I know a lot of people ask, “what is a fun note?”
Well, that is not always so easy to answer, but a fun note (AKA Private issue note, art note, fantasy note) is a note created by an individual but not issued by a bank or authorized by a specific government entity.
The difficulty differentiating between fun notes and real notes (banknotes issued by the monetary authority of the country for use by the people of that country) have led some people to believe that the idea of fun notes to confuse people regarding real notes. This actually is not the case, and I personally go out of my way to ensure that people know the difference between a real banknote and fun note.
First, I am careful to say ‘fun note’, not ‘fun banknote’ – but this was not always the case. However, after extensive conversations among IBNS members, the “sensible” compromise seems to be differentiating ‘fun notes’ by using the terms ‘notes’ and ‘banknotes’ exclusively for real banknotes. I hope this will dispel some of the confusion and help collectors identify what they are buying. The last thing I want to do is mislead a customer.
However, having said that, I think there are a few other elements that can help you differentiate between the two.
Fun notes issued under a real country name are most often issued under a denomination that was never used for real banknotes.
For example, Zanzibar never issued a 1,000 rupees. The highest value issued on real currency was 500 rupee.
Fun notes will sell in UNC grade only. You should never see a circulated fun note.
Fun notes sell for a lot less than the real banknote.
The Zanzibar 500 rupiah note is so rare that the value would be in the tens of thousand dollars. IF you could ever find one – personally in 15 years of collecting/selling I have never seen a real Zanzibar note – the chance of getting one UNC is very remote and would easily double or triple the price.
Most fun notes will state that they are essay notes, specimen notes and/or no value.
Admittedly, sometimes this is very small print, but if you are unsure this is an extra
Finally, and not least important, notes should not be of a size or dimension of a real banknote.
Of course, one would have to know the size of a real banknote and for some of the issues for those extremely rare countries like Panama this information might be difficult to obtain, BUT the artist should and they would open themselves up to legal issues if they ignore this regulation.
Fun Notes are often more intricately designed that real banknotes.
I hope this helps you with deciding whether a note you are buying is a fun note or a real banknote. If you limit your collection to real banknotes I would encourage considering the creative designs of some of the fun notes. Real banknotes tend to be more functional with less design features. Fun notes by definition do no limit the banknote artist’s creativity. You will find many intricately designed notes that you don’t typically see with real banknotes.