Insights

Uncut 'Educationals' bring $1.1 million

1896 $1, $2, $5 notes in bound presentation set
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By Arthur L. Friedberg Paper Money Market Analyst
Published : 08/24/11
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As prices over the past month continued to reflect their recently attained stability, attention turned to the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, held Aug. 16 to 20 in the Rosemont, Ill., suburb of Chicago.

With hundreds of dealers and thousands of collectors attending, the convention, with its accompanying sales, is a highlight on the numismatic calendar.

Among the auctions, a special session (totaling 55 lots) offered Aug. 17 by Stack’s Bowers Galleries, however, captured the attention of every serious collector, some of whom made it a point to be in Illinois for this auction, if for nothing else.

The Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection of Educational Notes contained more than just the $1, $2 and $5 silver certificates of 1896 that have long been considered the most beautiful examples of American paper currency ever printed.

The collection included a bound presentation set of one uncut sheet each of $1, $2 and $5 denominations, each bearing notes serially numbered 1 to 4, making them the first sheets and notes printed. The lot was hammered down at $1.1 million, which does not include the 15 percent buyer’s fee.

These sheets, as well as a number of the other lots in this session, were sold by this writer’s father, Robert, to the collector Robert F. Schermerhorn in the 1950s, after which they found their way to Bass.
The Bass session also contained a fascinating series of essays and proofs of the three denominations, and photographs of some rejected designs. Many collectors do not realize that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing planned to print a $10 Educational note. It was never issued, but the Bass Collection had proofs of the face of the proposed note, bearing vignettes of Agriculture and Forestry. One of those, lot 5039, a face essay proof of the proposed $10 silver certificate, sold for $25,000.

Two additional sessions in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction were dedicated to United States paper currency and more than 1,200 lots were offered for sale. Included were more than 300 obsolete or “broken bank” notes from the time before there was a federal currency.

Only two Confederate States of America notes were offered in the Stack’s Bowers auction, but they happened to be the two rarest — the $1,000 and $500 issues of 1861. The $1,000 note, lot 5395, sold for $20,000 and the $500 note, lot 5396, sold for $21,150.

Among the federal large-size notes offered were four elusive national gold bank notes, with the highlight being a rare one from Sacramento, Calif., a Series 1872 $5 note issued for the National Gold Bank of D.O. Mills & Co. (Friedberg 1138 in Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg) with serial number 1. PCGS Currency graded the note Extremely Fine 40, and it was estimated to sell for between $300,000 and $500,000. But it went unsold during the public auction.

The auction also offered some $20 Treasury notes in top quality, something we have not seen much of lately; several high-denomination $500 and $1,000 gold certificates; and a nice run of $20, $50, and $100 silver certificates. ■

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