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Currency
General Description of Currency Holdings in the North Carolina Collection
by R. Neil Fulghum
Keeper of the North Carolina Collection Gallery

Located in the Louis Round Wilson Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Collection (NCC) is the most comprehensive assemblage of literature on any one state in the nation. In addition to over 250,000 books and other imprints, the NCC contains more than 400,000 photographic images relating to North Carolina's past, along with many artifacts or "museum" objects. Included among these diverse holdings is a collection of obsolete or "antique" currencies. The overwhelming majority of coinage in this collection dates from the twentieth century, with a sizable minority from the 1865-1899 period. In addition, the collection holds a small set of classical Greek and Roman coins (ca. 336 BC to 200 AD). Overall, however, less than ten percent of the NCC's currency collection predates the Civil War, with the most historically valuable specimens being a 24-coin set of gold dollars, quarter-eagles, and half-eagles minted in North Carolina between the 1830s and early 1850s by the family of Christopher Bechtler, Sr. These coins and other artifacts from the state's early gold-rush era are on long-term exhibit in the North Carolina Collection Gallery.

There are noteworthy examples of pre-1861 paper money in the North Carolina Collection's holdings, including a small number of colonial and Revolutionary bills, some very rare early nineteenth-century uncut sheets of merchant scrip, and an interesting assortment of antebellum private bank notes. Civil War issues form by far the largest subgroup in the currency collection and include notes issued by both public and private authorities in this state. With specific concern to North Carolina state notes, more than 30 different basic designs exist. An example of each of these designs can be viewed on this website.

On a national level, the collection also contains numerous examples of paper money issued by the Confederate government. While the North Carolina Collection's holdings of Civil War paper money are not comprehensive, most types and variants of Confederate notes or "nationals" are represented. Unfortunately, no currency issued in 1861 from the Confederacy's first capital—from Montgomery, Alabama—are in the collection; only notes issued from Richmond, Virginia.