Glossary of Money Terminology


Aes Rude – Earliest form of Roman money whereby lumps of bronze traded by weight due to its utility value to be used to weapons or tools.


Aes Grave – Early Roman bronze coinage that was cast into standardized coins with a recognizable image.


Aes Signatum – Broze Ingots with an idealized intended weight of 5 pounds that circulated during the 3rd century BC.

Allied Military Currency (AMC) – notes used in WWII by Allied military forces. These were issued for use in such places as France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Altered Note – this is a piece of paper money which has had one or more of its prominent features changed in order to make it worth more.  This could also apply to a previously devalued note which has had a fake overprint applied in an effort to make it acceptable in a country where the old notes have been officially overprinted.


Antoninianus – A Roman silver coin valued at two denarii first issued by the Roman Emperor Caracalla.

Republic As 265-241BC

As – (plural asses) Roman coin that began equal to one pound. The as was introduced in ca. 280 BC as a large cast bronze coin during the Roman Republic. The following fractions of the as were also produced: the bes (2/3), semis (1/2), quincunx (5/12), triens (1/3), quadrans (1/4), sextans (1/6), uncia (1/12, also a common weight unit), and semuncia (1/24), as well as multiples of the as, the dupondius (2), sestertius (2.5), tressis (3), quadrussis (4), quinquessis. There were 12 uncia that were divisions of the As.


Assignat – this is a note of the French Revolution from the 1790’s.  This money was not backed by gold or silver but by seized Church property.

RomeDecAureus 3

Aureus – (plural aurei — “golden” taken from the aurora (plural: aurorae or auroras) from the Latin word aurora, “sunrise”) was a gold coin of ancient Rome valued at 25 silver denarii. The aureus was regularly issued from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century AD, when it was replaced by the solidus. The aureus is about the same size as the denarius, but is heavier due to the higher density of gold.Roman Gold Coin

Back – the side opposite the face of a note, basically the paper money equivalent of the reverse of a coin.


Banknote (Bank Note) – this can be spelled as one word or two.  While this term has come to indicate any paper money, its true meaning distinguished paper notes issued by an actual bank that during the 17th century began as private banks and later became to include notes issued by government sanctioned central banks as illustrated here with a note issued in 1694 by the Bank of England.

BrokenBankNote-1Broken Banknote – this is a note of the 19th century which became non negotiable or worthless as money due to the issuing bank going out of business.  Sometimes a bank was never really in business but issued notes as a money-making scheme. This type of bank was called a wildcat bank.

Cancelled Note – one which has had its legal tender status removed and been declared worthless. Cancellation may be performed by punch or pin perforation, cut cancellation or an overprint.

Cartones – basically these are cardboard issues from the Mexican Revolution years which were presumably issued to help with the shortage of coins during the war.

German_National_Bank_BankCheck 1867

Check – These have been around for quite a while and are essentially paper instruments ordering a bank to pay out a sum of money to a specified individual or organization, usually after being signed or stamped. Often old checks are collected along with paper currency.  Many are very ornate.

College Currency – In the course of teaching business practices and the handling of currency, some business schools in the late 1800’s produced their own fake ‘banknotes’ for use by students in the classroom. These are highly collectible today.


Colonial Currency – Specifically the paper money issues in North America while under the rule of Great Britain prior to the Revolution, from about 1690 to 1774.

Commemorative Note – Similar to a commemorative coin, such a note is made to commemorate a specific person, persons, or event.  It should be noted that there are far fewer different commemorative notes than there are coins.

1863CompoundIntNotes $50

Compound Interest Note – Currency that circulated issued during the Civil War that paid a compound interest rate while it was in circulation effectively creating a bearer form of circulating bond.

Contemporary Counterfeit – A counterfeit note which was made during the time the genuine notes were circulating. Generally this term refers to an old counterfeit of an old note, as opposed to a modern reproduction or counterfeit of an old note.  Many old contemporary counterfeits today are worth as much or more than the notes that they were supposed to be imitating.


Continental Currency – These were banknotes issued during the American Revolution from 1775 to 1779 by the Continental Congress.  The expression “Not worth a Continental” comes from the fact that the currency rapidly lost its value during the war. Today, of course, these notes are highly valued by collectors.


Counterfeit Currency issued by Foreign Governments – Paper money forgeries created to pass as the genuine item were often created by foreign governments in time of war to undermine their opponent’s currency as illustrated here by a Nazi counterfeit of a British Banknote.

Counterfoil – Certain old notes had basically a detachable stub which would be kept by the issuer as a record of the note having been issued.

Juno Moneta

Currency – Our term “currency” is derived from the Latin word “currere” meaning “to run” or “to flow” and this is where the MONEY flowed from the Temple of Juno Moneta giving us the word “CURRENCY” meaning the flow of MONEY. This is why Juno Moneta is pictured on Roman coins as holding the balance scales in one hand and a cornucopia in the other symbolizing endless bounty or wealth. This is the birth of the term CURRENCY.

