Paper Money

1847 Treasury note tops bidding at Heritage sale

A previously unknown unique signed and issued $500 Treasury note of Jan. 22, 1847, sold for $199,750 at the Heritage Currency Auctions Signature sale on Jan. 8 in Tampa, during the Florida United Numismatists convention. It was the most expensive note in the auction. 

The design is found as number X110C in Gene Hessler’s U.S. Essay, Proof and Specimen Notes, but this note is not an essay, proof or specimen — it actually circulated, as evidenced by the ink-signed endorsements on its back. In fact, the cataloger says that it is the only signed and issued example of any post-War of 1812 or pre-Civil War United States Treasury issues that is not a proof or essay.  

It is dated Jan. 22, 1847, and is signed by both the register of the Treasury and the treasurer of the United States. It was issued under the Act of July 22, 1846, which authorized the issuance of one-year Treasury notes, with an interest rate of 0.1 percent to 5.4 percent. They were issued at par, with the interest payable at redemption. 

Just as with the first issues of U.S. federal currency, which were issued in response to the financial demands of the Civil War, the July 22, 1846, act was a consequence of conflict — the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848. 

Connect with Coin World: 

The act authorized $10,000,000 in Treasury notes, but only $7,687,800 was actually issued, in denominations of $50, $100, $500, and $1,000. In the last Treasury accounting, as of June 30, 1896, $5,900 was still listed as unredeemed, including an entry under the title of “Old Debt, Unadjusted short $1000.”

The note is graded by Paper Money Guaranty as Very Fine 25, with a few pinholes and small internal split, but for a note of this age, rarity and historical significance, any such defects are irrelevant. The note was bought on the floor by a bidder acting as an agent. 

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