Paper Money

FUN currency sale a blast of momentum

We expected Heritage Auctions paper money sale held at the Florida United Numismatists Convention Jan. 7 to 13 in Orlando, Fla., with more than 2,000 lots, would be newsworthy, but we did not consider that it would lead off the year with such a blast of momentum.

The auction established that although the market is not back to the wild — and some would say irrationally exuberant — levels of 2006 to 2008, it is headed in a positive direction. 
For example, a Series 1890 $100 Treasury/coin note, cataloged as a Friedberg 377 (Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg) and graded Very Fine 30 by Paper Money Guaranty, realized $129,250 in the Heritage FUN auction. 
In fact, the top 15 notes in the auction all surpassed the $100,000 mark, totaling just over $3 million. Another 21 notes brought between $50,000 and $100,000 each, and 56 more topped $20,000 each.
As usual, the 248 notes in the large-size notes section of the catalog generated the most spectacular results. Some of the notes set record prices. 
For example, a Series 1863 $100 United States note, which features on the face side a vignette of an eagle with wings spread, F-167a, graded Choice New 63 condition by PCGS Currency, sold for $305,500. 
It was estimated to bring $200,000 or more, but when it was finally sold it brought $121,500 more than the note realized in 2006. 
Also setting a price record was a Series 1869 $2 United States note, F-42, nicknamed a “Rainbow Note” for the vivid colors used in printing, graded Superb Gem New 68 Premium Paper Quality by PCGS Currency. 
The note is considered the finest known example, and at a price of $79,312.50 (the odd price takes into account the buyer’s fee) it shattered all records for a $2 “Rainbow Note” including its own past record. When the same note was last sold in 2006, it realized just $40,250.
Another extraordinary result was the sale of one of six known Series 1863 $20 gold certificates (F-1166b). This example was graded Very Fine 30 by PCGS Currency and sold for $352,500. Although not a record, this was only the third time in a decade that a note of this Friedberg catalog number has been offered. 
A Series 1880 $1,000 United States note (F-187j), graded Very Fine 30 Net by PMG (the “Net” grade was because the note had restoration work), sold for $176,250. 
Among the fractional currency notes, a Third Issue Justice with Scales 50-cent note (F-1351) and classified as “very rare” by A Collector’s Guide to Postage & Fractional Currency by Robert J. Kravitz  sold for $23,500. The note was graded Choice Uncirculated 64 Exceptional Paper Quality by PMG. 
The note was once owned by collector Tom O’Mara, whose fractional currency collection was sold by Heritage Currency Auctions of America in 2005 for $29,900 during the Central States Numismatic Society convention.
Even though some of the top sellers in terms of prices at the 2013 FUN sale did not set records, the fact that they were for sale after a several years long drought of such material indicates that we have returned to a normal market with prices that are realistic, and collectors are willing to pay realistic prices.

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