Collector Basics: 'Watermelon' notes

Fat green zeroes inspire refreshing name
By , Coin World
Published : 12/05/14
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Series 1890 and 1891 Treasury or coin notes were issued in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 and $1,000.

A $500 denomination, with a portrait of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, was authorized and a plate was made but only a proof impression of the note is known and no $500 denominations were placed into circulation, according to Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg.

Treasury or coin notes were backed by metallic reserves, according to the Friedberg book. That means the notes were redeemable in actual coin, but where the silver or gold coin was to be paid out was left to the secretary of the U.S. Treasury to decide. 

The Series 1890 notes feature elaborate engraved designs. In fact, the $100 denomination in the series bears a nickname of "Watermelon" because the large zeroes on the back of the note resemble watermelons. Taking it a step further, the $1,000 Treasury notes in the same series are known as “Grand Watermelon" notes for the same design feature on the back, combined with the slang expression "grand" meaning "1,000."

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