Notes from Montgomery 'Big Six' series garner big bids in Heritage Auction

The Paper Money Page column from the May, 18, 2015, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 05/06/15
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Six examples of Confederate paper currency issued in 1861 sold for a combined total of $198,575 including buyer’s fee in the first session of the CSNS Currency Signature Auction by Heritage Auctions in Schaumburg, Ill., on April 22.

Four of them were the rare Montgomery, Ala., $1,000, $500, $100, and $50 notes issued there in the earliest days of the Confederacy before the move of the capital to Richmond. The other two were the $10 Liberty seated with eagle and shield and $5 Indian princess issues from Richmond.

Confederate collectors refer to this group collectively as the “Big Six.” Pierre Fricke in his 2005 work Collecting Confederate Paper Money remarks that acquiring these notes, particularly in high grade, is difficult.

Leading the way, as would be expected, was the $1,000 note, called “iconic” by the cataloger. It was graded Apparent Very Fine 35 by PCGS Currency and went for $58,750 against an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. When Heritage sold eight of these at the Florida United Numismatists convention auction in 2012, they went for from $18,400 to $37,375.

The $500 note was next at $39,950 in VF-35 Premium Paper Quality by PCGS Currency. The $100 note (PCGS Extremely Fine 40 PPQ) and $50 note (PCGS EF-45) brought $21,150 and $17,625 respectively.

The two Richmond, Va., notes that were among the six notes were printed only for a very short period late in 1861. The $10 note sold for $21,150 and the $5 note for $39,950. Both, Fricke points out, are extremely rare in grades above Fine. The $5 issue was graded VF-20 by PCGS, while the $10 note was graded Fine 15. Each of these was said to be among the finest known.

An 1861 Richmond $5 note in VF-20 with restoration and rust went for $17,625.

Although the monochromatic Richmond notes are not as attractive as the brightly hued Montgomery ones, and are of low quality in terms of both printing and paper, they are of equivalent rarity to the high denomination Montgomery issues.

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