Paper Money

Despite ‘repairs,’ $5,000 FRN tops $64,000 at auction

United States paper money activity last month revolved around a pair of trade shows. The first was the Nov. 3 to 6 Whitman Expo in Baltimore. The event is one of the rare times in the course of the year that the nation’s leading paper money dealers convene twice in the same month — close to two dozen of them descended on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and from Nov. 17 to 19, 50 staffed tables at the 31st annual National and World Paper Money Convention of the Professional Currency Dealers Association in Rosemont, Ill.

Between its Nov. 3 floor session in Baltimore and an Internet-only live sale on Nov. 9, Stack’s Bowers Galleries pushed 786 lots across the block. Seeing what met its reserve price and what did not can be as good an indicator of the state of the market as anything. Of the total, 706 lots, or 90 percent, met their reserve. Included among the notes that sold were every large-size note and all but one or two small-size notes. Obsolete notes suffered by comparison, with 40 of about 220 lots failing to sell. 

The auction showed that when a rare item is offered, its grade need not be a compelling factor.

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Three of the top prices went to two small-size and one large-size high-denomination notes. At $64,625, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee, was a Chicago district Series 1934 $5,000 Federal Reserve note (Friedberg 2221-G) in Paper Money Guaranty Extremely Fine 40 Net Repaired. It is remarkable, that with a printing of 6,600 notes, the Chicago notes have the third largest print run among the 11 Federal Reserve districts that issued this series. It is also provides a lesson in why the “notes printed” number is far less important than the current census: Only 230 notes are known for the denomination against a total print run of 70,084. Next, at a relatively bargain-priced $21,150, was a PCGS Currency Gem New 65 Premium Paper Quality Series 1934 $1,000 Federal Reserve note from Dallas. The catalog said this F-2211-K note was the finest known, with only one other in a comparable grade.

The relative scarcity of large-size high-denomination notes is illustrated by the $21,737.50 realized by a pedestrian-looking, but with nine known, extremely scarce Series 1918 $1,000 Federal Reserve note from Atlanta (F-1133-F). PCGS Currency assigned it a grade of Very Fine 25 Apparent, Restorations. Atlanta is one of the more difficult districts for high-denomination notes and there are not many graded better.

Despite their imperfections as described by PCGS Currency, the five great Confederate rarities sold for a combined $98,700. The four 1861 Montgomery issues went as follows: $1,000 VF-30 Apparent, Repaired $19,975; $500 VF-30 Apparent, Restored and Redrawn $25,850; $100 VF-35 Apparent, Repaired $14,100; and $50 About New 50 Apparent, Repaired $17,625. The 1861 Indian Princess $5 note rounded out the group at $21,150 in VF-25 Apparent, Restorations.

The stellar national bank note was a new discovery out of the First National Bank of Vero (Florida). The Series 1902 Plain Back $5 note (F-606) is just the fourth one ever reported from a bank that existed only from 1918 to 1923. PMG described it as grading “Very Fine 30 Net. Stained, Rust.” It sold for $22,325, at the top end of its $15,000 to $25,000 estimate.

The outstanding large-size type note, selling for $14,100, was a PCGS Currency Gem New 66 Premium Paper Quality F-247 Series 1896 $2 silver certificate (from the Educational Note series). 

Want to know what your U.S. paper money is worth? Find out at Coin World's Paper Money Values.

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