The following is the first of a three-part Coin World series
about collecting obsolete notes following the tenacious yet patient
approach exhibited by the late Peter Mayer, prepared by Michele
Orzano for the February 2015 monthly edition of Coin World.
Read the last two parts:
When a collector is tenacious yet patient in the pursuit of a hobby,
that approach can be embraced by others who are willing to learn.
One collector who could serve as a mentor to others was the late
Peter Mayer, who is recognized as one of the hobby’s leading
specialists in obsolete notes.
He pursued obsolete notes with a passion. But not just to acquire
and then store them away. He wanted to study the notes, especially the
vignettes, to discover the stories they had to tell and then share
what he learned with others.
Mayer, 68, died March 8, 2014. He left behind a large trove of proof
and issued obsolete notes primarily from the New England states,
though he placed an extra emphasis on notes from his home state of New Jersey.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries offered Part I of the Peter Mayer
Collection of obsolete note proofs in its Aug. 7, 2014, Rarities Night
Auction during the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of
Money in Rosemont, Ill., and Part II was offered in the firm’s Oct.
30, 2014, Winter Baltimore Auction in conjunction with the Whitman
Part III will be offered in March 2015, and that auction will
conclude the sales of the 800 to 900 obsolete note proofs from Mayer’s collection.
According to Peter Treglia, director of currency at Stack’s Bowers
Galleries, following the March 2015 auction there will be three to
five more sales for the signed and issued obsolete notes from Mayer’s collection.
Treglia said he met Mayer “about 11 years ago at one of the early
[Herb and Martha] Schingoethe sales. His knowledge and dedication to
the hobby was undoubtedly noticed [by anyone] immediately after
meeting with him.”
Mayer’s goals were wide-ranging. Treglia said Mayer tried to buy “an
example from each bank in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.”
First things first: Know what you are pursuing. Obsolete notes were
issued in the 18th and 19th centuries by private banks and other
businesses, and even by state and local governments. Many private
note-issuing banks eventually failed or simply stopped issuing the
notes, thus the “obsolete” moniker.
More than 3,000 private banks in 34 states produced 30,000-plus
varieties of obsolete notes during the mid-1800s at the height of production.
Beginning in the 1860s obsolete notes began to be replaced in
circulation with paper money issued by the federal government.
Know your terminology, too. Obsolete notes are available in several
forms: “issued,” meaning they were placed into circulation;
“unissued,” meaning printed for circulation but not released; and
“proofs,” which are prototypes of a note.
Decide what state or even vignette you will start looking for and
then home in on a specific bank, county, or even a denomination. In
that regard, collecting obsolete notes can be very similar to
collecting national bank notes, Treglia said.
It is apparent from looking at the notes Mayer collected that he
bought notes in the best condition he could afford. It is common to
find obsolete notes in less than perfect condition, or what is
actually better described as “well-handled.”
A collector must know what is available and realize sometimes the
only known examples are in less that perfect condition.
Keep reading about paper money:
Garbo on a note? Sweden recognizes 20th century icons on new series
look for ways to expand knowledge and build your collection of
small-size notes to collect, and many surprising ways to do it,
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