The 17 Most Important US Paper Money Books That Should Be In Your Library

Posted on 8/15/2017

PMG uses many of the books from this list for note identification and authentication purposes.

“Buy the book before you buy the note.” There is a high likelihood that you’ve heard that expression before. The reason behind it is an easy one – the more knowledge you have, the better chance you will make a good purchase. Knowledge is key. The more time you spend with a particular type of note, the more knowledge you will want to seek out. Below is a list of 17 books that should be in every collector's library. These books will help expand your knowledge of paper money and (hopefully) prevent you from purchasing a bad note. Many times, the price of one book is far cheaper then the majority of notes on the market.

This list demonstrates a fairly comprehensive US paper money library. It covers the basic to the more specific. There are plenty of other books that didn’t make the list that PMG has reviewed (Heath's Counterfeit Detector or Ball's Confederate Bond Book) or that folks have talked about in our forums. Are you interested in a more niche area? Find others who collect the same things as you do and compete for the best set over at the PMG Registry, or talk to other collectors about the more technical aspects of a given area via the PMG Chat Boards. There are always more books that come to the market every month (or so it seems). If you are interested in joining a group who likes to talk books then the Numismatic Bibliomania Society may be for you.

PMG uses many of the books from this list on a daily basis for identification and authentication purposes. PMG also utilizes the catalog system from the majority of the books found on this list and then uses these catalog numbers on their label.

Catalog numbers shown on the PMG label offer universally-accepted shorthand for the description and cataloguing of US paper money. These are generally Friedberg (Fr) numbers (as pictured below), but more specialized resources are something also listed (such as notes found in Haxby – NE40G2a).

At-a-glance overview

Below is a quick list of the titles that should be in your numismatic library in alphabetical order by author’s surname. The most recent edition’s ISBN number has been included.

Collector’s Guide to Modern Federal Reserve Notes Robert Azpiazu Whitman Publishing 0794832377
United States Paper Money Errors Dr. Frederick J. Bart Coin & Currency Institute 978-0-87184-250-3
Comprehensive Catalog of Confederate Paper Money Grover C. Criswell BNR Press 978-0-93196-047-5
Collecting Confederate Paper Money Pierre Fricke Pierre Fricke 978-0-9844534-9-8
Paper Money of the United States Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg Coin & Currency Institute 978-0-87184-520-7
Standard Catalog of United States Obsolete Bank Notes 1782-1866 Vol 1 to 4 James A. Haxby Krause Publications 0-87241-043-2
Counterfeiting and Technology Bob McCabe Whitman Publishing 978-079484-395-3
The Early Paper Money of America Eric P. Newman Krause Publications 978-089689-326-9
Comprehensive Catalog of Military Payment Certificates Fred Schwan BNR Press 0-931960-61-4
Standard Guide to Small-Size US Paper Money John Schwartz and Scott Lindquist Krause Publications 978-1-4402-1703-6
Southern States Currency Hugh Shull Whitman Publishing 0794820573
US Error Note Encyclopedia Stephen M. Sullivan US Currency Gallery 978-0-578-04520-7
100 Greatest American Currency Notes David M. Sundman and Q. David Bowers Whitman Publishing 978-0-79482-006-0
Counterfeit Confederate Currency George B. Tremmel Whitman Publishing 0794822908

Review of the top 17 books

Numismatic books are referred to by the author’s surname (example: Friedberg).

Paper Money of the United States

If you were to buy one book from this list, this is the book. It has been in full color since the 19th edition and covers over 260 years of American paper money – from Colonial notes to Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs), to Confederates. The book even covers encased postage stamps and postage envelopes. The official abbreviation for this book is Fr. It is the holy grail in terms of US government issued money. The Friedberg brings so much to the hobby. It has great historical insight as well as a complete catalog of all US issued paper money with evaluations. The 20th edition comes in hardback and e-book.

United States Obsolete Bank Notes

This monster comes in at four volumes and weighs in at over 19 pounds. Although out of print for more than thirty years, Haxby is still the quintessential book for any obsolete bank note collector. The books can still be found on the secondary market or CDs are available through Krause. Single states are also available to purchase if needed. Other publishers have tried to match what Haxby accomplished. However, these books currently remain the preferred choice.

Bonus: For a further understanding of how the banking system worked in early America see Other People’s Money: How Banking Worked in Early American Republic by Sharon Ann Murphy.

