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Paper money errors in printing likely began with the original Guttenberg press. These mistakes are aberrations of the production process. They fascinate the viewer and challenge the collector.
Since the introduction of currency during the T'ang dynasty in China (659-655 AD), collectors have assembled holdings for their historical, artistic, and potential investment attractive. Such collectors typically build groupings of "type" notes, primarily. A parallel group of collectors has sought specimens with accidental blunders, enjoying the unusual, and gaining insight into the overall production sequence.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is the branch of the Treasury Department responsible for printing our nation's paper money. It employs a sophisticated routine consisting of both electronic and human inspectors attempting to thwart the release of imperfect notes. Although overwhelmingly effective, the Bureau produces more than nine billion pieces of currency per year. An infinitesimally minuscule amount of error notes escape. Any mistake released through normal banking channels is perfectly legal to own.
Bank tellers typically discover errors. In turn, the tellers sell the errors to us, either directly or through an intermediary network of coin and paper money dealers who do not specialize in this fascinating arena.
Paper money errors possess enormous appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers and collectors. Most people already familiar with a "normal" note, marvel at the obvious deviation and frequently assume that such a piece must be worth a king's ransom. Although error notes have always commanded a premium above a generic example of the same, errors are surprisingly affordable especially in light of their relative and absolute rarity.
Collectors of errors are as individual as the errors themselves. Assembling a collection of errors by variety is a challenging and rewarding pursuit. There are twenty-four distinct varieties of paper money errors. Some collectors are satisfied acquiring one example from each type or variety without regard to denomination. More ambitious collectors amass denomination sets ($1-$5-$10-$20-$50-$100) of each variety. Still others, collectors without regard to an overall game plan or theme, simply purchase notes that appeal to them. Regardless of the route selected, collecting errors can be an ongoing and stimulating form of pride, relaxation, and enjoyment.