January auctions of U.S. paper money kick off a new year of action

Heritage auction features wide range of notes, including an interesting album
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 01/23/17
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Four notes sold for four figures and another 30 surpassed $20,000 at one of the paper money market’s bellwether events — the Heritage currency auction at the Florida United Numismatists convention, held this year in Fort Lauderdale from Jan. 5 to 8. The sale’s 2,439 lots brought a total of $6,522,800, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.

The auction was nearly equally divided between large-size and small-size notes, with a significant representation of fractional currency, encased postage, and more than 500 national bank notes, as well. While none was a blockbuster price breakthrough, most lots either closely approached or exceeded their estimates. 

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At $99,875 it wasn’t the most expensive lot in the sale, but a 90-page leather album of a full type set of Confederate currency assembled in about 1880 was perhaps the most interesting. The album was made by New York City coin dealer C.H. Bechtel and was originally sold to collectors for from $3 to $5, a price that, as Heritage mentions, was equivalent to the prices of the most expensive Confederate notes at the time. The album also had some Republic of Texas and Colonial Bank of Canada notes. The value of the notes alone was estimated at about $80,000.

It has been normal lately for small-size high-denomination notes to appear for sale with a frequency belying their actual scarcity. The explanation may be that the prices they are bringing keep luring their holders to bring them onto the market. A quintet of $5,000 and $10,000 Federal Reserve notes realized from $99,875 to $158,625. The highest price was for a Series 1934 $10,000 Federal Reserve note from the New York district (Friedberg 2231-B) in PCGS Currency Gem New 65 that sold actually below its $175,000 estimate. An F-2221-G Series 1934 $5,000 note in Paper Money Guaranty Choice Uncirculated 64 Exceptional Paper Quality with the same estimate met a similar fate — it sold for $146,875. Estimates were based on what similar notes sold for a year ago, but those older prices could have been as much a result of over-exuberance as anything else, considering that two of the other notes exceeded their estimates.

Also above estimate, at $30,550, was the great small-size rarity, an F-1700 Series 1933 $10 silver certificate in PMG Choice Unc. 64. Adding to its appeal was a low serial number: A00000029A.

Any time a California national gold bank note is offered that is not from San Francisco, it deserves attention. A $20 note from the National Gold Bank of Stockton (F-1155) is one of only seven known and the second finest. Its grade of PMG Very Fine 20 Net, Repairs, is actually good for such a note. It sold for $47,000 against a $25,000 low estimate in the first appearance of this number at a sale in nine years.

Large-size type issues contained no real surprises. An F-344 Series 1891 $100 silver certificate graded PCGS Currency VF-30 Apparent, Repair, sold for $39,950, $10,000 more than it sold for in 2011. A Series 1869 $50 United States note (the “Rainbow note”), F-151, came in at $37,600 in PMG VF-25, a grade that does not take into account the factor of eye appeal. And one of 14 known Series 1880 $100 United States notes, F-176, realized $30,550 in a grade of PCGS Currency VF-20.

A pair of Pennsylvania national bank notes broke $30,000. At $32,900 was the only reported F-522 $100 Brown Back note from Philadelphia’s Fourth Street Bank. PMG graded it About Uncirculated 55. A First Charter $50 note from the County National Bank of Clearfield, F-446, graded VF-20 Net by PMG, sold for $30,550; it was only the sixth First Charter $50 national Heritage says it has sold in 16 years. 

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