The Gold and Silver Mine – Week of Jan. 18, 2013

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How the treasury deals with printing flaws

A weekly column dedicated to “digging out” current information about precious metals, coins and other numismatics.

Previous articles have discussed different approaches to collecting paper money. Some collectors specialize by collecting what are known as star notes.

When paper money is printed, it is printed in sheets up to 32 notes in size and goes through a three-step process where the front, back and serial number are independently printed. The notes are then cut, arranged in serial number order and bundled in a set amount depending on the denomination. Before the notes are bundled, they are inspected for flaws such as ink smears, missing ink or whatever would make them less than perfect (however, collectors also specialize in collecting errors that escape detection). These damaged notes are replaced using a note that has a star at the beginning or end of the serial numbers instead of the customary letter. The star signifies that is a replacement note, inserted to replace a damaged note that was removed.

The star notes' purpose is to keep the count in the bundle and serialization intact, although the star notes' serial number is not meant to be the same as the note it replaced. Because star notes are only meant as replacement notes, the quantity printed are much smaller than the notes they are replacing, hence making them worth more than regular notes.

Paper money dates differ from coins in that coins' dates are the year that the coin was minted, whereas the date on paper money signifies the date that design was first utilized. The date on notes won’t change until the design changes.

Notes have the printed signatures of the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury. When one or both of these officials are replaced, the date on the note will have a letter added to it to signify that change. As an example, the $1 silver certificate that was first printed as Series 1935 with a new design continued being printed with that date until the above mentioned officials left office and were replaced. The new officials’ signatures were then added to the notes and the note was designated as Series 1935A. This continued until 1957, ending with series 1935H, due to all of the changes in officials. Because the design was changed in 1957, the first notes of this were dated Series 1957, and the process started all over again.

An interesting event occurred in 1963. Joseph Barr was named Secretary of the Treasury, but remained in office only 30 days. But in that time frame, over 450 million $1 notes were printed bearing his signature. Some enterprising opportunists seized on this fact and placed newspaper ads nationwide stating, “Buying Barr Dollars, paying up to $1,000 each, send $5 for our buy list.” The problem was, the items on the list didn’t exist, and they pocketed the $5 that were mailed to them. To this day I still am asked if I buy Barr dollars.

Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins, Inc. He and his wife Linda operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles in the Shore Mall as well as satellite offices in both Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have more than 70 years experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of The American Numismatic Association, The Industry Council of Tangible Assets, The Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, The Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.


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