Mention third-party grading and most people’s minds picture gem
Uncirculated notes nestled in the polyester embrace of their favorite
grading service’s holders.
For most obsolete paper money collectors, however, third-party
grading is a minor consideration, or at least it should be. Here’s why.
Most obsolete paper money is quite rare on both a relative and
absolute basis. Great rarities abound, with perhaps only one or two
surviving examples known.
Don’t walk away from a rare note just because it has condition
issues. You may never find another one, and if you do, you will
usually find a willing buyer for the note that you have been able to upgrade.
Most obsolete notes circulated to the verge of physical
destruction. Knowledgeable collectors understand and accept this and
collect notes based on their rarity and not simply because the notes
are in flawless condition.
Most obsolete notes in perfect condition are so-called
“remainders.” When a bank closed, failed or stopped issuing particular
notes, uncut sheets of unissued or partially issued notes were often
left over. Many of these notes have come down to us today after these
sheets were cut up to be sold as individual notes. Notes from the
Canal Bank of New Orleans, for example, are still very common today
and almost always come as Crisp Uncirculated examples.
Fully issued examples in more humble grades are worth multiples of
the high-grade notes’ valuation.
Another example is the Franklin Silk Co. notes from Ohio. Due to
the discovery of a cache of uncut sheets a number of years ago,
virtually every note known is a very high grade, unissued remainder.
Again, they all grade high and they’re all common. The true rarities
are two fully issued notes that grade Very Good and sell for six to 10
times the price of their perfect condition brethren.
The price curve on obsolete bank notes is quite flat compared to
coins. Most notes come in just a few grades, maybe “wretched,”
“decent” and “really nice” with the prices for this range of
conditions going from $50 to $250. And remember, many of the great
rarities may not come in those higher two grades.
As proof of this situation with obsoletes, consider this. When was
the last time you ever saw a dealer and collector of obsolete paper
money arguing over whether the note was Very Good or Fine?
I’ve never seen it happen and I bet you haven’t either! Enjoy
these rarities for what they are.
Wendell Wolka has been a paper money collector and educator for
more than 40 years. If you have questions or suggestions, you can
reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at
Box 1211, Greenwood, IN 46142. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope
if a written response is required.