While many obsolete notes were legal and sincere efforts to provide a useful medium for exchange, many others were intended to defraud the bearer. The obsolete period was one of little or no government regulation, poor communication, and a poorly informed and illiterate public.
Fraudulent notes exist in a number of varieties, and the following discussion is based on Haxby (see References).
|Counterfeit notes. Unauthorized copies of genuine notes, meant to defraud or otherwise fool the public. One famous counterfeiter was Samuel J. Upham of Philadelphia. Working during the Civil War, Upham counterfeited Southern and Confederate notes, both as a novelty and possibly to be used to harm the Confederate economy. This collection contains two Upham counterfeits, one from the Bank of Tennessee, the other from the Corporation of Richmond, Virginia.|
|Raised notes. Genuine notes that have had the denomination changed to one higher than that of issue. There are no such notes in this collection.|
|Spurious notes. Notes that do not actually copy another genuine note, although they may have some similarities to actual issues. A note from an actual issuer but of a non-existent denomination is an example. There are no such notes in this collection.|
|Altered notes. Genuine notes, usually from a bank gone broke, altered to change the issuer to some other bank, generally one still doing business. The genuine Thames Bank of Laurel, Indiana 2 dollar note was widely altered. This collection has several such altered notes, all from the Indiana Thames Bank note: the State Bank (Newark, NJ), the Mystic Bank (Mystic, CT), the Thames Bank (Norwich, CT), the Conway Bank (Conway, MA), the Safety Fund Bank (Boston, MA), the Taunton Bank (Taunton, MA), and others.|