Paper Money

Anderson Collection ends over the ‘Rainbow’ (notes)

The first three installments of the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction of the Joel R. Anderson Collection of U.S. Paper Money has exceeded $26 million in sales. With Part IV scheduled for Feb. 28 in Baltimore, it is possible that Anderson has saved the best for last.

Although the auction will have only 54 lots, included among them are several pieces rarely offered, and one grouping of nine notes that we may never see all offered again at the same time — a complete type collection of Series 1869 “Rainbow” legal tender notes. These are among the most attractive and appealing of all U.S. paper currency issues. They get their name from the variety of black, red, and green inks used in printing and for the use of a special paper embedded with blue fibers. 

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The series offers nine denominations — $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000 — and the Anderson Collection is represented by examples of each. All were graded by PCGS Currency and are included in its population report. All but the $1,000 note have the “premium paper quality” designation. 

The lower five values are regularly seen offered for sale, but not often in the quality encountered here. The Series 1869 $1 legal tender note (Friedberg 18) is graded Gem New 66, making it the second finest known. The $2 note (F-42), also in Gem New 66, is surpassed by only two other pieces. The $5 note (F-64), with the popular “Woodchopper” vignette, is the second best known and comes with a grade of Superb Gem New 67. The $10 note (F-96) is graded Gem New 66; it is also known as a “Jackass Note” because when held upside down, the eagle at the bottom is thought to resemble the head of a donkey. The $20 (F-127) is tied for the highest graded in Superb Gem New 67.

When it comes to the high-denomination Rainbow notes, the Anderson Collection is historic. Only five of the 68 $50 notes (F-151) listed in Track and Price are called Uncirculated. The Very Choice New 64 example offered here is the finest known and is estimated at $300,000 to $500,000. At the same estimate, and also the finest of the 27 recorded, in Gem New 66, is the F-168 $100 note. 

The $500 (F-184) and $1,000 (F-186f) notes each have estimates of $1.5 million to $2.5 million. Each is unique in private hands. 

Three examples are known of the $500 note, but the Anderson note is the only one privately held. This sale will be the first time it is offered at public auction. It previously changed hands in private transactions. It is called Choice About New 55.

The $1,000 note, listed as About New 53, has not appeared at auction since the Albert A. Grinnell sale of Nov. 25, 1944, in Syracuse, New York, when it realized $1,135. Only one other is known, permanently in the collection of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The note is aptly described in the catalog as “one of the ultimate rarities in American numismatics.”


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