Paper Money

Rare music trade 25-cent note chronicles a family business

This remainder note from the mid-1800s for a musical publishing company in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of three known. It was sold at auction for $763.75

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Often a piece of paper money almost speaks as you page through an auction catalog. You cannot help but want to know the story behind it.

A case in point is the uniface 25-cent “music trade currency” piece illustrated here. The piece, formerly part of the Wendell Wolka Collection of Ohio obsolete notes, recently sold for $763.75 (just below the estimate of $800 to $1,000). The note was sold by Heritage Auctions April 28 during the internet-only auction held in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg, Ill.

The piece, graded Uncirculated by Heritage, is a remainder note, meaning it was an unissued note left over after its issuer stopped issuing the pieces.

In addition to a beautiful vignette showing half a dozen musical instruments, text on the note promised the bearer that it could be used toward a purchase in the store in Cleveland, Ohio.

An ink pen was use to place X’s along the bottom of the piece where the date and serial number would be hand-printed, preventing the unissued note from being used.

The note was produced for S. Brainard & Co., a Cleveland music publishing business owned by Silas Brainard, according to Wolka’s A History of Nineteenth Century Ohio Obsolete Bank Notes and Scrip.

Brainard founded his music publishing house in 1836, eventually adding the sale of musical instruments and sheet music.

In 1865 he brought his two oldest sons, Charles Silas Brainard and Henry Mould Brainard, into the business as partners and the name was changed to Silas Brainard & Co. When Silas died in 1871, his sons changed the name of the business to S. Brainard & Sons. Five years later they built a four-story building to accommodate the store and publishing house.

By 1889 Charles had moved the company to Chicago, while Henry remained in Cleveland.

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