Basic and Advanced Fractional Currency Collecting

The miniature notes known as “Fractional Currency” have been highly regarded by numismatists since their first public release over 150 years ago. Collecting a general type set of all denominations from the five issues is quite simple in Extremely Fine grades but becomes quite difficult in Uncirculated states of preservation. Fractional Currency was ultimately the best suited replacement for coins from 1862 to 1876. A few other ideas were tried, including Postage Stamp envelopes and Encased Postage stamps, and while these were both slightly successful, there was little public acceptance when compared to Fractional Currency. All three substitutes were created as the introduction of paper money in 1861 caused severe hoarding of gold and silver coins, with copper following shortly after.

The First Issue Fractional Currency notes were placed into circulation between 1862 and 1863, with a Second Issue then circulating from 1863 to 1867. Counterfeiting was noticed by Treasury officials shortly after the introduction of the Second Series. A Third Issue was then called for and would become the most complex and largest issue in terms of collecting. The first of the Third Issue notes entered circulation during 1864 and consisted of three-cent to 50-cent notes, all with green backs. Later releases of red backed notes were placed into commerce, adding variety to the series. The Fourth Issue implemented a 15-cent note showing the bust of Columbia. It was not widely used by the public and ultimately the denomination ceased to be produced. The popular “Lincoln Face,” 50-cent note was produced within this issue and is quite scarce in Gem states of preservation. The Fourth Issue notes were produced from 1869 to the beginning of 1875 with the final Fifth Issue pieces being produced for only two years during 1874 to 1876.

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