Demonitized Note – Similar to a cancelled note in that the legal tender status and redemption value of the note has been removed.  A demonetized note has not necessary been cancelled, however.


Denarius – (plural: denarii) In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation until it was replace by a double denarius known as the antoninianus issued by Caracalla. The word denarius is derived from the Latin dēnī “containing ten”, as its value was 10 asses that is denoted by the Roman numeral “X” behind the bust of Roma signifying its value.

Devil’s Head – This describes an early Canadian note vignette of Queen Elizabeth II which, it was said, contained a likeness of the devil in her hair. There was a hue and cry raised over this and the Queen’s hairdo was modified as in this vignette.  It could be said a “Devil’s Head” note is one that has been demonetized.

Educational Note

Educational Note – This refers to any of three issued U. S. large size silver certificates from the 1896 series. They are in $1, $2 and $5 denominations and are considered by many to be the ultimate in beauty as far as U. S. paper currency is concerned.


Encased Postage – Postage Stamps that were encased and circulated as coinage during the Civil War.

Error Note – Any banknote which after printing is not of the quality intended for release, for whatever reason. It may be smudged, be lacking some part of the printing, the serial numbers might not match up, etc.

Essay Note – This is a design of a trial note which may have subsequently been authorized or rejected by the issuing authority. It may be used to test the viability of the design or to check the difficulties of manufacture.

Face – The front of a piece of paper money, basically the paper money equivalent of the obverse of a coin.

Fantasy Note – This is a fake note of a design or denomination that may not even have existed. Some of these can look quite real to the casual observer.

Federal Reserve Bank Note – This is a special type of U. S. currency issued sporadically from 1915 to 1933 by the country’s Federal Reserve banks.


Federal Reserve Note – Sounds like the above but actually these notes are issued through the Federal Reserve banking system but backed up by the Federal Government and comprise almost all of the notes you’ll encounter in circulation today. They’ve been around in one form or another since 1914.

Foxing – This may be considered sort of the paper money hobby’s equivalent to toning on a coin, except that the yellow-brown stains of varying intensity which are foxing are generally undesirable, whereas toning on a coin may be desirable  depending on who you talk to.  Generally considered a minor defect unless its a really noticeable stain.

Fractional 50c 4th issue

Fractional Currency – In general, banknotes of a value less than one of the issuing authority’s standard units.  When talking about U. S. paper money, this term refers to the less than a dollar denominated, government-issued notes from 1862 to 1876.


Gold Certificate – A note issued by the United States which was at one time redeemable in gold coin for the face value.  Issued between 1863 and 1922, these certificates are all still worth their face value today but can no longer be exchanged for gold.  Other countries have issued notes redeemable in gold from time to time.


Greenback – This term generally refers to all of the U. S. Federal Government issued notes since 1861, reflecting the absence of an interest payment schedule or gold backing

Guilloche – This is the technical name for a geometric design found on many banknotes. Generally these guilloches are used not only to make the note look pretty but to make it tough to copy, thus they are a security device.

Handsigned Note – One which has one or more actual autographed signatures of an authorized person. Signatures may also be engraved or handstamped.

Hell Banknote – A fantasy note which has been created specifically for use in Chinese funerals, where these notes are burned.

Hologram – A special type of photographic film used in 3D imaging. These are sometimes used on notes as a security device although their use has been somewhat limited to date. It’s a relatively new technology.  You’ll see holograms on many credit cards.


Inflation Note – This type of note has an extremely high denomination and generally is seen in countries where massive inflation rates are occurring due perhaps to war or other severe economic pressures.  Examples in the 20th century include post WWI Germany, post WWII Hungary and present-day Yugoslavia, where multi-billion-dinara notes were issued a few years back.

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Interest-bearing Note – This is a piece of currency upon which is written a promise to pay interest after a specified passage of time.

Invasion Note – Any note issued by a country’s military to troops during the course of an invasion into another country.  This term has also come to represent JIM notes, explained next.

Japanese Invasion of Malaya $1 Bank Note 1942 - 1945

Japanese Invasion Money (JIM NOTE) – This currency was issued by Japan during the Second World War for use in countries which they had overrun and occupied, including Burma and the Philippines.

Military Currency – Any note officially issued solely for the use of its armed forces by a country’s military. If it’s issued in an occupied country by these military forces, it’s often called occupation currency.

Military Payment Certificate (MPC) – These certificates comprise several series of U. S. military notes issued solely for use by its military and only in establishments of the U. S. armed forces. The idea behind these was to prevent or limit activities by military forces with respect to the black market.

National_Currency 1929

National Currency – U. S. banks with a federal charter issued these notes which are also called national bank notes. They were backed by Treasury bonds and were issued from 1863 to 1935.


