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NEW:  Set Registry!  You can now claim notes in the census as your own, and track your collection online using My Sets.  If you wish to share your collection, check the "public" box to make your set go live.

Introduction

One of the final frontiers for paper money catalogers to tame is the area of U.S. Obsolete Notes.  The field has been researched in earnest for over 90 years, beginning with the general but systematic cataloging efforts of D.C. Wismer.  In following years, the vastness of the field had resulted in individual researchers specializing in certain states to expand the knowledge of local issues, one state at a time.  This paradigm changed in the early 1980s, when Jim Haxby and his colleagues published their catalog of bank notes from throughout the country.  This feat was successful because they sought the input of state specialists to make their listings as complete and accurate as possible. 

It has been over 30 years since the publication of their bank note catalog.  In that time, two things have happened.  The first is that a fair amount of new information has become available, particularly with the sale of the American Bank Note Company archives in the early 1990s, the sale of the Schingoethe Collection of obsolete notes over a decade ago, and most recently the dispersion of holdings from the Eric P. Newman Collection.  Additionally, a significant amount of new research has been published by state specialists as they fill in the knowledge gaps, and lately Whitman has been rolling out their new series of catalogs.  The second is that technology, especially forms of social networking on the internet, has enabled groups of people to share information more efficiently than ever before.  This new technology will allow the paradigm to again shift to a country-wide scale on the collection and dissemination of knowledge on U.S. Obsolete Notes.

The Society of Paper Money Collectors has embarked on an ambitious project to compile a database of all U.S. obsolete bank notes.  It is constructed in a manner similar to the web portal Wikipedia, where any member can contribute to the pool of information, and experts in their respective fields can correct and maintain the integrity of the data.  There is a twofold scope to the project:  1) to catalog all reported obsolete notes, and 2) to keep a census of all reported notes.

The Board of Governors of the Society of Paper Money Collectors embraced this project because:

  • The project is clearly aligned with the Society’s basic mission - to promote the study and growth of knowledge of paper money in the hobby. This project has tremendous potential to do just that;
  • The Society has laid much of the educational groundwork in the field via the numerous obsolete “state books”;
  • Included in the membership base are the people with the collective knowledge who can assist in assembling the initial working catalog and can serve as specialist experts in expanding and maintaining the data.

The scope of the Obsoletes Database Project (ODP) is large, including obsolete bank notes, scrip, advertising notes, panic and depression scrip, and much more.  In the long run, this project may be scalable to other collecting fields, such as Confederate and Fractional, and can document the many varieties of each.

Where we are now

The project has been in progress now for three years.  Over that time, we’ve built the infrastructure from scratch, incorporating a number of tools to facilitate the importing of data and images, as well as utilities that make the data accessible.  The most recent feature, one that promotes the website to be a practical and everyday experience for collectors, is the Set Registry.  Collectors can use the registry to track their own collections, and optionally compete with others annually for best-of-category awards.

We presently have an extensive collection of issuer and design data from eleven states thanks to the efforts of numerous state experts.  These states are Minnesota, Alabama, District of Columbia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas and Georgia.  The first four of these states are also populated with note data and images.  We anticipate to continue adding a few more states each year for the foreseeable future.

How to participate

The very first thing you can do as a collector of obsoletes is to check out the website at www.spmc.org/obs/.  Nose around into all the nooks and crannies.  Get a sense of what there is, and use your imagination to what this can look like in another three years.

If you have a collection of obsolete notes, we need you, your expertise, and your data.  The way to start is to scan in your collection at 300dpi or higher.  Once you have those images, there are several different options, depending on the size of your collection, to get them and their corresponding data uploaded.  You can upload these yourself, one at a time, via the “+ Note” link on the home page, or add a group of images via the “+ Note Gallery” link.  If you already have your notes in a spreadsheet, we can adapt that spreadsheet into an importable one.  This is the best method for large collections.  Note that we firmly believe in providing credit for all contributions, and these are logged automatically on the Credits page, accessible via the link on top menu.

For other questions not addressed here, be sure to check out the FAQ, also on the top menu.  The Forum can be used to ask general questions or see what others are talking about.

Whether you have just a few notes to share or a large collection, we the administrators of ODP would like to know who you are.  Please drop Shawn an email at shawn@shawnhewitt.com to introduce yourself.

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Front

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  • Denomination: $10
  • Format: Issued
  • 101
  • Date: 11 Feb 1804

  • Grade: About Uncirculated / Pen Cancelled
  • Grade Comments: N/A
  • Census Count: 1
  • Signatures: Thomas Herty (Cashier); William Thornton (President)

Provenance:
  • Unclaimed
Claim this Note

Credits:

  • Front image: R Spieker
  • R Spieker
  • Created by: Ronald Spieker


Associated Design

$10 - Payable at the Office of Discount and Deposit

Front

Washington Association and United States Insurance Company
Washington, District of Columbia

Oval "10" protectors on the left, right and center, with an oval bearing the handwritten statement "Payable at the Office...

