Replacement Banknotes

All modern United States currency contains either a 10- or 11-digit serial number in Star_Noteorder to make each bill unique. Ten-digit serial numbers were on all bills until the “new style” came out in 1996. Those bills (and all produced since then) have an 11-digit serial. The serial number consists of the following:

  • The first letter, only found on the new-style bills, represents the series of the bill. The series indicates the year in which the design of the bill was approved for production. This begins with A, and moves through the alphabet each time a new series is needed (for example, each time there is a new secretary of the treasury, the bill design changes because the secretary’s signature is on all currency). You can also find the series of the bill printed directly to the bottom-right of the portrait.
  • The second letter (or first, if you’re looking at an old-style bill) represents the district of the Federal Reserve Bank that your bill was issued from. As there are 12 Federal Reserve Banks, this letter can range from A to L, with A representing Boston, MA, and L representing San Francisco, CA.
  • The eight numerical digits that follow represent a unique ID number. This number increases sequentially as each bill is printed. Using these digits alone, there would be a possible 99,999,999 bills issued per bank.
  • The final letter is used to raise the number of possible bills beyond 99,999,999. Altogether, there are a possible 2,499,999,975 serial numbers for each bank!

As quality control finds defective notes in the printing process after the serial number has been overprinted, they are taken out with their serial number written down and replaced with another banknote printed specifically for this purpose, so that the number of banknotes being printed stays the same in each production batch. With replacements notes, a set of serial numbers can still have the proper number of bills even if some of the original bills had to be pulled. The replacement notes have a sequence of their own, using the star as their final “letter.” This allows for 99,999,999 possible replacement notes for any given bank, series and denomination. This saves time and money compared to re-printing exactly the same serial number that was used before. It is rare that the replacement banknote has the same serial number as the original faulty one. A replacement note will have its own serial numbering system that separates it from the normal numbering system.

A star note is also a bank note that has an asterisk (*), or star, after the serial number. Many early issues carried the star in front of the serial number. These have been used by various countries around the world including Australia and the United States. In the US, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing inspects currency for printing errors prior to releasing notes into general circulation. When notes are discovered that have been printed incorrectly (such as having the serial numbers upside down, etc.) the misprinted “error notes” are replaced with star notes because no two bills within a certain series can be produced with the same serial number. They are used to maintain a correct count of notes in a serial number run. By their nature, star notes are more scarce than notes with standard serial numbers and as such are widely collected by numismatists.

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A star note was also substituted for the last note in a block rather than printing a note with a serial number consisting of eight zeros. This practice is no longer in use, as the highest range of serial numbers is now reserved for uncut sheets sold to collectors, so regular notes intended for circulation do not reach the final serial number in the block.

In general, replacement notes aren’t worth more than regular bills. However, if you find a replacement note with a particularly interesting serial number — like 00000001 or 999999999 — or a large number of consecutively numbered replacement notes that you keep together as a lot, you may have a collector’s item on your hands.

Check out our Ebay shop for our variety of Star Notes for sale.

The Greatest Forgery in the World



Even experts sometimes have a hard time telling genuine 1940’s Bank of England notes from the counterfeits produced during Germany’s legendary “Operation Bernhard.” The goal? Destabilize British currency by flooding the market with high-quality bank notes.


The original plan was even more audacious: the German masterminds were going to send the notes up in a plane and have them dropped over English cities and towns, assuming no one on wartime rations would want to turn down free cash. This proved impractical, and so the notes would be sent into the market via cash transactions.


One of the counterfeiters was Adolph Burger, a half-Jewish Slovakian printer; as the deportations of Jews in Slovakia increased, he forged baptismal certificates that allowed many Jews to escape deportation. When his work was uncovered by the Nazis, he and his wife were sent to Auschwitz, where she died a few months later. Burger was eventually moved from Auschwitz to the secret Operation Bernhard printing facility in the Sachsenhausen camp where one hundred and forty-two prisoners counterfeited four denominations of banknotes, as well as passports, IDs, and stamps. Nearly nine million notes were created, with a face value of over a hundred million pounds.


