Paper Money

Finding value in obsolete notes Readers Ask

Readers Ask column from the June 20, 2016, weekly issue of Coin World:

Over the years I have collected many notes and coins. While I was looking through some of my stuff, I came across a very nice 1844 $20 note of the Seneca County Bank in Waterloo, N.Y.,that I can’t identify and find very little reference to. The Haxby catalog mentions it but has no pictures. I’ve seen Stack’s auctions feature $2 and $3 bills of the bank, but never a $20 bill.

I have gone out to several collectors and feel like someone is trying to take advantage of me — actually, most of them. I’ve gotten offers ranging from $150 to $800.

I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth getting it authenticated, and possibly consigning it along with some other items.

It’s time to pony up for college (twins ). Every little bit will help. 

In 1983, I chose numismatics over the stock market and it’s been a blast. But it served a purpose and now the time has come. Anything you can help me with would be appreciated.

Antonio Goncalves  /  via email

I forwarded the inquiry to paper money specialist Wendell Wolka, who pens the Coin World column “Collecting Paper,” published in the fourth issue of every month.

According to Wolka, the type of note you have is addressed in James A. Haxby’s United States Obsolete Bank Notes 1782-1866, Volume 3. Haxby lists, but does not illustrate your $20 note, which references the Seneca County Bank in Waterloo, N.Y., on its face. 

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Haxby lists the note as N5 — a contemporary, but nongenuine, design for the bank, according to Wolka. It is also identified by Haxby as SENC — Surviving Example Not Confirmed. However, all sorts of notes are listed as SENC, Wolka said. He checked an 1862 Counterfeit Detector book, which does not list this design among genuine issues of the bank. What this all means is that we really don’t know what this note is — genuine issue, counterfeit, or something else.

As for potential value, “This note appears to be well done, and an offer in the $100s does not seem out of line,” Wolka said. “My guess is that it would go for $200 to $400 or so in an auction.”

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