Notgeld – this term means ’emergency money’ and is applied to some early 20th century local German issues as well as a number of other countries.  A lot of the later so-called notgeld were actually issued as souvenirs and collectibles and have much less rarity and value, though they are still enthusiastically collected by a number of people today.

Overprint – This is an extra printing which has been added to a note sometime after the note’s original issue and it’s been added by the authorized issuer or successor. These overprints may serve as cancellations or as a means of changing the value of a note.

Paper Money – This is a generalized term that represents all money produced in the form of a paper note.  It also is applied, however, to certain items produced from bark, plastic, cardboard and other materials.

Pick Number – The catalog number of a note listed in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, the hobby’s bible. Each number is unique for any one country. You could have a P-1 for Bolivia and a P-1 for Brazil, but they would be totally different notes.

Plate Number – A small number that sometimes appears on currency showing the number of the plate used to print it. These numbers are especially in use on U. S. paper money.  If you’ve heard of the term “web note,” you use the location and style of plate number to determine whether or not you have a web note, that is, a U. S. Federal Reserve note that has been printed within the last several years on an experimental press known as a “web press.”


Playing Card Money – This was a type of emergency issue produced by the French colonial authorities in Canada sporadically between the late 17th century and mid-18th century due to a major shortage of coinage.  Basically they cut up actual playing cards into pieces and marked them as currency.


Political Protest Note – Generally a characterization of an official mote that has been altered for a political statement. These have existed throughout the centuries. Illustrated here is a protest note against the death penalty to possess a counterfeit note rather than to create one meaning numerous innocent people were being executed to accepting such a note.

Portrait – This is a person’s picture appearing on a piece of currency.

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Postage Currency – Currency issued by the United States during the civil war period backed by postage stanps.


P.O.W. Note – Currency produced for use in POW camps by prisoners of war under terms of the Geneva Convention.

Proof Note – This is a design of a note and may be complete or not but was not issued for general circulation. As such, serial numbers and signatures are lacking and often there are punch holes through the area where the signatures would normally appear.  Proofs are produced to test the technical operation of the press and the quality of the results, among other reasons.  Sometimes proofs exist in colors different from the genuine issues and may represent color trials.

1943 Nazi Propaganda Note

Propaganda Note – This is a copy of a note with some sort of message printed on it as this 1943 Nazi Propaganda note.  A note like this often produced by a country which is at war with another.  The country might plant or airdrop a bunch of these phony propaganda notes onto the enemy’s soil so they would be picked up and read.

Radar Note – One whose serial number reads the same, forward or backward.  Some collectors, particularly those of U. S. currency, collect paper money with radar serial numbers.

Rag – A very well-worn piece of paper money, generally in an uncollectible state except for rarer issues.

Ragpicker – A slang term for a paper money collector, i. e. one who sorts thru rags, seeking out the collectible items.

Raised Note – one which has had its original value raised by means of an overprint from the issuing authority.  A raised note can also refer to one which has been altered in appearance in some way by unscrupulous individuals in the hopes of passing it as a higher value note.

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Refunding Certificate 1879 – Was a circulating bond. Due to an act of Congress in 1879 the Refunding Certificate was issued. The goal was to make government securities accessible to the public. The denomination was smallish at $10.00, putting the certificate within reach of most anyone. Refunding Certificates were to accrue interest at 4% per year indefinitely. In 1907 Congress passed a bill halting the interest on the refunding certificateThis 1907 act rendered them redeemable for $21.30, the amount of accrued interest + Principal from 1879 to 1907.

Reissued Note – one which has been withdrawn from circulation and then put back in later on.

Remainder – an unissued or unfinished note which never was placed into circulation by the authority backing it.  A remainder usually is missing some aspect of the typical issued note, usually a date or signatures, and sometimes a serial number as well.

Replacement Note – one which has been issued to replace a damaged, destroyed or lost note.  You can usually identify a replacement note by its serial number.  Some, such as on U. S. currency, have a star at the beginning of the serial number.  Thus, replacement notes of the United States are known as “star notes.”  Notes from other countries might have an asterisk, or start with the letter R or the number 9, for example, depending on the country.  Usually a replacement note is in demand, depending of course on its condition, because it’s quite a bit scarcer than the so-called regular notes.


Rentenmark – The Rentenmark replaced the Papiermark. Due to the economic crises in Germany after World War I, there was no gold available to back the currency. Therefore the Rentenbank, which issued the Rentenmark, mortgaged land and industrial goods worth 3.2 billion Rentenmark to back the new currency. The Rentenmark was introduced at a rate 1 Rentenmark = 1012 Mark, establishing an exchange rate of 1 United States dollar = 4.2 RM.

Revalidated Note – a note which was made no longer legal tender, then restamped and re-released as legal tender currency at a later date.


