Paper Money

Four notes top $100,000 level in Lyn Knight auction

Four fabled large-size notes broke the $100,000 barrier and a fifth missed by just $125 at the June 4 Lyn Knight Currency Auctions sale in Memphis, Tenn. 

As expected, the leader at $270,250 including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee was the famous Friedberg 167a Series 1863 $100 Spread Eagle legal tender note, the first note to feature an American eagle as part of its design. This example, graded by PCGS Currency Choice About New 55 Premium Paper Quality, can be traced back to the Albert Grinnell sale of 1944 and is in the top five of the 22 known.

Two early silver certificates sold for $141,000 each. 

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One was the finest known of three hand-signed 1878 $20 silver certificates by J.C. Hopper (F-305). It last sold for $750 in 1971. Notwithstanding a grade of PCGS Currency Very Fine 30 Apparent, it was described as being of excellent paper quality with very little circulation. The Series 1878 silver certificates have the distinction of having either engraved or autographed countersignatures of an assistant treasurer in addition to those of the treasurer and register of the Treasury. 

The second note was the Black Back Series 1880 $100 silver certificate (F-341) graded VF-35 Apparent, for a restored edge split, by PCGS Currency. Twenty-four of these are known, but five of them are in institutional collections. This was only the fifth sale of this note in the past eight years.

Knight calls the 1861 $20 demand note “among the rarest of all notes available to collectors up to the $20 denomination.” The first federal currency that still retains its legal tender status, demand notes were issued payable at New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. Twenty-two are known today from all cities and only four from Boston, the sale’s example being one of the latter. Its grade of Paper Money Guaranty VF-25 makes it the best graded by either grading service. Despite its first being reported in 1993, Memphis was the first time it was publicly sold. It brought $117,500.

A third early Black Back silver certificate, one of only 26 known F-328 $50 notes from 1880, surpassed expectations with a hammer price of $105,750 in PCGS Currency VF-30 PPQ. The grade ranks it among the top half dozen and it is the only one that either grading service has called out for its high paper quality. The note has the bust of Edward Everett, Millard Fillmore’s secretary of state in 1852 and 1853, who is best known today as the other speaker on the day of the Gettysburg Address. 

The note that just missed, at $99,875, was a recently added F-150b. This $50 legal tender issue with the date of March 10, 1863, is from one of the more complicated U.S. issues, with its variations in wording, imprints, and various dates. It was graded by PCGS Currency as VF-30 and is so far the only example recorded in the widely used Gengerke census where its pedigree begins with Amon Carter. 

Atop the 558 national bank notes, at $44,650, was a discovery note that is also rare as a large-size type note. The Extremely Fine/About Uncirculated Series 1875 F-423a $10 national from the Holyoke City National Bank (Massachusetts) has the Tillman-Morgan signature combination that is a rarity in notes of the 1st Charter Period.

The standout among the small-size notes was a Series 1928 $1,000 gold certificate in PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 that sold for $43,475. 

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