Rare small-size notes the focus of paper money in Stack's Bowers and Sotheby's sale

A 'Paper Money News' column from the June 15, 2015, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 05/29/15
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Only 30 of the 109 lots offered at the “Rarities Auction” conducted by Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s on May 20 were U.S. paper money, and the auction continued the recent emphasis on small-size high-denomination notes. These, thanks to the dispersal of a large holding, have been appearing for sale lately in a proportion that far exceeds what should be expected. 

Topping them all in the auction, at $164,500, was a lot sold to an Internet bidder, a Paper Money Guaranty Choice Uncirculated 64 $5,000 Federal Reserve note from the St. Louis district (Friedberg 2221-H ). Government records show that 2,400 of the notes were printed for the district, the same number as for the Richmond, Kansas City, and Dallas districts. In comparison, a different example of the note graded PMG Choice Extremely Fine 45 Net was sold by Heritage for $94,000 on April 24 at the Central States Numismatic show. Also at CSNS, a Chicago District $5,000 Federal Reserve note (F-2221-G) graded PMG Choice Uncirculated 64, but with the “EPQ” designation for “Exceptional Paper Quality” given, coincidentally also brought $164,500. (All prices given include the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.) The results at the two different auctions show pricing apparently consistent across the market.

Owing to an exhibit of a hundred $10,000 notes that was on display at Binion’s Horseshoe and Casino in Las Vegas from 1954 to 1999 and was sold in 2000, the $10,000 denomination is considered more available than the $5,000. However, just one $10,000 note was offered in the Rarities Auction, as opposed to four $5,000 notes, and it was not from the Binion hoard. It was graded by PMG at About Uncirculated 58 Net, Closed Pinholes, and sold for $102,812.50.

Interesting in terms of quantity as well as quality, were two high-denomination lots with notes bearing sequential serial numbers. One lot was a quarter pack, or 25 examples, of $500 Chicago notes (F-2202-G) graded from Choice Uncirculated 64 to Gem Uncirculated 65 by PMG that realized just under $73,500. 

A group of seven similar $1,000 Chicago notes (F-2212-G) went for $35,250. Both results were not much different than the expected combined results if the notes were offered individually. 

The rarity of these $500 and $1,000 notes — bringing prices that were just over five times their face value — pales in comparison to the much scarcer $5,000 and $10,000 denominations.

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