National Currency bank notes are easily identified by the words National Currency at the top of the note.
Also, every national currency bank note will have the words national bank somewhere on the front of the bill.
There is only one bank that doesn't have national in the title, The Bank of North America, Philadelphia.
Not coincidentally this bank was the first chartered bank in the country.
National Currency circulated from 1863 to 1935. The notes come in five series 1863, 1875, 1882, 1902 and 1929.
A group of citizens would send an amount to the Fed who would issue a charter.
Common names for these charters were like "First National Bank of..." or "Citizens National Bank of..."
Holders of the charter had the right but not the obligation to issue currency.
If the bank did issue currency the Fed would print the notes and send them back the bank officers to sign.
In this way, people of the community knew the money was good because it's store of value was backed by the bonds.
The previous system of state banking failed because each state would have their own reporting and accounting
standards (or none at all). Because of this, State banks were well known to default on their obligations.
The best feature of national notes is that they have the name of the bank, town and state where they were issued.
This feature makes them highly collectible and generally national currency is collected by state or town.
To see a great collection of national currency check out:
The Bebee Collection at the ANA Museum.