  • Genuine
  • Bank Note
  • Standard Size
  • Protector: None
  • Color: N/A
  • Printing Method: Engraved
  • S/N Type: Handwritten
  • Date Type: Handwritten
  • Plate Date: ____________180___
  • Back: N/A

  • Printer (Primary): [No Imprint]
  • Printer (Secondary): N/A

  • SPMC: DC:Wash:WAaUSIC:BG10:no
  • IDN: 24858-24860

More ›

Catalog Number

  • SPMC: DC:Wash:WAaUSIC:BG10:no
  • IDN: 24858-24860-24861
  • Haxby: N/A
  • Whitman: N/A
  • State: N/A
  • Specialty: N/A

Issuer Rarity

R-7

Design Rarity

Overall
R-7
Proof
Unreported
Issued
R-7
Remainder
Unreported

Plate Note

  • SPMC Plate Note

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Front
Back

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  • Denomination: $20
  • Format: Remainder
  • Plate Letter A
  • Date: N/A

  • Grade: Fine
  • Grade Comments: N/A
  • Census Count: 1
  • Signatures: A Kendall (Cashier); A Jackson (President)

Provenance:
  • Unclaimed
Claim this Note

Credits:

  • Images: R Spieker
  • R Spieker
  • Created by: Ronald Spieker


Associated Design

$20 - Pig with document in mouth

Front
Back

The Glory Bank
Washington, District of Columbia

Center: Pig with document in his mouth (appears to be a playing card) 


  • Genuine
  • Satirical Note
  • 125 x 58
  • Protector: None
  • Color: N/A
  • Printing Method: Lithographed
  • S/N Type: Handwritten
  • Date Type: Printed
  • Plate Date: January 1, 1834
  • Back: Plain

  • Printer (Primary): [No Imprint]
  • Printer (Secondary): N/A

  • SPMC: DC:Wash:TGB:HG20:no
  • IDN: 24786-24787

More ›

Catalog Number

  • SPMC: DC:Wash:TGB:HG20:no
  • IDN: 24786-24787-24788
  • Haxby: N/A
  • Whitman: N/A
  • State: N/A
  • Specialty: N/A

Issuer Rarity

R-5

Design Rarity

Overall
R-6
Proof
Unreported
Issued
Unreported
Remainder
R-6

Plate Note

  • SPMC Plate Note

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Front

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  • Denomination: $0.05
  • Format: Remainder
  • N/A
  • Date: N/A

  • Grade: About Uncirculated
  • Grade Comments: N/A
  • Census Count: 1

Provenance:
  • Unclaimed
Claim this Note

Credits:

  • Front image: R Spieker
  • R Spieker
  • Created by: Ronald Spieker


Associated Design

$0.05 - Red tinted number at center

Front

Emile Dupre
Washington, District of Columbia

Left: Ornate scroll with "FIVE CENTS" In front of wharf scene Center: EMILE DUPRE' . Red and white imprinted "5" Right: Justice with...

  • Genuine
  • Merchant Scrip
  • Standard Size
  • Protector: Tint
  • Color: N/A
  • Printing Method: Engraved
  • S/N Type: Handwritten
  • Date Type: Handwritten
  • Plate Date: ____________186___
  • Back: Plain

  • Printer (Secondary): N/A

  • SPMC: DC:Wash:ED:SG0.05:t
  • IDN: 24737-24739

More ›

Catalog Number

  • SPMC: DC:Wash:ED:SG0.05:t
  • IDN: 24737-24739-24740
  • Haxby: N/A
  • Whitman: N/A
  • State: N/A
  • Specialty: N/A

Issuer Rarity

R-5

Design Rarity

Overall
R-6
Proof
Unreported
Issued
Unreported
Remainder
R-6

Plate Note

  • SPMC Plate Note

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Front

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  • Denomination: $0.05
  • Format: Issued
  • N/A
  • Date: N/A

  • Grade: Fine
  • Grade Comments: N/A
  • Census Count: 1
  • Signatures: Lorentz (Other)

Provenance:
  • Unclaimed
Claim this Note

Credits:

  • Front image: R Spieker
  • Created by: Ronald Spieker


Associated Design

$0.05 - Certificate of stock

Front

Corporation of Georgetown
Georgetown, District of Columbia

"This certificate of stock will entitle the Bear to FIVE CENTS..." Inlcludes wording "Printed at the Metropolitan Office"

  • Genuine
  • Municipal Scrip
  • 120 x 55
  • Protector: Tint
  • Color: Red
  • Printing Method: Typeset
  • S/N Type: N/A
  • Date Type: Printed
  • Plate Date: May 1837
  • Back: Plain

