Paper Money

First Anderson Collection auction tops $7.9 million

Part I of the Joel R. Anderson Collection of United States Paper Money on March 22 in Baltimore will go down as a landmark sale. The Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction offered just 64 lots, but as the firm says, those lots were part of a collection that “is the most extensive, most rarity-laden collection of paper money by design types ever formed or offered at auction.”

Where is the missing 1908 pattern formerly in the designer’s collection?Where is the missing 1908 pattern for the original 1908 Indian Head half eagle formerly in the designer’s collection? Also in this issue, we take a look at both old and new varieties and what collectors are finding in their collections.

The results did not disappoint. Prices realized totaled $7,912,140.

Including the 20 percent buyer’s fee, not only did every lot sell for above its low estimate, but 43 of them also surpassed their projected upper limits, drawing active bidding on multiple platforms — floor, book, phone, and internet. Laura Kessler, of PCGS Currency, who with Jason Bradford, went to see Joel Anderson in Florence, Alabama, and graded all the notes in the collection, said, “There were a couple of notes that ran away compared to their estimates and that was exciting to watch.” Anderson has been chairman and director in the Anderson Companies, whose divisions include Whitman Publishing, publisher of many numismatic books including the “Red Book.”

This was particularly evident in a run of interest-bearing notes, each of which can be considered a once-in-a-generation collecting opportunity. These notes, the rarest American currency issues, were authorized by Congress during the Civil War to alleviate the financial crises caused by the conflict. Because the notes bore interest, most were redeemed, leaving very few outstanding. In total of 115 are known, of all types, but 79 of these are concentrated in the $10 and $20 one-year notes of March 3, 1863 (cataloged as Friedberg 196 to 197a).

One of three Friedberg 199 March 3, 1863, $100 interest-bearing notes in Very Fine 30 example sold for $240,000 on an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. From the same issue was a $50 note (F-203) also graded Very Fine 30 with a $70,000 to $100,000 estimate; it brought $186,000. 

The only known example of an F-207 $50 interest-bearing note of July 17, 1861, in VF-25, expected to bring $225,000 to $275,000, and purchased in 2005 for $172,500, was finally hammered down at $576,000. This particular note had added significance in that it was payable to Samuel Colt of the firearms company bearing the family name.

The only July 17, 1861, F-209a $500 interest-bearing note in private hands was predicted to reach $300,000 to $400,000. Graded VF-25, it realized $660,000.

In another currency type, a pair of legendary high-denomination $1,000 legal tender notes sold back-to-back for $960,000 each. The first, an F-186d Series 1863 $1,000 note in Choice About New 58, was called “one of the greatest treasures in American numismatics,” by the cataloger. It is one of the more unusual American currency designs, with a facing bust of Founding Father Robert Morris, the superintendent of Finance from 1781 to 1784, in an intricate round green frame of 1000’s. One other serial number of this note is known.

The second was one of two known Series 1880 F-187b $1,000 legal tender notes, graded Choice About Uncirculated 55, and bearing the portrait of De Witt Clinton. It is the only example available to collectors since the other one is in the Smithsonian Institution.

Close behind these two at $900,000 was the highest graded (Very Choice New 64 Premium Paper Quality) F-183c Series 1863 $500 legal tender note. It is similar in style to the $1,000 note of the same series, but with the bust of Albert Gallatin, secretary of the Treasury from 1801 to 1813. Only this example and one other are in private hands.

The most impressive result in a group of nine impressive gold certificates was the $576,000 paid for a Series 1882 $1,000 issue. The F-1218g note, graded Extremely Fine 40, is one of only four known, two of which are in government collections.

The entire sale and prices realized are here.

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