The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 49, November 26, 2017, Article 8


The September/October 2017 issue of Paper Money (Official publication of the Society of Paper Money Collectors), included a review of SPMC's Obsoletes Database Project, web site where members can share information and images about obsolete U.S. paper money. Author (and SPMC President) Shawn Hewitt kindly shared the article for publication of an excerpt here. Thanks!

An article in the July/August 2017 issue gave an overview of the project, which has been underway for three years. -Editor

In the previous edition of Paper Money we gave you the 30,000 foot view of the Obsoletes Database Project (ODP) found at Here we’ll get much closer to the ground, so hang on as we come in for a landing.

Before we get too far along I’d like you to check out the home page. Consider this to be a good starting point if you ever get lost. From here you can get to nearly any page on the website, via direct link or the Search utility. As ODP is an SPMC membership benefit, you need to be logged in to get past the home page. In addition to the “above the fold” area on the home page, you’ll see sections for Featured Notes (which are notes deemed worthy in some way by our State Experts (SEs)), Unidentified Notes (which users can help identify), and finally Recently Added Notes. The latter should change frequently as SEs post new notes to the database.

SPMC Obsoletes Database home page

Organizational Overview
There are three main elements associated with an obsolete note: Issuer, Design and Note data. Each Issuer may have multiple Designs, and each Design may have multiple Notes. The ultimate goal of ODP is to have a web page dedicated to each and every one of these. Those colorful boxes on the home page track our progress.

At the highest level, there is the Issuer, whose name or title appears on the note. The Issuer has a few core descriptive pieces of information about it, like its title, place of issue (state, city), business character (genuine, fraudulent) and dates of operation.

Sub-categorical to the Issuer are the Designs of notes it has issued. Designs can be assigned based on obvious or subtle differences, for example, the presence of an overprint. If you’re on the Issuer home page, you’ll see a tab that says “Reported Designs”. Click on that to see what Designs have been reported for that Issuer. Each of the Designs is summarized in a graphical box we call a widget. Click on one to drill into the Design page.

Designs have a great many attributes. Among these are Denomination, Design Type (Bank Note, Scrip, College Currency, etc.), Authenticity (Genuine, Counterfeit, Spurious, etc.), Serial Number Type (Handwritten, Printed), Protector (Overprint, Tint), Protector Color, Dimensions (if not standard bank note size), Printer, Design Details and more.

At the bottom echelon of this hierarchy are the notes themselves. When on the Design page, you’ll see a tab for “Reported Notes”, which will take you a page showing a widget for each of the reported notes. Clicking on one of these will take you its Note page. This includes an image of the particular note, its grade, serial number, etc. One of these notes is designated as the plate note, the one that best represents its design. Additional note information can include its Provenance. Users can claim a note as theirs, and thereby track their collection through the Set Registry, which we will discuss later. For hoard notes, like remainders on the Canal Bank, we can set the Census Count to some large number, so we don’t have the need for duplicate entries of identical notes.

Notice when on a Note page, you’ll see a trail of links near the top, called breadcrumbs, which show you where you are in the hierarchy. You can easily navigate to the higher tiers through those links.

SPMC Obsoletes Database note page

Catalog and IDN Numbers
SPMC has been responsible for publishing a number of state books on obsoletes over the last fifty years. Every one of these has catalog numbers, in a fashion designed by the author that helps collectors identify the different designs available to them. They are usually composed of a prefix identifying the issuer, and a suffix identifying the design. These state book catalog numbers are included in ODP to the extent possible. We’ve actually devised two alternate uniform catalog numbers for ODP, one that is descriptive in nature called the SPMC number, and another that is called the IDN (Issuer / Design / Note) number. The SPMC number should at this time be considered experimental, as SEs are permitted to change them at will, whereas the IDNs are fixed and always will be, the numbers being tied to permanent node numbers in the online database. Notice that the URLs for any given Issuer, Design and Note page embeds those node IDs. For example, the corresponding URLs for a note with IDN 68-4014-24044 are:

• Issuer page:
• Design page:
• Note page:

As a longtime paper money collector and bibliophile, I have a long shelf of great books on obsolete paper money, including most of the SPMC publications. But the amount of information compiled by researchers it stretching the limits of printed publications, requiring multiple thick volumes. The SPMC's effort is still young, but holds great promise for the future.

For more information on the project, contact Shawn Hewitt at -Editor

For more information on the Society of Paper Money Collectors, see:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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