Collecting U.S. Obsolete Notes and Scrip

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1861 $1 Obsolete with Santa Claus vignette issued by Central Bank of New Ulm, MN signed by Henry M. Knox, Cashier, John Jay Knox, President. Courtesy Shawn Hewitt.

Collecting U.S. Obsolete Notes and Scrip home page

U.S. Obsolete currency generally refers to bank notes and scrip issued between 1782 and the late 1860s that were not Federal issues. These notes are obsolete in the sense that they can no longer be redeemed.

Several other categories of currency collecting are often included under the term 'U.S. Obsolete currency', such as Depression & Panic Scrip, Postal Notes, and College Currency. We have covered those areas under their own collecting categories on this website (See Collecting U.S. Depression & Panic Scrip, Collecting U.S. Postal Notes and Other U.S. Collecting Categories).

Historical Background

This writeup provides overall historical background on Obsolete Bank Notes and Scrip between 1782 and 1866.
This 2008 Encyclopedia article by Howard Bodenhorn provides an in-depth history of U.S. banking during the Obsolete Bank Note era.

Obsolete Currency Types and Denominations

This link provides a brief overview of Obsolete Bank Note Types/Designs, Denominations, Remainders and Proofs, along with a brief description of Municipal & Merchant Scrip.
This link shows the anatomy of an Obsolete bank note, pointing out the many design elements that are common to most of these bank notes.

Other Obsolete Currency Topics

This 92 page history of this bank note printing company includes many vignettes and a 'Historical Evolution of ABNCo' diagram showing the merger history with other printing companies.

Ways to Collect Obsoletes

1854 $5 Obsolete bank note, Metropolitan Bank of Washington, D.C.

There are lots of ways to collect Obsolete Bank Notes and Scrip, limited only by your imagination:

  • By Location: Many collectors collect notes from their Home Town, County or State.
  • By Theme: For example, Sailing Ships, Steamboats, Trains, Animals, Santa Claus, Indians, important events in American history, U.S. Presidents, famous Americans, are just a few of the many, many possibilities.
  • By Denomination: Collect a note from each of the many different denominations that were issued, or many notes with one denomination (ie $3 bills).
  • Or ?????: Use your imagination! There is no wrong way to collect paper money!

SPMC Obsoletes Database Project

The purpose of the SPMC Obsoletes Database Project is to compile a database of U.S. obsolete bank notes and scrip, including note Issuers and Types and a census of reported notes. Any member can contribute to the pool of information, and experts in their respective states can correct and maintain the integrity of the data

SPMC Paper Money Articles Index (Obsoletes)

This Index page has links to all 540+ articles on Obsolete Notes and Scrip that have appeared in the Paper Money Journal since the first issue in 1962.
This link will download the entire Jan/Feb 2004 Paper Money Journal Special Issue dedicated to U.S. Obsolete Notes.

Research Resources

Standard References on U.S. Obsolete Notes and Scrip

  • Haxby, James A. United States Obsolete Bank Notes 1782-1866 (4 volumes) Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1988.
  • Bowers, Q David. Obsolete Paper Money Issued by Banks in the United States, 1782-1866. Atlanta, GA: Whitman Pub, 2006.
  • Kelly, Don C. Obsolete Paper Money - A Guide With Prices. Oxford, OH: The Paper Money Institute, LLC, 2018.



A dedicated Facebook Group for discussing and sharing information on United States obsolete currency notes and scrip.
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 Obsolete 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.