Towards the end of the war, just before Sachsenhausen was liberated, the forgers were moved to the Redl-Zipf camp in Austria, then to the Ebsensee camp. The Nazis intended to kill all the counterfeiters at Ebsensee, but they only had one truck to use for transferring the prisoners between camps. The truck suffered a mechanical failure on the third trip, delaying the last batch of prisoners. When the prisoners already at the camp were ordered into tunnels (presumably to be killed and buried by explosives), they revolted and the guards panicked and ran. The forgers then mixed freely among the other prisoners at Ebensee, and were rescued a few days later, when Allied forces arrived.


The Operation Bernhard banknotes are exquisite in their attention to detail. According to Coin World, “The Operation Bernhard notes are still considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever made, with properly engraved plates, rag paper, correct watermarks, and even valid serial numbers. Today, says Colorado specialist William M. Rosenblum, the fakes can be identified with 99 percent certainty based first on serial number ranges, and then by carefully looking for a minuscule anomaly: ‘ “Bank of England” is found in the watermark at the bottom of the note. There is a triangle at the base of the first “N” in England. On the counterfeits there is line that originates from the center of the base of the triangle while on the originals the line is off-center.’”


Adolph Burger survived his experience with Operation Bernhard, and it is from his memoir that most of the surviving information has been pieced together. Mr. Burger passed away on December 6, 2016, leaving Hans Walter, now 95 and living in Ohio, as the only surviving member of one of the greatest teams of forgers ever assembled.

National Bank Notes | A Story

At the Stamp & Coin Place, we come across large amounts of varying currency every day.  We like to believe that each note tells a story.  This is the story of the National Bank Note .

Up until the American Civil War, state banks issued their own unique banknotes.  That changed in 1863 when the National Banking Act required federal regulation to issue National Bank Notes.  The Office of Comptroller of the Currency claimed administrative responsibility of the chartering of banks and issuing of National Bank Notes.  To encourage the hurried implementation of these new notes, the federal government placed a 2%  tax on state banknotes.  To speed the conversion to the new system, the tax was increased annually to 10% and then up to 20% before they became obsolete.

Stamp & Coin Place National Bank Note Stamp & Coin Place National Bank Note

For the next seventy years National Bank Notes were issued by banks all over the country including U.S. territories.  Banks with federal charter deposited bonds in the United States treasury so that banks could then issue notes worth up to 90% of the bond value with the understanding that the federal government would back the value of the notes.  The government was able to back the notes because the demand was high enough to support the new system.  The new system effectively monetized federal debt.  Bonds functioning as collateral maintained circulation privilege and their interest made them preferable for National Banks.
Each National Bank Note is unique in its markings.  Individual characteristics along with a rich history make these notes appreciable collectibles.  Each note bears the issuing bank’s national charter number as well as a serial number given by the bank.  Notes with low serial numbers are excellent collectibles and were even recognized as having particular value as they were being printed.  The officers who signed them realized their potential collectible worth and often kept them as souvenirs.

National Bank Notes are physically much different in appearance than the currency we use today.  They are predominantly large (with smaller notes nearing the program’s end).  The large notes displayed two serial numbers, a treasury serial number which indicated the number of notes per series and the bank serial number, indicating the notes and denomination of notes printed specifically by the issuing bank.  They bore four signatures, two of the Treasurer of the United States and Register of Treasury and two by the bank’s President and cashier.  They were often cut with scissors and many are uneven or display signatures split between two notes.  The faces on these bills were many and varying; not immediately distinguishable by denomination.


Small sized bank notes took on a different appearance along with greater continuity and attention to detail.  Design characteristics included the same portrait per denomination and similar decorative features.  These changes influenced US. currency from the 1920’s up until the early 1990’s.  Elaborate, unique details and signatures were conformed to a simple bank stamp and serial.

These notes constituted a fairly effective means of trade until the Great Depression when legal tender was limited to Federal Reserve Notes, United States Notes and Silver Certificates.  Privately issued banknotes were ousted and thus found their official place in the collector’s world.

