National Bank Note Types - Series 1902 Plain Back

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The Act of April 12, 1902 allowed existing National Banks to receive a 20 year extension, and also called for a new series of note designs to be issued. Over the next 28 years, there were 3 distinct types of Series 1902 bank notes issued: 1902 Red Seal, 1902 Date Back and 1902 Plain Back. Plain Backs are by far the most common type of the surviving Series 1902 bank notes, with 80% of the total notes reported. Red Seals are the rarest type with only 5% of the total Series 1902 notes reported, and Date Backs are in between with 15%.

Plain Backs were the third of the Series 1902 Types to be issued. These notes used the same front and back designs as the 1902 Date Back series, with the 1902 - 1908 dates removed from the backs, which is why they are called Plain Backs. They were first issued in 1915, after the expiration of the Aldrich-Vreeland Act on June 30, 1915. 1902 Plain Backs were issued to newly chartered National Banks, and were also issued to existing National Banks when their stock of 1902 Date Backs was used up. Unlike previous Series Types, the Bank Serial numbers did not start over at 1 with the new Type. Plain Backs were issued from 1915 through 1929. Series 1902 Plain Backs were issued in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100, and in plate combinations of 5-5-5-5, 10-10-10-10, 10-10-10-20 and 50-50-50-100.

1902 Plain Back Varieties

Changes in the overprinting of Geographical letters and Treasury Serial numbers resulted in three distinct varieties of 1902 Plain Backs, which help indicate when a note was printed.

Starting in March of 1902, all National Bank Notes were overprinted with a Geographical letter to help with the sorting of redeemed notes. The country was divided into six regions: N-Northeast, E-East, S-South, M-Midwest, W-West and P-Pacific. These Geographical letters served their purpose well, but changes in sorting procedures in 1924 rendered them obsolete. Starting March 5, 1924, the Geographical letters were no longer overprinted on National Bank Notes.

Treasury Serial numbers (with a letter prefix and suffix) were overprinted on all National Bank Notes from the beginning in 1863, and were used for accounting and security purposes. These numbers were printed in the upper right corner, and were Sheet Numbers, so each note on the sheet had the same Treasury Serial number. On August 22, 1925, the printing of Treasury Serial numbers was discontinued and replaced with duplicate Bank Serial numbers.

These printing changes resulted in three varieties of 1902 Plain Backs:

  • 1915 - March 4, 1924: With Geographical letter, With Treasury Serial number.
(See $10 & $20 notes below for examples of this variety)
  • March 5, 1924 - August 22, 1925: Without Geographical letter, With Treasury Serial number.
(See $5 note below)
  • August 23, 1925 - 1929: Without Geographical letter, Without Treasury Serial number.
(See $50 & $100 notes below with duplicate Bank Serial numbers)

Following are front and back images of 1902 Plain Back notes for each of the 5 denominations issued:

$5 Series 1902 Plain Back issued by First National Bank of Perham, MN.
$10 Series 1902 Plain Back issued by First National Bank of Paynesville, MN.
$20 Series 1902 Plain Back issued by First National Bank of Beresford, SD.
$50 Series 1902 Plain Back issued by Omaha National Bank of Omaha, NE. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,
$100 Series 1902 Plain Back issued by Pacific National Bank of Los Angeles, CA. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

Return to An Overview of National Bank Note Types issued 1863-1935


  • Don C. Kelly, National Bank Notes, A Guide with Prices. 6th Edition (Oxford, OH: The Paper Money Institute, 2008).
  • Dean Oakes and John Hickman, Standard Catalog of National Bank Notes. 2nd Edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1990).
  • Peter Huntoon, United States Large Size National Bank Notes (Laramie, WY: The Society of Paper Money Collectors, 1995).
  • The National Bank Note Census,
  • Heritage Auction Archives,