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New Collector's Tips

What to collect
It can often be difficult to know exactly where to begin when collecting banknotes, but you will probably find a strong attraction to certain countries or periods.

Or maybe an interest in ornithology or nature will guide you; perhaps history or musical instruments will catch your eye. Some suggestions are birds, animals, famous people and/or famous buildings and places, issues created by a particular printer or unusual notes with an interesting history attached. You may decide to collect a selection of notes from your birth year.
Some people collect certain serial numbers, and the list is nigh endless. The most important thing is that your collection has some meaning to you.

Most collectors have more than one area of interest, which is wise; often, when you have collected all the easy-to-find banknotes, you will find you need to play a ‘waiting game’ for your elusive ‘desirables’, and then your secondary area can keep you occupied whilst you wait.

Starter Sets
Many new collectors like to ‘kick off’ their collection with a starter pack of mixed world banknotes. This sometimes helps one decide on the area or type of notes they wish to focus on. Do not be tempted to buy too many of these sets, though.

Reference Books

A great reference guide is ‘The Banknote Book’. This catalogue is always being updated and revised online. I like it because it presents in-depth detailed information, listing all the issue dates of a note, and has excellent quality colour images. Greysheet publishes it and is available in print format and PDF files sold by subscription or individually by chapter.
Click here for more information.


Do try to have access to a Krause World Paper Money catalogue. If you have access to the Internet, then you can buy an older version more cheaply and use dealers’ lists to update. Also, with a second-hand copy, you might feel freer to add your own footnotes, which will increase the value of the catalogue. If you can afford the most up-to-date versions, fair enough, but still write in it (or on copy paper, inserted by the appropriate page), for knowledge will be one of your greatest assets. Keep accurate records of your purchases but away from the notes.

For more information on World Paper Money Catalogues (Pick Catalogues) please click on the following link: www.katespapermoney.co.uk/page.asp?ID=12

Good storage is VITAL! Otherwise, your collection's condition will suffer a loss to you and the collectors who follow and bid for your notes at auction, et cetera.
You mustn’t leave your album on open display, or the sunlight will slowly bleach the colour; this is irreversible. believe me, and do not test the theory with anything but normal circulating currency.

New collectors can find pricing puzzling: “but it’s dearer than the catalogue” or “Why it is so cheap- is it a forgery?”. The problem for cataloguers is that prices are like butterflies, and once you 'put a pin in them and fix them down, they are DEAD and of historical interest only.

Real prices are alive and will vary with supply, opinion, long or short experience and prejudice. Sometimes, the bank issuer can suddenly withdraw fairly common notes, and the prices shoot up in response. Another issuer dumps a load of obsolete notes on the banknote market to clear its vaults for a new series, and then suddenly, dealers appear to be Father Christmas with prices that are an "absolute steal".

At some stage, you should consider joining at least one Society and the IBNS, the Late Colin Narbeth's brain-child, is the best general one to join in the UK. The SPMC, which has a member base centred in the USA, is very good if you collect US notes. There are a few others which will come to your attention one day, no doubt, but they are more localised.

All these societies are run by volunteers who often “work their socks off” so take this into account and be appreciative; if you can do better at the same rate of negative pay, I am sure they would be pleased to hear from you. That is one of the treasures of paper money collecting – the kindness and generosity of so many collectors. This makes it more enjoyable for everyone.

For more information about the International Bank Note Society (IBNS) click on the following link:

Do encourage others to collect, too! Tell them it’s educational, exciting and fun - it is also a good way to learn simple economics.
Collectors learn about degrees of DESIRABILITY and QUALITY as well as the knowledge they pick up about the world in general.

And some food for thought:

Within a few years, will they start refusing cash because of the high costs of delivery and banking? I hope not!

Last updated 06/09/2023