The reawakening of activity in the paper money market that we have been speculating about over the past several months is a proven reality.
Auction activity remains the focus of most of our attention, where not only do we see many prices beginning an ascent, but also, and perhaps more important, notes are appearing that have been off the market since the downturn began.
For the past few years we have been able to report few sales greater than $100,000, a common benchmark during the market’s heyday.
The Lyn Knight Currency auction in Memphis, Tenn., during the International Paper Money Show June 9 to 12, changed all that with more than a half dozen such sales recorded.
The market is back!
Leading at $322,000 was one of only 13 known Series 1880 $1,000 United States notes with the signatures of Register of the Treasury J.W. Lyons and U.S. Treasurer Ellis H. Roberts listed as Friedberg 187-j in Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg.
This price eclipsed the previous record for this note by more than $60,000, and was almost four times what this same example brought when it was last sold in 2005. It was graded Extremely Fine 40. A Series 1863 $50 Legal Tender note (F-150) graded About Uncirculated 50 went for $253,000. This, too, last sold in 2005 for $103,500.
Another example of market receptivity was a Series 1886 $20 silver certificate (F-316) in Superb Gem 66 quality that sold for $241,500 and shattered the price record for the type in the process.
A Series 1880 $100 silver certificate in EF-45, F-341, brought $166,750. Also sold for $241,500 was a Series 1907 $1,000 gold certificate, F-1219e, with the signatures of Register of the Treasury Houston Benge Tehee and U.S. Treasurer John Burke. It was graded Choice 64. Interestingly, of the six $1,000 notes making up the Series of 1907, the F-1219e note is by far the most common!
Finally, after nearly three years, a “Watermelon note” reached the market. These popular Series 1890 $100 Treasury/coin notes, F-377, earned their moniker for the rotund shape of the zeroes on the back of the notes.
Long one of the most popular and desirable American currency issues, this one, in Very Fine 25 condition, was sold for $172,500. While this was far from a record for the type, it is the highest ever for such a note in this condition.
Small-size type notes remain stable or on a slight upward trend. Most of the high prices seen for these issues are for special interest items such as low or fancy serial numbers.
As an example, a Series 1934A $10 Federal Reserve note printed for the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, F-2006-G, normally sells for not much more than $40. But when such a note has a serial number such as G77 777 777A, that all changes, as indicated by the sale price of $2,760.
A few fractional currency notes show some slight upward movements, although this segment will remain the realm of a small group of specialists for the foreseeable future.
Values for all 17,000-plus U.S. paper notes are available digitally to all Coin World subscribers. See the box below for details to access the digital edition. ■