Anatomy of a South Carolina National Banknote

The below diagrams, though kindergarten-like in their colors, show the “need to know” information that was shown in each bank note. 


Charter NumberYellow Box – This is the unique identifying number for each bank.  In the case of South Carolina it will always be a four or five digit number.  The very earliest notes printed did not feature the bank’s charter number, as is the case with the Chester note.

Bank Serial NumberRed Box – For each type of note issued the bank would start at serial number one.  The Spartanburg example shows number “48700”.  That means that the note is from the 48,700th sheet printed for that type for bank.  Each sheet consisted of four notes.  

Treasury Serial NumberLight Green Box – The Bureau of Engraving and Printing actually printed all the notes for every bank across the county.  They had to keep track of all of the notes printed, thus each note has a treasury serial number.  This number will have many different prefix and suffix letters.

Plate PositionDark Green Circle – This letter signifies which part of the sheet the note was cut from.  In most cases the letter will be either A-B-C-D.  In some cases it could be E-F-G-H; however, those would only be used for large banks that issued hundreds of thousands of notes.  The “A” note is considered to be the top of the sheet.

Type of NoteLight Blue Box – Although in the shown example it is difficult to read, this will denote what type of note the bill is.  In Spartanburg’s case it is “series of 1902.”  It could also be series of 1875, series of 1882, or series of 1929.  The very earliest notes printed, like the Chester, did not say which series, thus they are referred to as “original series notes.”

SignaturesOrange Boxes – Most bank notes will have four signatures.  The top left is that of the Register of the Treasury.  The top right is the Treasurer of The United States.  The two bottom signatures will be bank specific.  The one on the bottom left is the cashier’s and the right is the president.  Some banks allowed vice presidents or assistant cashiers to sign notes.  The cashier was usually the day to day manager of the bank while the president was sometimes more of a community leader with a stake in the bank; the president was not always involved in the day to day operations of the bank.

Charter DateBlue Box – This date is always a bit confusing.  In some cases it refers to the day the bank received its national charter.  In other cases it is the date in which the note plates were engraved.  As a general rule of thumb though, it had little to do with when the note was actually printed.  If the bank is old, the date usually refers to 20, 40, or 60 years after the bank was originally chartered.  In the scheme of things it has no importance as to value or desirability of a note.