Paper Money

Early American notes among sale offerings

Standing out among the issues of Colonial paper currency in material from the collection of Ambassador J. William “Bill” Middendorf in EAHA's sale closing Jan. 14 is a very rare State of Vermont note, February 1781, denominated 1 shilling and 3 pence, with an estimated price of $10,000 to $20,000.

Images courtesy of Early American History Auctions.

An auction of 319 diverse lots including early American naval and military history-related material from the collection of Ambassador J. William “Bill” Middendorf is being held by Early American History Auctions Inc. of Rancho Santa Fe, California. The sale’s closing date is Jan. 14. It is now available for bidding at

Items from various consignors span the American Colonial and Revolutionary War period, to the War of 1812 and beyond. Included are numerous original historic autographed documents and engraved prints. As a six-time United States secretary of the Navy, ambassador to the Netherlands, ambassador to the Organization of American States, and ambassador to the European Community, and possessing a family lineage tracing back to the founding of the American Revolutionary Navy, Ambassador Middendorf’s collection is deeply focused on early Americana.

There are many historic letters bearing familiar names, among them: Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, John Adams, John Hancock, David Farragut, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette.

One item made from silver rather than paper is certain to attract collector interest — an engraved teapot of coin silver hallmarked BRASHER + N YORK, indicating it is from the workshop of Ephraim Brasher.

Standing out among the issues of Colonial paper currency, with an estimated price of $10,000 to $20,000, is a very rare State of Vermont note, February 1781, denominated 1 shilling and 3 pence. The note has a vignette of a seal with scale above 14 chain links and the legend VERMONT CALLS FOR JUSTICE. The serial number 1962 is written in light red. There are fully readable signatures of “Jno (John) Fasset” and “T(homas) Porter” at bottom. Vermont notes are usually found in low grades. Paper Money Guaranty graded called this one Choice Fine 15. As with most Vermont notes, it was subjected to restoration.

The notes of February 1781 are the only Colonial notes issued by Vermont. In just eight denominations, all were demonetized after not much more than a year. Only 3,600 notes were authorized to be printed, and these were to be fully redeemed back into the treasury. All notes turned in were eventually destroyed. Only about 130 notes from the entire 1781 issue are known to exist today in all grades, qualities and denominations, including partial notes. Early American says fewer than a dozen notes of this 1 shilling 3 pence denomination are known. In 2012, a more common denomination Vermont note, in lesser quality, sold in an East Coast auction for about $28,000.

Other Colonial notes in the sale include a Treasury of Virginia, May 3, 1779, 5 Spanish milled dollars note in Choice Crisp Extremely Fine estimated at $1,800 to $2,000; a rare “single denomination 1773 Georgia 20-shilling note in PMG Choice Extremely Fine 45 with a minimum estimated price of $4,000; and a $1 note from the popular July 26, 1775, “Allegorical-Gunpowder” issue of Province of Maryland in Fine condition with an estimate of $2,400 to $2,800.

This last issue was authorized and issued within months of the April 19, 1775, Battle of Lexington and Concord with vignettes unlike those on any other Colonial or United States paper currency. The woodblock hand-engraved one at the upper half of the face shows King George III setting fire to an American city with a torch, while symbolically trampling upon the Magna Carta. The border includes the text, AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN while the left side reads, PRO ARIS ET FOCI (For altars and the hearth). The back is entirely given over to a large woodblock engraved vignette with a theme “Peace and Liberty” with a British sailing ship in the background. 

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