Reach for the Stars

Replacement notes have become an integral part of collecting banknotes. Some people collect them as a novelty while others base their entire collection around them.

As replacement notes have become more common to find in circulation, and more people are finding them in their wallets, it begs the question: where did the idea of replacement notes come from?

The printing of US notes is a complicated process, and with the sheer volume of notes being printed each year there are bound to be a few mistakes that can result in damaged or otherwise substandard notes. Sometimes these notes slip past quality control and into circulation; however most are found and removed before they leave for banks. When removed, these damaged notes are replaced with acceptable ones to keep the batch count consistent, hence the name “replacement” notes. As these notes contain a star design at the suffix or prefix of the serial number they have been given the name “star” notes which has become synonymous with replacement notes.

Click image to enlarge.

The designation of replacement notes is slightly different with military payment certificates. In that case replacement notes are designated by their lack of a suffix letter in the serial number.

Image courtesy of: AntiqueMoney.com
Click image to enlarge.

The process of replacing damaged notes wasn't always like this. Pre-1910 whenever a banknote was found to be damaged it was removed from the batch and another banknote was printed with the same serial number to replace the damaged one. As the production of banknotes increased more and more, this method became time consuming and costly and was eventually replaced with the current method.

As other countries began printing money at higher volumes they also ran into the problem of replacing damaged notes. Eventually most countries came up with their own system of creating replacement notes. While some countries like New Zealand and Canada have used a star prefix, as well as other indicators, to designate replacement notes, the most common way has been to use the letter "Z" as a prefix.

Image courtesty of: EastAsiaBankNotes.blogspot.com
Click image to enlarge.

Image courtesy of: Monety.Banknoty.pl
Click image to enlarge.

Image courtesy of: SL Collectors Coin Blog
Click image to enlarge.

Other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, have different designators. The UAE uses the numbers 957 and 991-999 at the beginning of the serial number or they use a special combination of Arabic letters to identify their replacement notes.

Image courtesy of: IslamicBanknotes.com
Click image to enlarge.

With nearly every country creating replacements notes for their currency, there are dozens of different designators. So if you’re a fan of replacement or world notes, be sure to do your research, because you might just have a few in your collection you didn’t know about.


Articles List