Learn Grading: What is a Pedigree?

Posted on 1/19/2021

The PMG certification label can include important information about the history of a note after it was issued.

PMG’s Learn Grading column illuminates the techniques, grades and terminology that are used by PMG’s certification team. This methodology provides an accurate and succinct description of a note’s distinguishing characteristics.

This month’s topic is Pedigrees. Though they are not considered part of the grade, pedigrees can hold pertinent information about a particular note's past.

A pedigree is generally used to indicate a banknote’s present or past ownership or another important aspect of a banknote’s history. In numismatics, a note’s provenance can be an important factor in determining its authenticity, and a note that was once part of a famous collection may be more desirable to some collectors.

Pedigrees can be attributed on either the front or the back of the PMG label, or even in both places, as in the example below involving a note that was part of several famous collections. The word "ex" is Latin, meaning "from."

1815 $3 Treasury Note graded PMG Very Fine 25 and pedigreed to the Mike Coltrane Collection, as well as FCC Boyd, JJ Ford, Jim O'Neal and Donald Kagin.
Click images to enlarge.

Banknotes can be pedigreed to any collection, not just the most elite that are familiar to paper money collectors. The note below is pedigreed to the Mark T. Ray Collection, a group of English banknotes offered at a 2020 auction.

Great Britain, Bank of England 1893-1902 London £5 graded PMG 40 Extremely Fine and pedigreed to the Mark T. Ray Collection
Click images to enlarge.

Collections do not have to be named after their owners. The banknote below is among those pedigreed to the Siesta Collection.

1905 $20 Gold Certificate pedigreed to the Siesta Collection.
Click images to enlarge.

Sometimes, a rare note has extra prestige because it was used as a plate note in a numismatic publication. The note below was featured in two catalogs used by paper money researchers.

Argentina 1867 La Provincia de Buenos Ayres 100 Pesos, graded PMG 25 Very Fine and pedigreed as a Plate Note for both the SCWPM Specialized 12th Edition and Paper Money of Argentina, BA-115
Click image to enlarge.

Another type of pedigree is an annotation. The extremely rare note below has a Contemporary Annotation, meaning that someone wrote on the note after it was issued but while it was still relatively new.

Juneau, Territory of Alaska 1882 First National Bank $10 Brown Back note, graded PMG 53 About Uncirculated EPQ with a Contemporary Annotation pedigree.
Click images to enlarge.

The PMG certification label also states that this particular note is Serial Number 1, but fancy serial numbers such as these are not considered pedigrees. (And unlike pedigrees, fancy serial numbers such as this one are listed automatically for no additional fee.)

If a signature is added to the note after its issue, PMG will note this as a Signature Annotation. If PMG is able to determine with a high level of confidence that a handwritten signature on the note matches an official printed signature on the note, it will be pedigreed as a Courtesy Autograph.

Recognition and attribution of pedigrees is at PMG’s sole discretion. Other types of pedigrees include company names, discovery notes, trade shows, charity auctions, important dates and Short Snorters. To learn more about PMG pedigrees and how to request them, click here.

Previous Learn Grading columns:

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