The March 23 Stack’s Bowers Galleries Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo paper money auction realized close to $2 million and confirmed the market uptick we’ve been mentioning the past few months.
No segment of American paper money collecting was ignored. Besides U.S. federal notes, American Colonial and national bank notes, the auction also offered a large selection of a form of Civil War-era emergency currency known as postal envelopes.
These, along with fractional currency notes and encased postage stamps, were among several strategies devised to alleviate the shortage of small change caused by the conflict. As coins disappeared from circulation, postage stamps remained plentiful, but handling them was a filthy mess.
The idea of postal envelopes was advanced by enterprising merchants, to hold a fixed number of stamps with the value therein printed on the outside, thus eliminating the need to handle the sticky contents.
Although these are not as well-known as fractional currency notes, they form an interesting and colorful collection while giving an overview of contemporary commerce in the mid-1800s.
Another important part of the auction was an offering of 17 United States note proofs. These can be considered analogous to patterns for coins and are among the most exclusive paper money collectibles.
The highlight was a rare specimen proof of the Friedberg 201 (Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. Friedberg and Ira S. Friedberg), a $1,000 interest-bearing note, which realized $97,750. Actual notes are unknown.
Among large-size type notes, a Series 1869 $5 United States note, F-64, in gem New 68 brought $40,250. A Series 1880 $20 United States note with a large spiked red seal, F-136, in superb gem New 67 realized $18,400. The famous Series 1896 $5 silver certificate from the “Educational Series,” F-269, said to be among the finest known and graded superb gem New 67, commanded a healthy $43,125.
Among small-size results: A Series 1928 $500 Federal Reserve note printed for the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, F-2201-L, graded gem Uncirculated 66 and described as the finest known, brought $9,200. A very rare Series 1928 $50 gold certificate star note, F-2404*, graded Extremely Fine 40, realized a strong $11,500.
Not on as grand a scale, but no less newsworthy, is the announcement by Doyle New York Auctioneers and Appraisers of a newly discovered small-size national bank note from the First National Bank of White House Station, N.J. It is the first recorded $20 note from this bank, and is classified as an F-1802-1, S-2030.
Only two other national bank notes, both $10 denominations, are known for this bank. It only issued 3,756 small-size notes from 1929 to 1931, with just 300 of those being the $20 denomination.
The consignor found it, according to the auctioneer, with a group of inconsequential items in an old family desk, and was not sure if it was still worth even its face value.
The estimate in Very Fine condition was $6,000 to $8,000. The note was scheduled to be auctioned on April 24, after this issue went to press. ■