Paper Money

Obsolete notes focus of planned Heritage auctions

Among the notes to be offered in Heritage’s first quarterly U.S. Obsolete Banknotes Showcase auction is a $100 note issued by the Republic of Texas on Jan. 1, 1840, six years before it joined the Union as the 28th state.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Obsolete notes have often been something of an addendum in recent United States paper money auctions, where the focus is understandably on federal currency. Yet, much like national bank notes, the subject area is broad, and the methods of collecting are numerous. The publication in 2018 of the late Don Kelly’s concise yet comprehensive, 624-page, Obsolete Paper Money, A Guide with Prices opened the market to scores of new collectors.

Starting on Oct. 29, Heritage Auction’s paper money team is taking advantage of the growth in that market with the introduction of its first quarterly U.S. Obsolete Banknotes Showcase auction that the auction house says offers obsolete currency valued in the $250 to $2,500 range and will complement its Weekly Select and Signature Currency Auctions. Heritage says each sale will offer hundreds of notes, some of them scarce, others seldom seen.

One example is a $100 note issued by the Republic of Texas on Jan. 1, 1840, six years before it joined the Union as the 28th state on Dec. 29, 1845. It is graded Very Fine 25 Net (for tape repairs and rust) by Paper Money Guaranty. As usual, it is cut canceled.

It is part of the “Lone Star” series. A small star sits at the bottom center of the obverse, and a large star on the reverse has the letters T-E-X-A-S in the its angles. The notes are also called “Austin Redbacks” because of their place of issue and the color of the back, although they are now actually burnt orange in color — perhaps, some speculate, because of the quality of the ink used. Notes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $500 were issued. Only the $500 note is scarcer than the $100 note, but not by much.

The interesting vignette on the $100 note by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson of New York has a passenger train at the left and a sailing ship at the right. The central vignette at top center depicts Commerce flanked by a winged griffin and Mercury.

Another highlight already posted on the Heritage website is a uniface Feb. 1, 1860, $2 note from the Mohawk River Bank of Fonda, New York, in Choice Fine 15. The description calls it one of the rarest notes from upstate New York. The vignette shows three Native Americans standing at a river bank (probably the Mohawk).  

The cataloger reports that the city of Fonda is named after a Dutch settler and trader Douw Jellise Fonda. He was tomahawked and scalped by English Loyalists and Mohawks in a raid in 1780. says he was a fourth great-grandfather to actor Henry Fonda, and a fifth to Jane and Peter.

Heritage is still accepting consignments for the sale.

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