Paper Money

Discovery of Rainbow note confirms research

With Nearly 750 examples recorded, the Series 1869 $5 United States note, also known as the “Rainbow Note” (Friedberg 64), and its famous pioneer family is anything but rare. In fact, three times more notes are known in Uncirculated condition than in lower grades. What is it then that could make one of these a rarity? 

Paper money researcher Doug Murray has uncovered something that he had known about for years but had never before seen — a note with a serial number that begins with a letter other than “K.”

Murray explains that when he was researching at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in the late 1980s, he located a piece of paper that had serial number information for the 1869 Legal Tender or United States notes. The first block consisted of 10 million notes numbered from K1 to K10000000. The main discovery was that there was a different prefix letter “A” for a short second block, which ran from A1 to A68000. He says “The result is that for almost 30 years I looked for a note that I knew was printed, but only accounted for about 0.7 percent of the total production.” Finally, in November he received an email and in it was an image of a note with serial number A50790. At long last he had proof that the “A” block was released, and by virtue of the high serial number, he says that more than 50,000 of the 68,000 were issued.

The note is one of five examples of the F-64 note in Heritage Auctions’ January 2016 U.S. paper money sale at the Florida United Numismatists show in Tampa where it is graded by PCGS Currency as Very Fine 20 with the added notation “?‘A’ Block Discovery Note.” 

The catalog speculates that since the “A” prefix was used in numbering F-18 $1 and F-127 $20 1869 United States notes, that perhaps some $5 sheets were mixed in with either of the other denominations while awaiting their third printing. Since an Fr. 18 with A7535 and Fr. 127 with A1600, A5775, and A66852 are all published, this confirms the BEP records, showing this new block discovery is not a mistake.

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