October was a period of recovery from three frenzied auctions in a
period of less than a month.
Even now, it is worth taking a look at them from more than the
“prices realized” perspective. Different venues and events result in
The two sales in Rosemont, Ill., by Heritage Auctions (163 lots, $3
million) and Stack’s Bowers Galleries (454 lots for $7 million) in
August had an average selling price per lot of over $15,000. This is
in stark contrast to the massive Heritage sale held in conjunction
with the Long Beach Expo just a few weeks later. Its 3,567 lots
resulted in a total take of $4.8 million, a huge number, but an
average price per lot of about $1,350.
Interestingly, in an era when our oft-stated mantra is that federal
large-size type notes are the centerpiece of the market, this category
was represented by only three of the 24 notes that sold for more than
$15,000 at the Long Beach sale. The others were a $10 California
national gold bank note, an early Confederate $100 note, two
small-size notes in top quality, two small-size errors including a
$20/$10 note, and 15 national bank notes, including three
extraordinary uncut sheets from the County First National Bank of
Santa Cruz (California) with every note bearing the serial number 1.
Nationals were about a fifth (775) of all lots in the Long Beach
sale. Especially as prices descended below several hundred dollars, a
significant number of them were uncertified. This is a reflection of
the national bank note market, where the conventional wisdom is
contrary to other areas of collecting. The collector of nationals is
less focused on type than on location, less on quality than on
availability. The diverse ways of collecting them results in a wide
but often thin market. So many nationals have been redeemed and they
have been issued in the names of so many thousands of banks (more than
12,000 banks issued notes, for which there are now about 400,000
examples recorded), that the number extant for any single type of note
can be very small. Following the advice that one should wait to
purchase a higher graded note than one currently being offered will
result in disappointment, because sometimes the highest grade will be
no better than Very Good or Fine.
The Long Beach sale also offered 924 lots of large-size type notes
of which 889 were third-party-graded. The top seller was from another
longtime underappreciated type — Red Seal Federal Reserve notes. At
$38,175 it was a $10 1914 Red Seal Federal Reserve Note graded by PCGS
as Superb Gem New 67 Premium Paper Quality, one of only three graded
this high. The price realized exceeded the previous high for the type.