HVB Stiftung Geldscheinsammlung


Albert Pick

Founder of the banknote collection

Albert Pick passed away on Sunday, 22 November 2015 at the age of 93 years, at his home in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. With his passing, the world of banknote collectors has lost a true friend and great advisor, and the numismatic field of notaphily its founder and greatest patron.

Born 15 May 1922 in Cologne, Germany, Albert Pick began collecting banknotes at the age of eight. What started out as a childhood hobby soon became a fully fledged passion. He added tirelessly to his collection, while deepening his knowledge of currencies from every country and period. After serving in the war and completing his studies, Pick founded Cologne-based publishing house Kölner Universitätsverlag in 1946. This he ended up selling in 1964, by which time his collection had grown so extensive that he was no longer able to attend to it properly as a private sideline. He therefore transferred the entire collection to the Bavarian Mortgages and Exchange Bank (Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechselbank, later HypoVereinsbank) and, in return, the bank appointed him its curator.  

Albert Pick set about his new role in Munich with alacrity. The bank awarded him an annual budget, which he put to good use by expanding the collection further. Additionally, he began to write books and catalogues about his field of interest. He launched his literary career in 1964 with Papiergeld, which offered the first historical overview of the field of paper currency and is still a standard reference text today. The original, German edition of his pioneering Catalogue of European Paper Money Since 1900 was published in 1970, with the first English translation hard on its heels in 1971. This was the first attempt at a survey of paper currencies issued and their market value as collectables. The Paper Money Catalogue of the Americas then followed in 1973.

Yet the work that will be forever associated with the name of Pick is the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, first published in 1975 and then in many editions since. This catalogue assigns every banknote ever issued a 'Pick number', meaning that each country's banknotes are numbered sequentially in order of issue. The 'country / P-no.' combination gives every banknote issued worldwide a valid identifier. What the Köchel catalogue is to music lovers, the Pick number is to banknote collectors. 

Since this standard work was first published, there has been a huge surge in knowledge of paper currency. After a few years, the editing and updates could no longer be accomplished by Pick alone, so an editorial team took on the task. Specialised collectors report their new findings to this team, which then incorporates them into the next edition according to issue date.

By the fourth edition in 1984, knowledge about banknotes had already increased to such an extent that the catalogue had to be divided into two volumes: Specialized Issues and General Issues. From 1995, the General Issues volume was then subdivided again into General Issues, 1368 –1960 and Modern Issues, 1961–Present.

During his time as the collection's curator, Pick also wrote a whole series of other books about notaphily, as the study and collection of paper currency is known. Indispensable to the banknote collector are the Papiergeld Lexikon, published in 1978, and the German banknote catalogue Papiergeld-Spezialkatalog Deutschland 1874–1980, published with Uwe Rixen in 1982 and issued in its third edition in 1998. Collectors will equally be familiar with Briefmarkengeld (1970), which deals with postage currency and stamps, as well as with Pick's handbooks on collecting: Handbuch für Sammler und Liebhaber (1967) and Papiergeld sammeln (1971). He has also written countless specialist articles for newspapers and magazines, as well as holding presentations and staging touring exhibitions for HypoVereinsbank branches.

Albert Pick has received numerous prizes and awards, particularly in the USA, the heartland of banknote collecting. He is considered the world's greatest authority in the field of paper curren