Paper Money

High denomination notes reaching higher prices in auctions

Strong bidding drove this Series 1934 $5,000 Federal Reserve Note to a final price of $300,000.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Even five years ago, a price of $480,000 for a 1934 series $10,000 bank note would have been unthinkable. A little over half that price was realistic. But today, as Heritage Auctions says in reporting the results from its Sept. 13 through 15 United States paper money auction, it “is not a huge surprise, given the consistent interest shown in bank notes with the largest denominations.”

The Friedberg 2231-A $10,000 note from the Boston Federal Reserve Bank realizing that price was graded Choice Uncirculated 64 by Paper Money Guarantee, tied for the highest grade among the 18 ever rated by PMG. Among all small-size $10,000 notes, PMG has graded only four others as Choice 64 and five higher, one from the Kansas City district (J), the rest from New York (B). The note just sold, serial number A00000185A, was off the market since 2005 when a bidder paid $66,125 for it at Heritage’s Florida United Numismatists auction. The starting bid this time was more than twice that, at $137,500.

Track & Price records 16 known examples of $10,000 bills from the Boston bank, making them slightly scarcer than those from Chicago, of which 18 are recorded. Only a year ago, at Heritage’s Central States currency auction, a Chicago note, also in PMG Choice Unc. 64, sold for $300,000.

Close behind in the Heritage sale, with a price realized of $300,000 after opening at $125,000 was a Fr. 2221-G $5,000 1934 Federal Reserve Note graded Choice Unc. 64 by PCGS Banknote. This equals the price Heritage sold a PMG Choice Unc. 64 note in May last year, and it is just $12,000 below the all-time price record for the type set in January 2022 by an example from the New York bank that had been off the market since Heritage sold it in September 2007 for $132,250.

Among large-size notes, all $5,000 and $10,000 notes known are held by institutions, making $1,000 the highest collectible face value. One of those, a $1,000 1918 Federal Reserve Note (Fr. 1133-D), captured the auction’s third highest price realized, at $228,000, including the buyer’s premium. The PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 note is one of 14 examples Track & Price lists and is tied for highest graded. It last appeared in a Currency Auctions of America sale in 1997, before the era of third-party grading, when the consignor paid $24,200 for it described as Gem Uncirculated.

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