  • Printer (Primary): [No Imprint]
  • Printer (Secondary): N/A

  • SPMC: DC:Geor:CG:MG0.05:rt
  • IDN: 24615-24676

More ›

Catalog Number

  • SPMC: DC:Geor:CG:MG0.05:rt
  • IDN: 24615-24676-24677
  • Haxby: N/A
  • Whitman: N/A
  • State: N/A
  • Specialty: N/A

Issuer Rarity

R-5

Design Rarity

Overall
R-7
Proof
Unreported
Issued
R-7
Remainder
Unreported

Plate Note

  • SPMC Plate Note

IDN stands for Issuer, Design and Note numbers.  The database assigns a unique number for each node in its system.  Nodes are elements of various content types that can be presented to users.  For example, this FAQ is a node.  In our database structure, we've defined Issuers, Designs and Notes as being node types.  The node numbers are locked down and do not change over time.  Therefore, the IDN numbers are a stable way to express catalog numbers.

A particular issuer is represented by iii, whereas a particular design belonging to an issuer is represented by iii-ddd.  Each note of that design is represented by iii-ddd-nnn.  URLs of each issuer, design and note page also follow this convention.

By way of example, a $1 note on the Central Bank of New Ulm, the one in the census with serial number 2653, has URL https://www.spmc.org/obs/i-68/d-4014/n-24044.  Its design can be expressed as 68-4014.

Once a state or district has been announced as ready for general use, you are permitted to add your own data to the existing body of knowledge.  You can add note images by clicking on the "+ Note" button on the home page to upload your image and add information about your note, including grade, serial number, signatures, etc.  Your contribution will be acknowledged on each of your note entries and also the consolidated Credits page. 

States branded ready for general use are considered more or less stable.  SEs may continue to make revisions including the SPMC catalog number, descriptions and manually assigned rarity ratings, but design entries will not be removed.  Note that the IDN numbers are static and will not change -- for those wanting to use a stable catalog number for reference purposes, they should use the IDN.

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Front
Back

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  • Denomination: $1
  • Format: Issued
  • 2653 A
  • Date: 22 Feb 1861

  • Grade: Very Fine
  • Grade Comments: N/A
  • Census Count: 1
  • Signatures: H. M. Knox (Cashier); J. Jay Knox (President)

Provenance:
  • Shawn Hewitt (Individual)
Claim this Note

Credits:

  • Images: R. Shawn Hewitt Collection
  • Created by: Shawn Hewitt


Associated Design

$1 - Red Overprint

Front
Back

Central Bank
New Ulm, Minnesota

Santa Claus on sleigh at center.  Peter Stuyvesant at lower left.


  • Genuine
  • Bank Note
  • Standard Size
  • Protector: Overprint
  • Color: Red
  • Printing Method: Engraved
  • S/N Type: Handwritten
  • Date Type: Handwritten
  • Plate Date: _________18__
  • Back: Plain

  • Printer (Secondary): N/A

  • SPMC: MN:NeUl:CB:BG1:ro
  • Haxby: MN-90-G2a
  • IDN: 68-4014

More ›

Catalog Number

  • SPMC: MN:NeUl:CB:BG1:ro
  • IDN: 68-4014-24044
  • Haxby: MN-90-G2a
  • Whitman: N/A
  • State: Hewitt... B380-D1b
  • Specialty: N/A

Issuer Rarity

R-5

Design Rarity

Overall
R-6
Proof
R-7
Issued
R-6
Remainder
Unreported

Plate Note

  • SPMC Plate Note

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Front

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gum


  • Denomination: $6
  • Format: Proof
  • Plate Letter A
  • Date: N/A

  • Grade: Uncirculated
  • Grade Comments: Uncirculated - glue stain
  • Census Count: 1

Provenance:
  • Unclaimed
Claim this Note

Credits:

  • Front image: Ronald Spieker
  • Ronald Spieker
  • Created by: Ronald Spieker


Associated Design

$6 - Declaration of Independence scene

Front

Bank of Potomac
Alexandria, District of Columbia

Details: Left: Washington Center: Scene from Trumbull's Declaration of Independence. Right: Boy and girl


  • Genuine
  • Bank Note
  • Standard Size
  • Protector: None
  • Color: N/A
  • Printing Method: Engraved
  • S/N Type: Handwritten
  • Date Type: Handwritten
  • Plate Date: ____18__
  • Back: Plain

  • Printer (Secondary): N/A

  • SPMC: DC:Alex:BP:BG6:no
  • Haxby: DC-30-Unl$6
  • IDN: 21771-22335

More ›

Catalog Number

  • SPMC: DC:Alex:BP:BG6:no
  • IDN: 21771-22335-22802
  • Haxby: DC-30-Unl$6
  • Whitman: N/A
  • State: N/A
  • Specialty: N/A

Issuer Rarity

R-5

Design Rarity

Overall
R-7
Proof
R-7
Issued
Unreported
Remainder
Unreported

Plate Note

  • SPMC Plate Note
  • Whitman Plate Note