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Colonial Currency Paper Money

The system of currency in colonial America was not a uniform one. Many foreign coins circulated as viable currency, especially Spanish dollars. The colonies officially used the pound system, but even between individual colonies, the value of the pound was not fixed.

These problems were exacerbated by Great Britain's policies concerning paper currency printed in the colonies. Although allowed until 1751, Britain eventually revoked colonial currency's ability to be used as legal tender for private merchants in New England. Britain also forbade New England colonies from printing more bills, but further legislation in 1773 allowed the colonies to print paper currency once again. With the advent of the Revolutionary War, the colonies issued temporary fiat currency payable upon victory over the British. This move was unsuccessfully duplicated by the Confederate States of American during the Civil War.

Colonial currency is a challenging medium for collecting. Relatively few bills survive to this day, and even those that do survive vary tremendously in their desirability. Some feature signatures from noteworthy historical figures, while others have significant images or legends. Still others have passed through the hands of powerful families and have achieved a pedigree by virtue of previous owners.


Quick Facts

  • The common use of the Spanish dollar in the colonies is seen as a driving factor behind the creation of the American dollar rather than an American pound
  • The Smithsonian Institute has successfully assembled a 13-colony set featuring one bill from each colony. Many of the bills included in the collection include signatures by men who also signed the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution
  • A five-shilling bill dated August 18, 1775 sold at auction for $70,500 in 2013. The bill features Paul Revere holding a sword and is professionally graded as Choice New 63 PPQ, an outstanding grade

Recommended Items at Auction

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Maryland Colonial Currency March 1, 1770 $2 FR-MD-56 Grades xf details
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
Maryland Colonial Currency March 1, 1770 $2 FR-MD-56 Grades xf details
by Key Date Coins
Est: $225- $450
$602 Bids
May 1, 1758 New Jersey Six Pounds Colonial Note - **FINE!**
Dec 03, 7:00 PM EST
May 1, 1758 New Jersey Six Pounds Colonial Note - **FINE!**
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$162 Bids
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Very Fine 25 Magna Charta
Dec 02, 7:00 AM PST
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Very Fine 25 Magna Charta
by BK Auctions
Est: $210- $240
$10 Bids
December 1771 North Carolina 1 Pound Colonial Note PMG Choice About Unc. 58EPQ
Dec 02, 7:00 AM PST
December 1771 North Carolina 1 Pound Colonial Note PMG Choice About Unc. 58EPQ
by BK Auctions
Est: $350- $400
$10 Bids
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Very Fine 30 Magna Charta
Dec 04, 7:00 AM PST
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Very Fine 30 Magna Charta
by BK Auctions
Est: $250- $300
$10 Bids
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Extremely Fine 40 Magna Charta
Dec 04, 7:00 AM PST
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Extremely Fine 40 Magna Charta
by BK Auctions
Est: $375- $425
$10 Bids
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Very Fine 25 Magna Charta
Dec 03, 7:00 AM PST
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial Note NC-142 PMG Very Fine 25 Magna Charta
by BK Auctions
Est: $210- $240
$10 Bids
December 1771 5 Shillings North Carolina Colonial Note NC-137 Legacy About New 50
Dec 04, 7:00 AM PST
December 1771 5 Shillings North Carolina Colonial Note NC-137 Legacy About New 50
by BK Auctions
Est: $240- $280
$10 Bids
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial NC-142 PMG About Uncirculated 53 Magna Charta
Dec 02, 7:00 AM PST
1771 North Carolina 3 Pounds Colonial NC-142 PMG About Uncirculated 53 Magna Charta
by BK Auctions
Est: $750- $850
$10 Bids
April 10, 1774 Maryland $2 Colonial Currency Note
Dec 02, 7:00 AM PST
April 10, 1774 Maryland $2 Colonial Currency Note
by BK Auctions
Est: $180- $210
$10 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Colonial Currency Paper Money


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Key Date Coins

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