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Start Looking for the Real $1 Million Note
January 04, 2008

Give U.S. paper money a try in 2008. You might make history in future years by being the first to sell a $1 million small-size note. That day is still quite a ways into the future, but some collectors starting now will still be active when it happens.

It may be fun to chase the items made of gold, silver or platinum that are currently making headlines, but moving along quietly higher are bank notes that the paper money hobby calls small-size currency.

Small-size is basically the current size, which was introduced July 10, 1929, with the notes that went before them being larger. They, quite naturally enough, are called large-size currency. Hobbyists being hobbyists adopted terminology that made distinctions that highlighted the basic difference between the two.

From that point on for a couple of generations, the small-size notes were collected like coin collectors collect Jefferson nickels now. They were there, but compared to the colorful large-size predecessors, they weren't where the action was.

That has been changing since the large-head currency was introduced in 1996 and the pace of change has accelerated since the widespread adoption of third-party grading by paper money collectors.

Newcomers, who come mostly from the coin field, gravitate to what they know. They know a coin grading system that is numbered 1-70, so paper money collectors informally began using numbers. They know third-party coin grading firms, so it is not a leap of faith when the same firm offers third-party paper money grading.

Finally, collectors usually begin in a new field with the most familiar items, and that would be small-size notes. Few people alive today remember using large-size notes.

Besides, large-size notes have gotten expensive. There are still reasonable prices in the small-size field.

If you are looking to collect something for the next 25 or 30 years, that would seem to me to point to something that still has a lot of upside potential left.

These notes will seldom be in the headlines as long as precious metals are making new highs, but someday they will be. Collectors today have the opportunity of getting in, not on the ground floor, but you would need to be around 90 years old for that to truly be the case.

Someday a small-size note will bring $1 million, which means the current rarities will have to rise in price by 25 or 30 times. Which note it will be is now up to you to find. Go for it.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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