Southern States Currency

This is the book to have if you are interested in state run banks during the 1830s to 1870s in the South. Shull retains the catalog number that Criswell put into circulation decades ago. Great care was put into keeping this tradition alive. Inside you will find large color scans alongside 13 states. There isn’t a finer book on southern money than this one.

Confederate Paper Money

This book is the standard reference used by collectors and dealers alike. An amazing account of confederate paper money including possible varieties. Criswell even discusses counterfeit and bogus notes as well. The scans are in black and white, but the information between the covers are invaluable to all collectors.

Bonus: If you still want more confederate paper money books to fill your library, check out Thian’s Register of the Confederate Debt, originally printed in 1880 and again in 1972 detailing every signer of confederate notes.

Bonus: If identifying endorsed interest bearing notes is something of interest then check out McNeil’s second edition (over 900 pages) Confederate Quatermasters, Commissaries and Agents. Only T-39, T-40, and T-41 are discussed. For more information about these types of notes visit Trainmen Society.

Collecting Confederate Paper Money

A companion piece to the above Criswell book. Pierre Fricke goes into further detail by listing and describing the many varieties that can be found in C.S.A. paper money. Fricke cross references Criswell and utilizes his “T” numbers throughout with color scans and census information for the higher valued notes. This book brings forth another collecting dimension. PMG will add the PF and/or the CR number on your C.S.A. note for a $5 fee for each catalog number.

Counterfeit Confederate Currency

The final companion piece to Criswell’s Confederate Paper Money book is Tremmel’s book on Confederate counterfeits. A great resource that includes full color scans of all the various counterfeits. Never be fooled again.

Standard Guide to Small-Size US Paper Money

The go-to for the US small size collector. In its 10th edition, this book has been around for a long time. Over the course of the life of this book, over 260 people have contributed to make it the most sought after and recognizable book for the small size enthusiast. The book has information starting with series 1928 going through series 2006A, along with indispensable knowledge on light versus dark seals and mules. There is even information regarding high denominations: $500 to $10,000. See all the scans in full color throughout this book.

Collector’s Guide to Modern Federal Reserve Notes

This companion book to the above is amazing in the detail it provides giving a more specific breakdown of the FRN by block and serial number range. Azpiazu covers FRNs from 1963-2009, and all denominations (in full color) $1 to $100. By giving such great block-by-block information it would be easy to cherry pick the best of the best (hint hint).

Military Payment Certificates

Schwan lays out an easy to understand and very readable text. The first half of the book is designated to the history and the development of MPC's. During the meat and potatoes portion of the book, Schwan gives full serial number ranges for every MPC ever released. Inside are clear and precise black and white scans. PMG uses the catalog number from this book on our label. If you don’t use these catalog numbers a $5 research fee will be charged for each MPC. A very important reason to get this book. It would pay for itself very quickly.

The Early Paper Money of America

An indepth look at Continental and Colonial currencies. Newman knocks one out of the park utilizing a mixture of black and white and color scans. Clocking in at over 490 pages this book has it all: history, issued notes, counterfeits, sheet information and price evaluation in three grades. An amazing source for those interested in Early American currency.

United States Paper Money Errors

Bart does a great job by combining how the error was printed and what the error looks like with black and white scans. It’s easy to find and identify what error you are looking for. PMG uses the terms in this book when describing an error on our labels. This book by Bart and the companion book that follows (by Sullivan) are the best in the business. They each cover something a little different. Each adds to the existing literature on the subject of US errors.

US Error Note Encyclopedia

Although a few years older than Bart’s book (above) Sullivan still packs a punch. He goes into great detail and there are plenty of errors that are mentioned in this book that aren’t mentioned in Bart. This is why they are companion books and both hold weight. PMG uses the terms in this book when describing an error on our labels.

100 Greatest American Currency Notes

A great coffee table book full of full color photos. It is chock-full of information and history of each note. A great reference to those with little knowledge of the hobby or those new to the hobby. See some of the most spectacular (and expensive) notes throughout American history.

Counterfeiting and Technology

A large book coming in at over 450 pages with full color scans inside. A wonderful historical depiction of the US printing process. McCabe goes into detail regarding the founding of the Secret Service as well as the unscrupulous people in and out of the counterfeiting business. It mixes history and science to weave together a wonderful learning experience.

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