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Seeing stars?

How much do you take for granted?

In every conversation or email communication I have, there seems to be a number of assumptions that I make.

Most of the time, these assumptions work pretty well and help both the telephone caller or email writer and me get to the meat of the matter.

Sometimes, though, my assumptions can be way off the mark.

I had a telephone call last week from a fellow who liked to examine his paper money. He had either our Standard Guide to Small-Size Paper Money or our Standard Catalog of U.S. Paper Money – possible both.

He simply said had run across something that was not in the book.

I get telephone calls from people who do not even know that guide books of various kinds exist. When I get a call from someone who refers to one or more of our books, my mind gears up to the next level.

In this case, the caller said he had a star note that was different.

The caller knew that star notes are notes that are created as replacements for regular notes that somehow got damaged or were defective in some other way.

The star appears at the end of the serial number instead of the suffix letter that is used on regular notes.

Now the note the caller had was different. I was told that not only did this Series 2009 $10 Federal Reserve Note have a suffix letter, but it also had a star. That is not supposed to happen.

My first thought was that someone was playing games with a photocopier. I told the caller that I assumed that it was an ordinary note, but what he said puzzled me enough that I transferred him to George Cuhaj, who creates and edits our paper money books.

George had the presence of mind to ask the caller to email him an image. Several days later the image arrived.

I was a little bit surprised. What was on the note was simply a dark smudge of some kind. It did not look like a star. It did not look like anything. It did not even look like it belonged with the serial number.

I could never say something to a caller like, “Are you sure it’s a star?” But I guess I will never assume that when someone tells me that they see something that it is in fact what it is.

This was also proof that smart phones are wonderfully useful tools.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."