Paper Money

Uncut sheets from H.V. Speelman in Heritage auction

When collectors see the name H(arley) V. Speelman it is usually connected to that of Frank White. The two were register of the Treasury and treasurer of the United States from Jan. 25, 1922, to Sept. 30, 1927, and the signatories on some of the most widely available large-size notes, the United States and silver certificates of Series 1923, and Series 1922 gold certificates.

Not well known is that Speelman had a collection of his own, one that only he could create, and that will be offered as five individual lots by Heritage Auctions on Aug. 3 in Dallas.

As treasurer, Speelman had advantages that others did not. Starting in June 1910, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing delivered all paper money to the Treasury  Department already cut and although uncut sheets of currency were not offered for public sale, such a technicality did not stand in his way. Special requests had to be made by Treasury officials for uncut sheets. All known uncut sheets, Heritage says, were either kept by the Treasury officials at the time or obtained by Treasury officials for someone as a favor.

One such acquisition is shown in a Treasury ledger entry for Aug. 30, 1923, reflecting the receipt by the Treasury of $1 United States notes with serial numbers R73512001A through R73992000A. It adds that a sheet with serial numbers R73628001A through R73628004A was transferred to the Treasury uncut, with “H. V. Speelman” noted in red. Heritage cites similar references in the ledgers, all in late 1923, for a Series 1917 $2 United States note sheet, a Series 1901 $10 United States note sheet, a Series 1899 $1 silver certificate sheet, and a Series 1899 $5 silver certificate sheet. Each of these is being offered in the Aug. 3 auction.

Until now the sheets have been retained as a set. From Speelman, they seem to have found their way to F.C.C. Boyd, from whose estate they were acquired by John J. Ford Jr. He sold them to Oscar G. Schilke. They then passed through Ben Levin, Stanley Kesselman, and two anonymous collectors. Herman Halpern bought them in 1991.

Although it cannot be proven, the auctioneer thinks the sheets “were obtained from Speelman by Wayte Raymond for Col. E. H. R. Green, whose estate was appraised by F. C. C. Boyd. Since Boyd, as the estate appraiser could not legally buy from the estate, he is known to have been given items from the estate for his fee.”

The sheets offer some of the most popular designs among U.S. large-size notes.

The Series 1899 $1 silver certificate depicts Hunkpapa Lakota tribal leader Ta-to’-ka-in’-yan-ka, known to Americans as Running Antelope and sometimes nicknamed “Chief Onepapa,” a term based on the “Hunkpapa” name. Just one other uncut sheet of this design is known, according to Heritage.

The Series 1901 $10 silver certificate depicts a central vignette of a bison, modeled after one named Pablo. The offered sheet “It is one of only two uncut sheets known for the entire Bison series,” Heritage states in the catalog description. 

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