The Banknote Book by Owen Linzmayer

The value of having a good catalog as a guide in building your banknote or coin collection cannot be underestimated. Not having one is akin to driving blind folded. For the past few decades Krause Publication's "Standard Catalog of World Paper Money" or SCWPM series of banknote catalogs has been the "go to" book for every world banknote enthusiast. So much so that one cannot be considered a serious banknote collector if he/she does not posses at least one copy of the SCWPM on his/her bookshelf! After all, SCWPM has been around since 1961, it boasts a whopping 21,000 items in their listing with 13,750 banknotes illustrated.  Given its long history, the dominance of SCWPM as the leading authority in banknote catalogs has been undisputed, until now.

"The Banknote Book" is a compendium of 217 chapters (as of May 2015); one chapter for each country. This book comes in high resolution PDF files which can be easily downloaded for viewing with Adobe Acrobat. Each chapter/country can be bought individually and it costs from US$0.99 to US$9.99 each, depending on the number of pages. But the best deal is get the US$99 per year subscription, in which you will stand to receive ALL the 217 chapters plus any new releases for the coming year.

Now if you are the old school type who prefer a hard copy of the book, there is a 3 volume hardcover print edition available from Spink UK at US$230, excluding shipping cost. They are printed in high quality glossy paper, in full color, unlike SCWPM, but this makes each of the book very very heavy and shipping cost can be as high as the content itself if you are sending it to the Asian region. The downside for the hard copy version is that unlike the PDF version, there are no updates, not yet anyway. When inquired about when the next edition will be out, I was told it may be several years from now. Anyway, being a sucker for books, I bought the set of 3 anyway and it is in alphaNumis libary now. All I can say that it's really solid stuff in there, I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever.

Flipping through the pages, you will find the format of the content very well organized, besides the usual face value/denomination, year of printing and market value, it is packed with additional information such as date of demonetization, replacement note, varieties, high resolution color images of the front and back of each note. Mind you, you're getting a completely UNOBSTRUCTED view of the note. What's more, you have the dimension of the note and prefix information as well.

Now I don't know how many of you out there has experienced this before (if you are old enough!) it's like you are watching color TV for the first time after having grown up with a black and white screen! Believe me, you WILL like the new normal. Don't take my word for it, check out this side-by-side, same scale comparison :

Fig 1 : Side by side comparison of the two catalogs, from PDF versions at 100% magnification.
Fig 2. Owen Linzmayer
By now you must be wondering, who is behind all this. He is none other than Owen Linzmayer, the former editor of the International Banknote Society's (IBNS) journal. He is a writer of several best sellers as well as a world banknote collector. Not surprisingly, this whole project started off with his frustrations of the short comings of the existing banknote catalog.

The first set of 10 chapters was published almost exactly 4 years ago on 9 May 2011. Today it has a total of 2,800+ pages covering 24,500+ types and varieties from 217 countries. That's an average of 50 new countries added per year. And who's behind Owen you may ask? More than 100 avid and dedicated banknote collectors and dealers from around the world have been sending him high resolution images and detailed information on their "discoveries" or collections. The catalog is constantly being updated and you can expect to get emails from Owen every WEEK on new chapter releases. One wonders if he ever takes a vacation! On the other hand, as a fellow collector I can related to his passion or rather obsession; the compulsion to put everything in the right place and it has to be as "perfect" as possible. This is the best part - the book is put together by a collector who truly understands the needs and frustrations of numismatists from around the world, a lot conscious effort has been made in the planning and organizing of this ground breaking book.  If you share his passion and keen to contribute, you can reach him via his website.

In fact his efforts on The Banknote Book was so good, it has gotten Spink's attention and it has since published and currently distributing the hard copy version of the book. Good stuff don't come easy, this is no exception. When asked what was the biggest challenge in putting this book together, his response is the lack of detailed information on individual notes and their security features from the central banks themselves! Which really, comes as a surprise. In the end, information had to be gleaned from several other sources to piece together complete the picture of the banknote or series.

And "which was the hardest country to complete?" Zimbabwe was the answer. Why? The denomination of the notes changed very quickly during the hyperinflation years between 2008 and 2009, the authorities there kept on adding zeroes of the denomination every few weeks until they finally gave up and adopted the US Dollars and South African Rand. It all happened so fast, it was difficult to keep track of what's been produced. So what's ahead? Once all the country chapters are complete, there are plans to cover regional, military notes and private issues as well.

Fig 3: The heavy stuff! 

FYI alphaNumis has officially using The Banknote Bank numbering system (in addition to the Pick numbering) for all the graded banknotes since February 2015.

For those of you who are curious if Malaysia is in the list - the answer is that there is not 1 but 3 chapters for Malaya and Malaysia, check these out:

Fig 4. : Malaya, Malaya & British Borneo and Malaysia chapters

Fig 5 : Sample page from the Malaysia chapter, with signatures clearly illustrated.
Fig 6 : Printing varieties are also clearly documented - in this case for the 12th Series 1 Ringgit.

If you are keen to subscribe for soft copy version of the book, do visit

For the hard copy of the book, you can get them from Spink UK.

If you'd like to do a group buy and save on the total shipping cost, you can contact us at

In the meantime, HAPPY COLLECTING !


  1. The Banknote Book is indeed a MASTERPIECE and this article describes it very well, thank you for switching on the spot light.
    The Banknote Book is well organized, up to date, complete, correct, and above all ... consistent.
    A yearly contribution of 99 USD is neglectible, comparing with what you get on a weekly basis (new chapters and updates).
    As for me, I am adding the BNB numbers to my collection database, using them as the prior number (Pick becomes second).

    I do hope Owen will keep on going, to develop also the "larger" and European countries, so that SCWPM will move more and more to the backside.
    Despite all valid comments and frustrations towards SCWPM (not listed, renumbering, years of lack of updates), unfortunately they remain in their ivory tower, keeping quiet in every language.


  2. Thanks for your comment Erwin.

    I wish Owen all the success too. It is a good and commendable effort on his part. We have been using the BNB numbers for some time now. In fact we use The Banknote Book as a reference to get the appropriate Pick numbers instead!