Bank Note Identification

World Banknotes
World Banknotes (Image: Image by, courtesy of Miss Izs)

The term “bank note” is just a fancy way of saying paper money. Bank notes are promissory notes issued by a Central Bank that serves as money. Bank notes have identifying features such as country of origin, serial numbers, authorized signature, value and some, like the United States, where it was specifically made.

Country of Origin

Bank notes have a country of origin located on the bill. This country of origin label can be located anywhere on the bill and can be horizontal or vertical, depending on the country’s design.

Various bank notes
Various bank notes (Image: Image by, courtesy of sarah n)


The most important piece of information for a bank note is its value. The value of a banknote is printed in or near the corners of the bill, often more than once.

United States $2 Bill
United States $2 Bill (Image: Image by, courtesy of Brian Wright)

Serial Number

Bank notes contain traceable serial numbers as a means to trace them if stolen and to weed out counterfeit money.

Fifty Euro Bill
Fifty Euro Bill (Image: Image by, courtesy of Andres Rueda)

Authorized Signature

The authorized signature on each bill is what makes the bill legal tender, similar to when one signs a check, it makes that piece of paper legal tender.

Serial number starting with P, lower left
Serial number starting with P, lower left (Image: Image by, courtesy of Bill Jacobus)

Printing Location

The United States has several printing locations throughout the country. Each banknote is stamped with that location’s specific code. If a bill is stamped with a “G,” it indicates it was printed at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, if it contains an “L”, it came from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Other countries, like Cuba, simply state “National Bank of Cuba”.

Authorized signature, lower right
Authorized signature, lower right (Image: Image by, courtesy of Brian Wright)

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