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national bank note anatomy

A national bank note can be very busy and confusing to the average observer.  There are three different numbers, two dates, and four signatures.  All of this information serves a purpose and can be significant.  The shown example is for a "Third Charter Note" more commonly known as a 1902 Red Seal.  The definitions below can be applied to most all large size national currency.

Please examine this national bank note and see the image breakdowns below

National Bank Charter Number
Each national bank was issued a specific identifying number.  This is known as their charter number.  The earlier the bank was chartered the lower the charter number will be.  Charter numbers lower than 100 are considered somewhat more desirable to collectors - otherwise the charter number never adds any value.

National Bank Serial Number
The number in the lower left corner of a national bank note is the bank serial number.  Each time a bank issued a new type of currency, the bank serial number would start at "1".  Many times bankers would save these number 1 notes because they were often the first notes they ever signed.

Treasury Serial Number
The number in the upper right portion of the note is the treasury serial number.  All national bank notes were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington DC, so they issued their own serial numbers.  The numbers have all kinds of different suffixes and prefixes.  In 1925 unique treasury serial numbers were discontinued.

National Bank Officer Signatures
One of the most appealing part of a national bank note is the hand signed signature of the banks' officers.  Typically the president and cashier of the bank would sign here; however, the assistant cashier and vice president sometimes signed notes.  Collectors always prefer hand signed dark signatures.

Treasury Officer Signatures
National bank notes were issued by the treasury department - as such, the Register of the Treasury and the Treasurer of The United States also signed all national bank notes.  Their signatures were printed on, not signed.  Many different people signed these, and there is never any extra value based on treasury signatures.

National Bank Note Plate Letter
Large size national bank notes were printed on sheets, each containing four notes.  Each note on the sheet had the same serial number, the only difference between the notes was the small letter close to each serial number.  The letters are normally A, B, C, or D.  They can be other letters though - they have no bearing on value.

National Bank Note Date Type
Due to the way charter lives were organized, there were three different date types of large size bank notes: series of 1875, series of 1882, and series of 1902.  These dates have nothing to do with when a note was actually printed. 

National Bank Note Plate Date
This is the most notable date on a national bank note.  It generally correlates with when the bank was organized or when the bank received its national charter.  There are several other factors at play with the plate date - none of which are important enough to discuss further here.  This date does not affect the value of a note.

National Bank Securities Clause
This information relates to how the national bank acquired their currency; before 1908 the bank had to deposit bonds in exchange for currency.  "National Currency Secured by United States Bonds Deposited with the Treasurer of the United States of America"