Con Lore column from Feb. 15, 2016, issue of Coin World:
In the 1800s and early 1900s, crooks enriched themselves by “raising” bills — making low denomination bills look like bigger ones. Using ink, erasers, scrapers and bits taken from other bills, crooks commonly converted $1 bills to $10 notes and $2 notes to $20 bills.
Contemporary newspaper stories about raised bills make for interesting reading but lead, too, to mourning for the bills that were damaged in the fraud.
The Milwaukee Journal reported May 13, 1891, about a Series 1886 $1 silver certificate that had been raised. “The characters in every instance necessary are altered to read ‘ten,’ ‘10,’ or ‘X,’ as the case demanded,” the paper reported.
The work, the paper reported, was “coarse” but good enough to “pass undetected in the press of business.”
Today a Choice Uncirculated example of the note retails for upwards of $2,000. Raised bills were confiscated and destroyed.
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The Old National Bank in Spokane, Wash., took in a $2 silver certificate that had been raised to $5 on April 14, 1908. The Spokesman-Review reported, “The four large figure ‘twos’ in the corners had been skillfully converted into ‘fives,’ and wherever the word ‘two’ appeared in letters on either side of the bill it had been altered to ‘five.’
“Evidently the most difficult problem that confronted the swindling artist was the very large ‘2’ in blue and surrounded by an ornament design in the lower left corner. Despairing of converting this into a ‘5’ the man who tampered with the note had entirely erased it, in doing which he left that part of the note mutilated by holes.”
The description, except for the location of the blue 2, appears to fit the Series 1899 $2 silver certificate. In Crisp Uncirculated condition, common varieties start at $1,200.