Paper Money

Album of Confederate notes second to sell in weeks

A Thian master album of Confederate notes put together in 1906 realized $41,300 in a Jan. 14 auction by Kolbe and Fanning.

Original images courtesy of Kolbe & Fanning, Numismatic Booksellers.

The second rare album of Confederate paper currency to hit the auction block in two weeks sold Jan. 14 at the New York International Numismatic Convention.  

Considering that the album sold in New York, by Kolbe & Fanning, Numismatic Booksellers, lacked the rarest notes in the series, the four Montgomery, Ala., issues of 1861, the first two Richmond issues of 1861, and three other rarities, the $41,300 including 18 percent buyer’s fee offered by a telephone bidder was an impressive price, notwithstanding the album’s  $50,000 pre-sale estimate.

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A little more than a week earlier, on Jan. 5, Heritage sold an album with a complete set of Confederate currency, at the Florida United Numismatists convention in Fort Lauderdale, for $99,875. 

The price in the Kolbe and Fanning auction befitted an impressive album. Called a Thian master album, it was put together in 1906 by Raphael Thian, the chief clerk of the U.S. Army Adjutant general’s office in Washington. It has 418 pages, on which are mounted 285 specimens of Confederate currency, accounting for 63 of the 72 basic types. There are also photo reproductions of the first six notes and six red “chemicographic” impressions of backs that were intended for but never used on the 1864 issue because they were made in England and seized in the Union blockade. Each note is mounted on a page and is accompanied by descriptive text.

Thian began compiling albums of Confederate currency in 1876. 

This album is one of just a few known. Thian died in 1911 so this is among the last he made. It is inscribed to Charles W. Edmonton, a bookkeeper in Washington who, Kolbe and Fanning speculate, was an acquaintance of the compiler.

Since there are only 72 Confederate types, Thian’s master albums offered more than the basics. The large number of notes is because he also wanted to show every variety of each note, including watermarks, paper, and plate differences.

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