Ever since the recession-induced downturn in the market, we have frequently lamented the dearth of top-quality rarities on the auction scene.
The months of January and February have changed all that, and this is probably the strongest evidence yet that the turnaround is under way.
Focusing first on the Heritage Auctions’ January currency auction during the Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando Jan. 5 to 7, 12 Confederate States of America notes each sold for more than $20,000.
Among U.S. federal currency, the top-grossing lot was a Series 1934 $10,000 Federal Reserve note (Friedberg 2231-b, Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg) that sold for $63,250. The top large-size notes were a Series 1907 $1,000 gold certificate (F-1219e) that sold for $35,937.50; a Series 1905 $20 gold certificate (F-1180) that sold for $29,900; a Series 1891 $2 silver certificate (F-245), sold for $29,900; and a Series 1882 $20 gold certificate (F-1178) that realized $27,600.
Heritage Auctions’ Feb. 3 Signature Currency Auction during the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectible Expo in Long Beach, Calif., provided more with the inclusion of five- and six-figure prices in the large-size category alone.
Leading the group was a Series 1907 $1,000 gold certificate (F-1219e), graded Paper Money Guaranty Choice Uncirculated 64, which reached a top price for the auction of $195,500.
A Series 1890 $100 Treasury or coin note (F-377) in Very Fine 25, known as a “Watermelon note” (the nickname came from the appearance of the zeroes in the denomination on the back of the note), made its first appearance at a public auction since 2008. Only a couple of dozen are known in private hands; this example sold for $161,000.
A magnificent Series 1890 $20 Treasury or coin note (F-372) bearing the low serial number 3 and with a grade of PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 Exceptional Paper Quality, ranks as the second finest known. It sold for $132,250.
A Series 1880 $50 silver certificate (F-327) in PCGS Currency VF-35, said to be one of 11 known, brought $94,875.
Two Series 1869 “Rainbow notes” highlighted the United States note offerings. A $20 note (F-127) in PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ realized $46,000.00, while an example of the elusive $100 denomination (F-168) in PCGS Currency Extremely Fine 45 was hammered down at $138,000.
High-denomination gold certificates in good quality are generally a rare find, so the presence of several of them in one auction is worth a mention.
A Series 1882 $500 gold certificate (F-1216), an eye-appealing specimen, while graded “just” Choice VF-35 by PMG, is nonetheless one of the finest known for this number, and was recognized as such when it went for $32,200.
A Series 1922 $500 gold certificate (F-1217) graded PMG About Uncirculated 55 fetched $92,000 and a Series 1922 $1,000 gold certificate (F-1220) graded PMG EF-45 went for $80,500.
Up next: The Chicago Paper Money Expo auction to be conducted by Lyn Knight Currency Auctions March 8 to 10 in Rosemont, Ill. We will see if the trend continues. ■