Paper Money

1900 $10,000 gold certificate damaged by fire

Fragment of a Series 1900 $10,000 gold certificate is a relic of a December 1935 fire that damaged the warehouse used to stored canceled examples of the note.

Original images courtesy of Alex Cooper Auctions.

Every once in a while, a piece of paper money in awful condition tells a story better than one graded at the top of the scale. Such is the case with a Friedberg 1225h Series 1900 $10,000 gold certificate that was generously graded Fine 12 by PCGS Currency. 

This note, and 79 other paper currency items, is scheduled for sale by Alex Cooper Auctions of Baltimore on March 1. The $10,000 gold certificates of 1900 are the stuff of legend. All have been redeemed and they have no legal tender value. They are collectible because they were in storage at the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 1935, when the building caught fire. When they were thrown from windows onto the street below, the pedestrians who picked them up soon learned they had nothing but souvenirs.

About 500 of them are known today of the 357,000 printed. While many show signs of water or fire damage, they are for the most part in surprisingly decent condition. 

The note in the Cooper auction gives another view of what the response to the fire must have been like. Michael Atkins, who cataloged the sale, remarks that in addition to surviving the fire and the water, this one, once it hit the street, was trampled on in the frenzy, and became a witness to history.

The sale also offers silver and gold certificates, 13 national bank notes from Baltimore banks including what could be the only known First Charter, Series 1875 $10 note (F-417) from the Second National Bank of Baltimore. 

The auction is here.

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