A Brief History of Colonial & Continental Currency

The issuance of American Colonial currency began in the late 17th Century. It was the first paper money used in the Western Hemisphere. As such, it is older than almost all other foreign currencies now in circulation, for few contemporary governments have existed as long as ours. The original impetus for its issuance and use was to circumvent British laws forbidding the minting of coins by the Colonies.

There are four general categories of early American paper money: 1) Colonial Currency issued by individual Colonies prior to Independence. . 2) Continental Currency issued by the "United Colonies" prior to Independence. 3) Continental Currency issued by the fledgling United States after Independence, and 4) State-issued currency after Independence.

Rare, stunningly ornate Globe Bk, RI $50 ABNCo  proof
Rare, stunningly ornate Globe Bk, RI $50 ABNCo proof

Colonial currency is extremely significant historically in that it recalls early American monetary trade (in Pounds or Spanish Milled Dollars), laws, language, and political figures, many of whom were signers. Most bills were hand-numbered and hand-signed by 2, 3, or more such personalities, whose various roles before, during, and after the Revolutionary War are fodder for endlessly fascinating study and research.

Lacking in sophisticated printing or engraving equipment such as that employed in Europe, platemakers and printers such as Paul Revere and Benjamin Franklin nonetheless devised ingenious methods to create well-designed and durable paper money. One innovation was using thick and sturdy fiber paper that contained natural mica, which not only made the notes resilient but, whether intentionally or not, also imbued them with a bit of "sparkle".

Many bills state: "Tis Death to Counterfeit". To do so would have undermined the American war effort or the post-war economy, which, unfortunately, saw the discontinuance of paper money due to hyper-inflation. The U.S. Constitution, in fact, forbade it, and no circulating Federal paper money was issued again until 1862.

The vast majority of Colonial bills are cut-out or slash-cancelled. Therefore, an uncancelled note in nice condition is worth a premium.

As the only Revolutionary War era collectible still priced within most people's means, early American Currency is drastically undervalued versus coins and stamps of similar age, with several uncirculated issues still available in the $200 to $300 range.

When these bills were printed, the non-native American populace could be counted in the thousands in most colonies. Now that the U.S. population numbers in the hundreds of millions, only a lucky few will ever enjoy the thrill of owning a genuine piece of our early history from "3 centuries ago"!! You might not have a spare $3 million for a copy of the Declaration of the Independence, but $300 or so can still buy you a surprisingly well-preserved 1776 $3 bill. Or, for that matter, a $4, $6 or $8.

What are your comments about these currency and coins?
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