Safe Conduct Pass – this is a variety of propaganda note that promises safe conduct to enemy soldiers who surrender and turn in the note. These passes are usually airdropped behind enemy lines.


Scrip – this is a type of substitute paper money that can be used to purchase goods or services or may be redeemable for cash in some instances.

Security Strip – this is a special strip of material inserted into a note during manufacture that may be magnetic or can glow under ultraviolet light or utilize some other property that helps to make counterfeiting that note a little more difficult. The more recent U. S. Federal Reserve notes from denominations of $10 up have a security strip in them.  The newly redesigned notes have a strip that glows under uv light.  To the casual observer, the strip can sometimes look like a fold in the note.

Serial Number – This is a system used in the majority of currency issued to keep track of the number of notes in circulation and to make counterfeiting more difficult because each note has a unique number. These numbers can be important to the collector, who often has a passion for low or special numbers. A bill with a serial number consisting of all the same numerals, for example, is highly sought after.


Sestertius – The sestertius, or sesterce, (pl. sestertii) was an ancient Roman coin. During the Roman Republic it was a small, silver coin issued only on rare occasions. During the Imperial Roman Empire it became a large brass coin first issued by Augustus (27BC-14AD). The name sestertius (originally semis-tertius) means “2 ½”, the coin’s original value in asses, and is a combination of semis “half” and tertius “third”, that is, “the third half” (0 ½ being the first half and 1 ½ the second half) or “half the third” (two units plus half the third unit, or halfway between the second unit and the third).


Shinplaster – slang term for U. S. continental currency notes issued during the American Revolution.  Because of their nearly worthless status at the time, the notes were said to be good only to stuff in your boots to fill the holes and keep your legs and feet warm.  This term also has been applied to small fractional notes from the U. S. and Canada.

Short Snorter – refers to one or more notes which have been autographed as souvenirs, especially by members of an armed forces group. These are collected by a number of individuals today.

Siege Note

Siege Note – a type of emergency currency issued during a siege to reduce a money shortage usually caused by hoarding.

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Silver Certificate – a U. S. banknote which guaranteed payment of its face value in silver by the U. S. Treasury. These are still legal tender but are no longer redeemable for silver.

Small Size Currency – this generally refers to U. S. paper money issued on and after July 10, 1929.  It is quite a bit smaller in size than the older so-called large size note shown here.

Specimen – a sample currency note, often but not necessarily with serial numbers of all zeroes. The original purpose of such notes was to provide banks and other agencies with examples of newly-issued money.  A number of such specimens have been created expressly to satisfy collector demand.  Some of these were regular-issue notes simply overstamped “SPECIMEN” in the official language of the issuing nation.  In most examples of specimens, they are over- stamped in this way.

Stage Money – these are facsimile notes or totally concocted notes for use in movies, tv shows, theatrical performances, etc. and are sought after by some currency collectors.

Stutter Note – a note which has a serial number that is a repeating number.

Uncut Sheet – this refers to a sheet of paper money which was how it was printed prior to being cut up.  Obviously there are different numbers of notes to a sheet for different countries or different historical times.  Many obsolete “broken” banknotes were printed four to a sheet.  Modern U. S. currency is printed with 32 notes to a sheet and is said to be a 32-subject sheet.  Partial sheets, where the complete sheet has been cut up into smaller sections, also exist for some notes.  U. S. currency sheets are available at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in $1, $2, & $5 denominations.  They are also available by mail order from the Bureau and also sometimes from dealers and at certain coin shows where the Treasury sets up an exhibit.

Uniface – a note which has been printed only only one side.  Many old U. S. “broken” banknotes are uniface notes.

Validation Stamp – generally a rubber-stamped, hand-applied impression placed on a note to authorize it’s use in a certain area or to validate the issue in some way.  It could also be used to change the original value of a note or to re-issue a previously withdrawn note.

Vampire Note

Vampire Note – this is a slang term for a certain German 10,000 mark note design, of which there are a couple of size varieties and two different back types of the larger size note.  It’s referred to as the “Vampire Note” because, if you turn the bill a certain way, it was said you could see a vampire reportedly sucking the blood out of the neck of the German worker pictured.  This is the German equivalent of the Canadian “Devil’s Head” note.

Victory Notes

Victory Note – this is any of a series of Phillipine notes issued from 1944 to 1949 with the word “Victory” overprinted in large letters on the back. These coincided with the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces to recapture the Philippines from the Japanese in World War II.

Vignette – This is any picture or scene on a note other than a portrait.

Watermark – During the production of some paper, a special mark or design is implanted into the paper which is usually only visible or fully visible when the paper is held up to a light source.  Watermarks have been used by many countries as a security device for their notes for quite a long time.  The United States finally adopted a watermark for use in the newly-redesigned Federal Reserve notes.

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