Syngraphics is the study and collection of paper money. It is a vibrant aspect of currency collecting, with specimens sometimes fetching high prices at auction. Gene Hessler coined the term in 1974, and specialists amass collections of banknotes from specific regions or time periods. Paper currency can have value for a variety of reasons, and singraphics is studied in museums and forensic laboratories.
Syngraphics is the study and collection of paper money. This branch of numismatics may not be as well known as coin collecting, but it’s actually a pretty vibrant aspect of the greater currency collecting community, and individual paper money samples have sometimes fetched high prices at auction due to rarity or of unusual circumstances. Several individuals in the numismatic field specialize in singraphics.
This term was coined in 1974 by Gene Hessler, a singraphics specialist. He borrowed the concept from the idea of a singraph, a payable contract signed by all parties involved. In a sense, paper money is a form of singraph, a contract signed by the government or issuing authority, as paper money has no intrinsic value, and in many cases paper money is no longer even backed by a standard of precious metals, making its worth even more ephemeral.
Those who specialize in singraphics typically amass a large collection of banknotes, which may come from a specific region or time period, or may span multiple regions and eras. Because paper money is more prone to decay than metal coinage, it must be well cared for to survive, and singraphic specimens are typically of a more recent vintage than many collector coins. In addition to a collection of physical currency, guides for evaluating new specimens may also be kept on hand.
Just like coins, paper currency can have value for a variety of reasons. Currency issued by a country that no longer exists is often valuable as a collector’s or general interest item, for example, as is paper money that is only produced in limited quantities. Even currency with misprints such as misrecording can be valuable simply because it’s unusual. Someone who studies singraphics can determine the value of a currency specimen brought to him or her for appraisal, and some specialists can also make conservation recommendations to ensure that the money is kept as pristine as possible.
Besides being a commercial field, singraphics is also studied in museums and forensic laboratories. Museums can rely on singraphics to authenticate the paper money samples on display and use numismatic research to learn more about the cultures and regions they study. In forensics, singraphics can be used to determine whether or not money is counterfeit and to learn more about the origins of physical currency involved in criminal cases.