Something About Confederate Currency

During the Civil War, the South produced more than two billion dollars' worth of currency. Added to this was probably an equal amount generated by individual states, banks, railroads, city and county governments and businesses.

The first Confederate "blue backs" appeared in 1861 and had a "gold" value of 95 cents on the dollar. Even though they were never accepted as legal tender, they were held in high standing as they were, theoretically, backed with Southern cotton.

Confederate money rapidly deteriorated in value, offering a classic pattern of inflation in a country engaged in a war it was losing. By 1863 the notes were worth 33 cents on the dollar and by the time of surrender, they had dropped to 1.6 cents on the dollar.

The first issue of Confederate money was printed in New York and smuggled South. It was printed in denominations of $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. This was the Montgomery Issue, named after the first capital of the Confederacy.

Many scenes on Confederate bills reflect life in the South or scenes from classic mythology and American literature. In later years, they tended to include vignettes of Confederate heroes and officials: Judah P. Benjamin (Senator from Louisiana, and in the Confederacy: Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of state); Clement Clay (Governor of Alabama, US Senator and CS Senator); Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, R.M.T. Hunter (US senator from Virginia; briefly CS secretary of state and state senator); General Stonewall Jackson, C.G. Memminger (Confederate Secretary of the Treasury 1861 - 1864); Mrs. Lucy Pickens (wife of the Governor of South Carolina), and Vice President, Alexander Stephens.

The value of Confederate money is determined by condition and rarity. The condition of a note is described as uncirculated, designating a brand new note, perfectly clean, evenly cut and crisp; about uncirculated which will be almost as nice as an uncirculated bill, but may have a crease or a smudge;extremely fine denoting a bill that has little evidence of circulation but may have a few light folds or smudges, or may not be perfectly cut, but is otherwise very crisp; very fine which will have a nice, crisp feel, but will have enough folds to indicate it has definitely been circulated; fine designating that the note is generally clean, but shows multiple folds and considerable circulation; very good meaning the note shows evidence of heavy circulation, but no serious damage; good, generally the lowest grade acceptable for serious collecting. These will show excessive wear and may be stained or frayed. Tears are acceptable at this level if they do not cut into the portrait or principle vignette. A description of fair indicates that maybe 10% of the bill is missing. These can be collected, generally, to fill a slot in a collection until a better grade can be found. A poor note has more that 10% of its surface gone and should be acceptable for only the rarest of notes.

The second determiner of value is a note's rarity. Criswell explains the concept of rarity: "Rarity is a simple concept. If only one of an item exists, it is rare. If many exist it is not rare" (Confederate Paper Money 70). Criswell uses a rarity scale of 1 - 11 (the one we use in our catalog descriptions). If a bill has a rarity rating of 1, more than 100,000 such pieces are known to be in existence. A 4 rating indicates that only 4,001 - 10,000 pieces are known. By the time the scale reaches 8, only 51 - 100 pieces are known. A 10 indicates 5 - 15 and an 11 only 1 - 4 notes are known to have survived.

The value of a note can also be increased if there are printing errors or color changes. It can be most interesting to read about the tremendous variants that occur in the money of the Confederacy. To view the Confederate currency we have currently listed in our catalog go to our home page and click the link to Confederate Currency.