Small Size Varieties

Posted on 9/28/2010

With the Registry Awards this month, I wanted to touch on some of the new Small Size varieties we’ve added to the Registry. These varieties can be confusing, but are important for collectors to understand.

Light Green / Dark Green Seals — Two different-colored Treasury seals exist on 1928 and 1934 series Federal Reserve Notes (FRN). Sometime between 1930 and 1932 the seal was changed from dark green to a vivid yellow-green. However, all 1928C and 1928D FRNs have the yellow-green versus the dark green Treasury seal. In addition, 1928 and 1928A plates were still in use after the color change; therefore, yellow-green seals are found in these series as well. This color change was gradual, so collectors have been able to observe the variations in color in both series.

The vivid yellow-green Treasury seals were printed until 1938 when the Bureau of Engraving & Printing changed to a darker blue-green seal. This change was also gradual, so there are variations in color throughout the 1934 issues. Due to this variation, we grade all notes with transitional colored seals as dark green. The best way to determine which color seal you have is to compare it to a light green seal. If compared to a dark green seal, the seal will always appear lighter in transitional varieties. An excellent reference is on the back cover of the ninth edition of The Standard Guide to Small Size US Paper Money.

Wide and Narrow Varieties — These varieties are found in several different series and have different rules. On $5 1928F Legal Tenders, $5 1934D Silver Certificates and $5 1950 Federal Reserve Notes, a small circle on the back in the bottom-right corner determines the variety. Three double lines in the right half of the circle designate wide and two double lines designate narrow. An easy way to recognize these varieties is to use the back plate number ranges (exp. $5 1934D Silver Certificate wide I range is BP#2007 and lower).

Another example of a wide and narrow variety is the $1 1935D Silver Certificate. On the back of the note, the wide or narrow design is visible below “ONE DOLLAR.” Again, these varieties are easier to differentiate by using the back plate number ranges. There are other wide and narrow varieties, but the basic rule of thumb is to use back plate number ranges to make a final determination.

Mules — A mule is a note with a micro-sized plate number on one side and a macro-sized plate number on the other. Micro plate numbers are 0.6 mm and macro plate numbers are 1.0 mm in height. Mules were issued from 1934 to 1953 when the last 12-subject sheets were retired and replaced by 18-subject plates.

The 1934 and 1934A $5 Silver Certificates are examples of mules. Both series have the same signature combination of Julian-Morgenthau. The only difference is the size of the plate numbers. During the transition to macro-sized plate numbers, both micro and macro plates were in use. Whenever one of each size was found on a note, a mule was created. There are some series that have a specific plate number (637 or 629) that determine the mule and are very collectible.

Late Finished Plates — Another variety that came about due to the combination of micro- and macro-sized plate numbers is the Late Finished Plate variety. Early in production, micro-sized plate numbers were used, but they were discontinued after a long delay. Due to the late finish use of macro numbers in production, the “Late Finish” variety was created. Before this information was known, they were called “Trial Notes.”

Experimental Notes — Experimental notes were created on a trial basis for various testing purposes. The most common experimental notes are the “R” and “S” varieties of the 1935A Silver Certificate. These varieties were created and released into circulation for statistical feedback. Since very few were redeemed, no changes resulted from the test. The most recent experimental notes were the 1977A $1 Federal Reserve Notes printed on Natick test paper in 1981.

Hopefully this information will be helpful as you search for these varieties to fill your sets. Having the right information will give you confidence when searching and it is always good to ask questions along the way. The ninth edition of The Standard Guide to Small Size US Paper Money by John Schwartz and Scott Lindquist is an excellent resource for Small Size currency and should be owned by all Small Size collectors.

If you have a question, go to Ask PMG, a moderated forum where PMG Customer Service and graders respond to your questions.

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