I’ve been collecting paper money for more than 50 years and still
run across the most unusual things from time to time. But nothing in
recent memory has topped an Indiana note that reader John Winter
shared with me recently.
Collectors are aware of many instances of genuine antebellum
obsolete notes being “raised” so that they appeared to be larger
denominations on the same bank.
For example, a criminal would take a genuine $1 note on the
Farmers Bank and change its appearance by eradicating any references
to “1” or “one” on the note and replacing them with a “5” or “V” or “five.”
Sometimes the new higher values were simply pasted over the old,
and sometimes simple plates were used to print the new higher
denominations in place of erased lower values.
Notes from failed banks were often bought up for not much more
than scrap paper value, for “parts,” such as denominational counters
and text. Deception was aided by the facts that thousands of different
notes were in circulation and that information about such frauds was
usually slow in traveling.
Casual money handlers simply had no chance to know what was good
and what was not.
Mr. Winter’s note started out life as a genuine $1 note on Perry
County Bank of Cannelton, Ind. A short time after its entrance into
circulation, a sharper pasted a “V” and a “5” or perhaps two 5s in the
upper corners of the note and pasted a small rectangular tablet
containing FIVE DOLLARS over a similar device with ONE DOLLAR at the
appropriate place in the note’s text (there are records of such
alterations on this bank).
Thus, the criminal achieved a $4 profit ($5 - $1) if he could
successfully pass the note. But that’s not how Winter’s note ended up.
It is clear that someone intentionally removed both top corners of the
note to get rid of the two 5 / V counters. The user then peeled off
the FIVE DOLLARS tablet and wrote ONE DOLLAR in by hand.
So the note bears the unique distinction of being first raised
from $1 to $5 and then lowered back to $1 again. Motivation for the
devaluation from $5 to $1 is hard to understand. About the only
scenario I can think of is that the devaluer decided that, as a raised
note, it would not be redeemed for anything, while a badly damaged $1
note might at least return face value to its owner. I’d love to hear
from anyone else who has ever seen anything like this.
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.