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New England Commercial Bank

The New England Commercial Bank was incorporated in Newport, Rhode Island in 1818 and continued in business until sometime after 1860. It was standard practice at the time for banks to issue currency. The currency was backed by securities, interest bearing notes, and bonds held by the bank. Often, the banks printed more currency than they were legally allowed to on the basis of their assets. This “wildcat banking” was common at the time. Today these notes are referred to as Obsolete Bank Notes or “Busted Bank Notes.” Due to a change in the fortunes of the U.S after the Civil War, this practice changed and the banks were nationally chartered and presumably more regulated. Obsolete currency is noted for the detailed vignettes and sometimes unusual denominations. These Busted Bank Notes are highly collectible and give us an interesting view into the history of banking and commerce in the U.S.

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The New England Commercial Bank issued 10 series of bank notes with denominations including 1st Series $1 bills, the 5th Series $2 bills, and the 7th Series $5 bills, which were printed from 1818 into the 1860s. The 2nd Series $1.25 bills, the 3rd Series $1.50 bills and the 4th Series $1.75 bills all were printed in the 1830s. The 6th Series $3 bills, the 8th Series $10 bills, the 9th Series $50 bills and the 10th Series $100 bills were printed from the 1820s and into the 1860s. Notes from this issuer range from rare to common.