The International Paper Money Show in Memphis,
Tenn., June 13 to 15, reaffirmed two things: the continued strength of
the paper money market, and the way the Internet has changed it.
The 131 tables on the dealer bourse reflected the full range of
paper money collecting, a worldwide assembly of the esoteric and the
popular. As always, it was one of the few paper money shows that
offered more than a bourse floor, with exhibits, eight club meetings
and 15 educational sessions, 11 of which were devoted to American subjects.
Dealers were uniform in their opinion that prices are sustaining
their recent show of strength. Meredith Hilton of Kagin’s
observed that the collector’s market “remained strong,” not just for
high-grade rarities, but for common notes, as well.
Allen Mincho of Heritage Auctions remarked that as far as
auction prices are concerned, he has never seen them so
disproportionately higher than published dealer buy/sell prices. His
colleague, Dustin Johnston, an auction director at Heritage, reflected
more broadly on Memphis, noting that few shows offer more surprises
for collectors in terms of newly discovered rarities. As for the
overall market, Johnston felt that national bank notes were making a
strong recovery after a long period of dormancy. While it has never
been a problem to find willing buyers for what are called “trophy”
nationals, today, Johnston said, “common and middle-level notes are
also headed back in the right direction.”
Knight Currency Auctions sale held in conjunction with the show
had three floor sessions with a total of 2,580 lots. As usual, it was
diverse enough to offer something for nearly everyone. The highlights
in the large-size type note category were a rare $5 demand note of
1861 (cataloged as Friedberg 1a in Paper Money of the United
States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg) in PCGS Currency Very
Fine 25, which sold for $46,000; a Series 1869 $50 United States
“Rainbow Note” (F-151), graded PCGS Currency VF-35, hammered down for
$50,600; a Series 1880 $100 United States note (F-176) sold for
$74,750 in Extremely Fine 40 by PCGS Currency; and what was said to be
the second finest known F-1177 note, a Series 1882 $20 gold
certificate graded About Uncirculated 53 by PCGS Currency, which
The length of the sale in terms of the amount of time it took
illustrates the second point. The Internet is now an entrenched
element of the coin and paper money business, offering a partial
explanation for the generally lower level of attendance on bourse
floors, in retail sales, and perhaps most consequentially, in auctions.
As the Saturday session of the Memphis sale approached midnight, the
reason was clear. Not only did the auctioneer need to pay attention to
the those in the room, the bids he had in his book, and those on the
phone, but to a fourth source — those bidding online.
It makes it easier to bid and makes the hobby accessible to a wider
audience. Some feel (correctly or not) that, thanks to third-party
grading, it is no longer necessary to physically inspect notes.
Still, we must ask if the lack of personal contact is a good thing.