Auctions,

Territorial National Bank Notes were issued by the U.S. Territories of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Dakota, Hawaii, Idaho, Indian, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Porto Rico, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, before they became States.

This 2018 Paper Money article by Peter Huntoon provides an excellent overview of Territorial National Bank Notes, including historical background.
To help you identify Territorial National Bank Notes, this chapter from the Huntoon-Shiva Encyclopedia of U.S. National Bank Notes provides an overview of the different ways that the territorial indicator was presented in title blocks. Also listed are three territorial banks that had title blocks with no territorial indicator whatsoever.

Replacement National Bank Notes

Replacement National Bank Notes were not designated with a star * like Large & Small Size U.S. Type Notes were. The following Paper Money Journal articles provide an overview of how to identify Replacement National Bank Notes for both large and small size Nationals.

Other National Bank Note Topics

Created as a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury by the National Currency Act of February 25, 1863, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) charters, regulates and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations. This link provides a great historical overview of the OCC from 1863 to the present.
This 2011 Paper Money article by Q. David Bowers provides details on the end of National Bank Notes in 1935, along with historical background and personal observations on the early days of collecting Nationals.
This 2017 Paper Money article by Peter Huntoon provides a comprehensive overview of the Treasury signatures on National Bank Notes, including listings by series and bank of the rare and scarce signature combinations.

Ways to Collect National Bank Notes

There are lots of ways to collect National Bank Notes, including:

  • By Location: Many collectors collect notes from their Home Town, County or State.
  • By State: Collect a nice large size note (or small size note, or both!) from each State.
  • By State Capital: Collect one or more notes from each State Capital.
  • By Series/Type: Collect a few nice notes from each of the 11 NBN Series/Types that was issued.
  • By Theme: For example, Banks that were robbed by famous outlaws, Notes from famous 'Wild West' towns, Notes with Indian names, Notes with Your name in the town or bank name!
  • Notes with Unusual Town or Bank Names are avidly collected.
  • Or ?????: Use your imagination! There is no wrong way to collect paper money!

Huntoon-Shiva Encyclopedia of U.S. National Bank Notes

This comprehensive encyclopedia is jointly published by the National Currency Foundation and the Society of Paper Money Collectors and covers every aspect of United States National Bank Notes issued from 1863 to 1935. It currently contains over 1,500 pages, with 144 chapters organized into 17 topical sections. It is designed to be a dynamic work in progress and will be updated as new information becomes available.

Significant National Bank Note Collections

This website, sponsored by the Society of Paper Money Collectors, showcases important National Bank Note Collections. The notes in each collection are listed in an easily searchable and sortable table with links to high resolution images.

Three important NBN Collections are currently showcased on this website: The Huntoon Collection of U.S. National Bank Notes, The Walton Collection of Nebraska National Bank Notes and The Jorde Collection of North Dakota National Bank Notes.

SPMC Bank Note History Project

The purpose of the Bank Note History Project is to stimulate research and help organize historical information related to U.S. bank notes that were issued during the National Bank Note Era (1863-1935) and Obsolete Bank Note Era (1782-1866). This project is focused on two of the primary historical aspects of these 'Hometown' bank notes: The Banks that issued them, and the Bankers who signed them. The Bank Note History Project consists of two online components: The Banks & Bankers Database and the Bank Note History Wiki website.

This is a link to the Bank Note History Project home page on the website.
This 2020 Paper Money article by Mark Drengson is a detailed tutorial on how to use the National Bank Search procedures in the Banks & Bankers Database and shows the information available for each bank. It also provides a brief overview on how to use the Bank Officer Search.
This 2021 Paper Money article by Mark Drengson provides an overview of the Bank Note History Wiki. It also lets you know how you can help us out with historical content for the Wiki and the Banks & Bankers Database.
This handy reference page has a table including a row for each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia. Each row contains a link to that State's home page in the Bank Note History wiki, along with other useful information and bank stats with links to corresponding pdf bank lists.
See how your favorite State is doing in the Banker Data Challenge and help us out with gathering basic banker data (full name and birth/death dates)!

SPMC Paper Money Articles Index (Nationals)

This Index page has links to all 600+ articles on National Bank Notes that have appeared in the Paper Money Journal since the first issue in 1962.
This link will download the entire March/April 2002 Paper Money Journal Special Issue dedicated to U.S. National Bank Notes.
This link will download the entire May/June 2003 Paper Money Journal Special Issue dedicated to U.S. National Bank Notes.
This link will download the entire May/June 2004 Paper Money Journal Special Issue dedicated to U.S. National Bank Notes.

Research Resources

Standard References on U.S. National Bank Notes

  • National Bank Notes: A Guide with Prices (6th Edition-2008) by Don C. Kelly.
This is the standard reference book for collecting Nationals, and includes a good introduction to National Bank Notes, along with bank open/close dates, bank titles and bank note issuance data for all 12,631 National Banks that issued bank notes. This is the final edition (2008), so the census counts and prices are out of date, but will still give you a good sense of rarity, and a rough idea on pricing.


Hear the story of the Higgins Money Museum in Okoboji, Iowa and the tale of the National Bank Note era of paper money.


An active Facebook Group dedicated to National Bank Note collectors.
An active forum for all paper money collectors and all paper money collecting topics.
This is a link to the Heritage Currency Auction Archives for National Bank Notes.


  • The SPMC Paper Money Journal is published bi-monthly and covers all facets of collecting paper money. Online and print options available for membership.
  • Bank Note Reporter is published monthly and covers general paper money collecting topics. It also includes a price guide updated monthly. Home Group/Active Interest Media