Paper Money

Early American auction offers Colonial paper money

Early American's 249-lot auction Nov. 20 and 21 features a number of lots of paper money.

Among the lots offered is a circa 1900 Heraldic Eagle plaque created from macerated United States paper currency and an uncut eight-note sheet of March 5, 1776, New York Water Works 4-shilling notes.

Macerated currency plaque

According to the auction lot description, the circa 1900 spread-wing federal eagle medallion plaque is die cut in the shape of a federal eagle with a shield breast and clutching arrows in one set of talons and an olive branch in the other. The medallion measures about 3 inches from wing tip to wing tip and is housed in "what actually appears to be its original 'display' frame — inset into a shape, cut out paper board 'matte' and encased within 2 pieces of glass that are bound with a blue, textured paper tape."

The back of the macerated currency medallion, visible through the glass, shows the original Treasury Department label that reads "Made of United States Bank Notes redeemed and macerated at the U.S. Treasury, Washington, D.C. Estimated $1,000."

According to the auction firm, "Between the mid-1870s and 1928, worn and mutilated currency was returned to the U.S. Treasury where it was reduced to paper pulp. By the 1890s, the pulp was sold to contractors such as the National Currency Souvenir Co. where it was used to create somewhat crude busts of prominent Americans and replicas of national monuments."

The plaque carries an estimate of $400 to $500.

Uncut eight-note sheet

Attributed as Friedberg NY-196. the uncut sheet of March 5, 1776, New York Water Works 4-shilling notes, according to the auction firm, "is printed with four vertical notes in horizontal pairs, thus they are 'Tete-Beche' pairs between the rows. Each of the individual notes grade Very Choice to Superb Gem Crisp Uncirculated."

The face of each note is printed in both red and black inked text within a decorative surrounding framework. The back of each note displays a woodcut vignette of the new Water Works steam power pump, with the name of the printer, “H.[ugh] Gaine - New-York” below. Each note is hand-signed in rich brown ink by “Benj.[amin] Bragge.”

The uncut sheet carries an estimate of $7,000 to $9,000.

A 20 percent buyer's fee will be added to the final closing price of each lot won. 

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