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What Does the Friedberg (Fr#) Number Mean in Currency? 

If you have spent much time reading about over currency or browsing currency listings, you have noticed the combination of numbers at the end of a note’s listing. It often appears as (Fr#) followed by a string of digits. The Fr number is known as a Friedberg number, which is an identifier in a system used to describe and catalog U.S. paper currency. 

U.S. currency is issued in series with serial numbers and alphabetical and asterisk serial number prefixes. But that is not the whole story when it comes to paper currency. Some design changes are subtle. There are variations of designs, issues, and subtypes of paper currency. 

U.S. banknotes also feature the signatures of the Secretary and Treasurer. U.S. currency design changes are ongoing as the U.S. Mint stays one step ahead of counterfeiters with each issue. 

The Friedberg Numbering System was developed to make these easier to identify and organize by assigning unique numbers to every issue of banknotes. 

Origins of the Friedberg Numbering System 

Robert Friedberg set out to clarify the distinctions between U.S. currency notes. He authored Paper Money of the United States in 1953 and in it, introduced his numbering system. Since then, his system has been adopted by collectors and dealers to simplify a once-complicated process.  

Paper Money of the United States has been updated throughout the years by his sons, Arthur and Ira, and is now in its 19th edition.  

How are Friedberg Numbers Assigned? 

The system simplifies finding a specific note without lengthy descriptions about the changes made between series. Friedberg numbers are assigned in sequential order based on historical issuance of currency notes. When a new design, series, or variation to a series, like a new signature, is added, it receives a distinct Friedberg number.  

Notable Friedberg Numbers 

Some notable examples of Friedberg numbers are the Demand Notes from the Civil War. These first U.S. currency notes are the lowest numbers since they represent the beginning of the catalog. The $5 Demand Note was assigned to Fr#1, and the $10 Demand Note was given to Fr#9. 

Emergency Issues from World War II represent the advent of lettering used in the Friedberg system. The $1 silver certificates with corresponding Fr#1613, N and Fr#1613, W describe two similar notes with one critical difference. The N and W indicate whether the note is a narrow or a wide design. 

One popular and valuable Friedberg number is the 1928 $100 gold certificate with Fr#2405. This certificate is sought after by collectors for its scarcity and its limited availability adds to its value, making it worth upwards of $5,000. 

Is the Friedberg System Used for Grading? 

The Friedberg system is not a grading system for currency but rather a cataloging system. It might make the most sense to think of the Friedberg system as being similar to the VAM system used to organize and catalog Morgan silver dollars. Another way of looking at Friedberg numbers is that they are like product SKUs. Currency grading is performed by several independent organizations like Paper Money Gauranty (PMG) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) Banknote. 

Are Friedberg Numbers Used for International Currency? 

International currency cataloging follows a similar system with a different name. The Pick number of a foreign currency note is assigned by the system designed by German currency collector Albert Pick. 

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