Two million-dollar notes in Stack's Bowers auction
- Published: Aug 27, 2018, 4 AM
Coins weren’t the only numismatic treasures breaking the million dollar barrier at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.
A pair of rare U.S. paper currency items sold for $1,020,000 each to floor bidders at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction on Aug. 16. They were featured in part 2 of the Joel R. Anderson Collection of United States Paper Money, a sale that totaled $9,652,860, including the 20 percent buyer’s fee, for just 70 individual lots.
Each of the top notes was called Very Fine 25 by PCGS Currency. The first was one of two known 1861 $50 interest-bearing notes (Friedberg 202a). Since the other is held by the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, this is the only one that will ever be available to collectors.
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Immediately after the hammer fell, Joel Anderson said to the audience in the room, “ … of all of the notes in my collection, this was my favorite by far. I think whoever bought it is a lucky man, and I congratulate him.”
The lucky man was Nick Bruyer, a long-time collector and dealer, who said, “This $50 Treasury Note was the very first currency used during the Civil War. I was able to trace it to the soldier it was originally paid to. As the only surviving example from the entire issue, it holds immense value, not only for the collecting community, but also as a piece of United States history. It will be the singular highlight of my currency collection.”
The other million-dollar note was a Series 1880 “Black Back” $1,000 silver certificate of deposit (F-346d), one of two in private hands. The other three examples of the five known are at the Smithsonian Institution and the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and San Francisco.
Both million-dollar notes were purchased in 2005 and they provided Anderson with a handsome return. The interest-bearing note was acquired for a bargain price of $368,000, while the silver certificate’s price was $667,000.
In an auction in which nearly every lot was a highlight, a few others stood out. One of them was an 1863 $100 interest-bearing note (F-204) that exceeded its $300,000 to $500,000 estimate by selling for $900,000. Only two examples of this note are known to survive, with the other in the Smithsonian. When last offered in 2005, the sale’s example brought $299,000.
The only type of Series 1891 $50 Treasury note printed is the F-376 issue. The Anderson piece, with serial number 7, it the second lowest of the 22 recorded. It is also the finest known, and sold for $660,000 in a grade of PCGS Currency Gem New 65 Premium Paper Quality. That topped the $546,250 it fetched in 2007.
Among the gold certificates, the bidding ended at $552,000 for a serial number 1 F-1179 “Technicolor note” — a Series 1905 $20 gold certificate graded Gem New 65 PPQ by PCGS Currency. The catalog states it was the presentation piece given to President Theodore Roosevelt. The result was more than double the $245,000 it was acquired for in 2005.
An Extremely Fine 45 $1,000 Series 1882 gold certificate (F-1218d) went to a floor bidder for $720,000. Four of these are known in total, but only two are privately held. Given that the other privately held example is a Very Fine 35 note, the Anderson note is the finest available. This is one of the notes on which “Thousand” is misspelled as “Thonsand,” a mistake made on the printing plates for all the notes of the 1882 series, and first reported Aug. 10 at Coin World’s website and in the Aug. 27 issue of Coin World. The hidden-in-plain-sight error seems to have escaped the eyes of nearly everyone for over a century. Joel Anderson said that he had looked at that note “for more than six hours with a magnifying glass,” and it escaped him, too.
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