Because of their unique appeal, National Bank Notes are often referred to as “hometown notes”.  With much variation and specific markings, it’s easy to see why they they are highly collected, especially in the United States today.  While larger issuance batches are inexpensive, notes from rare banks, towns and states can be quite valuable.  A single note sold in 2010 at a Walla Walla Heritage Auction for $161,000.  

Each note tells its own tale has the ability to take one back to a time and place before.  At the Stamp & Coin Place, we are curious about the past as it leaves its mark on the present.  Check out some of our rare National Bank Notes at The Stamp & Coin Place shop!

“The Devil’s Hair” Canadian Banknote Controversy

Official currency printed by the government can be prone to mistakes – or, in the case of the 1954 ‘Devil’s Hair’ Canadian bank note, prone to accidental hidden images.

In 1952 the Bank of Canada asked George Gundersen from the British American Bank Note Company to design a bill featuring Queen Elizabeth II. Gundersen based his design on a photographic portrait of the Queen, only changing it slightly to remove her crown and add detail to the top of her hair.

Straightforward enough, right? But the illustration turned out a little different than expected.

All seemed fine until the government put the bill in circulation, when someone complained to the Bank of Canada that they could see the devil’s face in the Queen’s hair. Soon multiple complaints poured in.

Seeing patterns, especially faces, in random data is an almost universal human trait called ‘apophenia’.

They saw the image just over the Queen’s left ear: a grinning demon with horns embedded in the Queen’s hair, the threatening shape formed by the coiffed curls and highlights of her hair. Was this some kind of conspiracy?

The image in question, showing a grinning face with horns.

The image in question, showing a grinning face with horns.

Of course this alarmed the bank, and in 1956 they modified the design to NOT show a devilish grinning face, by darkening the highlights of the hair.

Though some looked for an explanation of the occurence, most attributed it to coincidence. Some suspected the bill designer of planting the face, but he denied any claims.

Years later, some claimed Her Majesty’s portrait photographer, Peter-Dirk Uys, (who took the offending ‘devil’s hair’ portrait) as a follower of Aleister Crowley, an acclaimed devil-worshipper. However, there is no concrete evidence to that claim, and so any conspiracies to that point cannot be proven.

The light probably just so happened to fall on the Queen’s hair in such a way in the original photo, which Gundersen engraved in exact detail for the note.

Now, thanks to a few citizens’ observant eyes and the resulting short issue period of the bill, the “Devil’s Face” banknote is a valued collector’s item. After all, it’s not every day that you find a demon grinning at you from royalty’s hair.


With a closer detail outlining the face

A more detailed account


What You Should Know About Women on Currency

How many women have appeared on American banknotes?


Pocahontas banknote.

While Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, and Sacajawea all have had their moments on coinage, paper money is unsurprisingly full of the faces of dead white dudes. But female contributors to American history do make appearances on dollar bills — or at least they have historically. The Baptism of Pocahontas, a John G. Chapman painting, was reproduced on a $20 banknote in the middle of the 19th century. And in 1886, 1891, and 1896, First Lady Martha Washington appeared on silver certificates (representative money printed from 1878 to 1964, redeemable at the face value of silver dollar coins).military payment cert

Military payment certificates, a retired form of currency that only military and authorized civilians used overseas, have featured far more women. From 1946 to 1973, the lithographed bills featured idealized versions of Lady Liberty, American women, and the helpless victims of foreign powers. These images were not only created and selected for monetary purposes; they reminded soldiers what they were fighting for, and their beauty made who they represented all the more valuable.

The Bank of England announced this year that Jane Austen would be put on a 10-pound note – which sparked enormous controversy with the public.

In the United States, bank notes have not been updated since 1929. People whose faces have “permanent familiarity” to the American public were chosen for the notes. There is no requirement that one has to be a president before being printed on a bill, as Benjamin Franklin’s face on the $100 note proves. In fact, the only real requirements for one to be featured on paper currency are to be American and dead.

What women would be prime candidates for being put on banknotes? Just a few worthy options include Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, and famous writers and abolitionists. The list could go on.

military payment certifiicate 25c

As for choosing faces with “permanent familiarity,” aren’t the faces of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Franklin instantly recognizable at least in part because they appear on banknotes in the first place?

So what do you say: is there room for a woman on future American banknotes?