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Fractional Currency Value and Price Guide

Fractional Currency Values


Fractional or postage currency has a rich history. At the beginning of the Civil War people starting hoarding coins for their precious metal content. Coins became difficult to find because of the hoarding. People started to try to use stamps instead of coins as a means of commerce. The government decided to help ease the hoarding issue by issuing “paper coins” also known as postage currency or fractional currency. Fractional currency was first issued on August 21, 1862 and they were last issued on February 15, 1876. Three cents, five cents, ten cents, twenty-five cents, and fifty cents notes were all issued. Fractional currency is physically smaller than other United States money. It also does not have a serial number.

Why Are Some Fractional Notes Rare?

Your average coin shop or casual collector will tell you that all fractional currency is common and has no value. That is not true. Most fractional currency is in fact very common and many are worth just a few dollars; but there are definitely some rare varieties out there. People actually collected fractional currency when it was originally issued. You have to remember that the concept of paper coins was just as strange in the 1860s as it is today. So many issues are common because they were frequently saved as curiosity items. Fractional currency was also printed in extremely high numbers, usually by the millions. A common note in perfect condition could have a value worth close to $50. It is the details that make some fractional currency worth more money than that. Our picture guide below shows you how to tell if what you have is common or rare.

First Issue Postage Currency Notes

The first design of fractional currency was supposed to be very easy to use for the general public. They were issued for the 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent denomination. They were printed between August 21, 1862 and May 29, 1863. The five cent note has a picture of a five cent stamp. The same goes for the ten cent note which has a picture of a ten cent stamps. There were no 25 or 50 cents stamps in the 1860s, so each of those notes had multiple pictures of lower denominations. You can see why this type of money was originally called postage currency. The varieties you need to be aware of here relate to straight edge or perforated edges and whether the note does or does not have the ABNCo monogram. You don't have to have an extreme rarity for your fractional currency to be worth a tremendous amount of money, but it always helps. Click a picture below to learn more about your specific note.

Second Issue Fractional Currency Notes

The term "fractional currency" was first used on the second issue. They were issued from October 10, 1863 to February 23, 1867. The design elements were basically all the same for the 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent denominations. Printing ranges were between 12 million and 60 million, depending on the denomination. Each note was complete with a bronze oval on the front of the bill. This was to help deter counterfeiters. Counterfeiting was a major problem with the first issue of fractional currency. The factors determining rarity here are based on the type of paper each note was printing on, and what kind of surcharges are on the back of it. You can click on a picture below to learn more about each denomination.

Third Issue Fractional Currency Notes

There are two things you should notice about these fractional notes. First, you can see that a three cent denomination was issued. This is the only series that used such a low denomination. You might also notice that all of the notes higher than three cents are all signed by banking officers. These were the first notes from the fractional series to include officer signatures. All third series notes were printed between December 5, 1864 and August 16, 1869. This is the only series to be used during and after the Civil War. Most of these bank notes are extremely common because as a type, millions upon millions were printed. However, our guide below tells you what to look for to determine if you have one of the rare exceptions.

Fourth Issue Fractional Currency Notes

These notes were printed between July 14, 1869 and February 16, 1875. Each note will be signed by Allison and Spinner. All fourth issue fractional notes have a red or green treasury seal. They were the first fractional series to incorporate that design element. This is also the first series to issue a fifteen cent fractional note. A prior fifteen cent note had been designed, but it was never issued. Sadly, as a general rule, all fourth issue fractional notes are very common. However, there are some rare varieties that can be worth more money. Any time we refer to rare varieties, the note itself whether rare or common, has to be in perfect condition to have a collector value of more than $100. Click a denomination below to learn more about its rare varieties.

Fifth Issue Fractional Currency Notes

Now we are really getting into the common stuff. There aren't really any especially rare varieties. In fact, there are just six varieties to the entire series, and that is for all three denominations combined. These fractional notes were issued between July 1874 and February 15, 1876. That is a fairly short printing time period. However, more than 199 million were printed. As we have established, that doesn't leave much room for rarities. Our guide below has more information about printing numbers.

What Other Fractional Currency Is Out There?

If you are lucky then you might have found something better than just a regular issue fractional note. Other items of interest would be proofs, specimens, sheets, packs, experimentals, and shields. Those items are rare enough that they don’t really need their own guide. Just contact us directly if you have a more esoteric fractional currency item.

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