Confederate Currency

This bill is a $100 note from September of 1861. This is one of my favorites and is certainly one of the more beautiful notes ever issued, Confederate or otherwise.
The South never used dollar signs, but there are a few big "C"s on the note. We've all heard of "C" notes!? >More

Confederate Currency

The Confederate States of America released their first issue of paper money in April, 1861, when their provisional government was only two months old. The Civil War started that same month. The US Congress, on the brink of bankruptcy and pressed to finance the Civil War, authorized the United States Treasury to issue paper money for the first time that same year. The US notes were in the form of non-interest bearing Treasury Notes called Demand Notes.

The total amount of currency issued under the various acts of the Confederate Congress totaled $1.7 billion. Due to the scarcity of metal, however, the Confederacy never issued coins, instead releasing seventy different paper note 'types' between 1861 and 1865. The different types are listed in Grover Criswell's Catalog of Confederate Notes. For some types there are no varieties. Other types have thousands of minute variations, e.g., Crisell lists approximately 140 major and minor varieties of the 1864 $10 (type 68) note.

For a short time after the outbreak of the Civil War, Confederate currency was accepted throughout the South as a medium of exchange with high purchasing power. As the conflict progressed, however, confidence in Confederate success waned, emissions of paper money increased, and dates of redemption on the notes were extended further into the future. The inevitable result was the depreciation of the currency and the soaring prices characteristic of inflation. By the end of the conflict a cake of soap could sell for as much as $50 and an ordinary suit of clothes could sell for as much as $2,700.

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Additional Resources

  • Confederate Paper Money
    This 1996 'Comprehensive Catalog' is the final offering from the late, great patriarch of Confederate Currency, Grover Criswell. His many books are invaluable resources, the latest written with assistance by Douglas Ball, PhD and Hugh Shull.
  • Duke University
    The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University has an incredible collection of Confederate Currency and related materials, most notably the collection of Raphael Thian. They have a searchable on-line catalog.
  • Lyn Knight Auctions
    When you are ready to spend some serious money you might consider checking out a professional auction house. Lyn Knight has beautiful full-color catalogs and archives of previous auctions. A great place to see what serious collectors are paying for serious notes.
  • Register of the Confederate Debt
    Most Confederate notes were hand signed by Confederate widows and veterans. In the 1880s, Raphael Thian, an employee of the US Government, created, among other things, this book that lists the name of the signer of every Confederate note.
  • eBay
    While eBay is a decent place to see some notes and do research, it's not where one would go to find premium notes. But if you are getting started and are looking for a dynamic way to get familiar with the different notes, it can be fun to track the auctions.
  • Hugh Shull - President of PCDA
    Shull's bi-annual catalog is THE reference for prices of and Obsolete Currency. He doesn't have a web site but he can be reached at Box 2522, Lexington, South Carolina, 29071. His phone number is (803) 996-3660.

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