Paper Money

$152,750 lot tops Heritage's Long Beach currency sale

The fall auction season was off to a strong start at the Sept. 8 Heritage Currency sale in Long Beach, Calif. The auction included 682 lots of large-size notes and 463 small-size notes (excluding national bank notes of both sizes), and realized $3,884,582 in total, including the buyer’s fees. It marked a return to normalcy in that, with the exception of small-size high-denomination notes, the biggest prices were all for large-size issues. 

The highest price of all was the $152,750 attained by a Series 1891 $100 silver certificate (Friedberg 344) graded Paper Money Guaranty Extremely Fine 45 Exceptional Paper Quality. Only 31 examples are recorded of this note, all but a few in grades lower than this. Only an About Uncirculated 50 example has ever sold for more, and that was $176,250 in 2013.

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An F-167a Series 1863 $100 legal tender note (the Spread Eagle note) that sold for $135,125 in PCGS Currency Very Fine 30 Premium Paper Quality reached the highest price ever recorded for this note in a grade other than Uncirculated. The Spread Eagle note is one of the more iconic pieces of U.S. paper money, and one of the earliest. When this particular note last sold in 2000 it was for $25,300. Only 22 examples are currently recorded.

The $32,900 paid for an F-321 Series 1891 $20 silver certificate in PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 Exceptional Paper Quality was the fourth highest price ever reached for this note, and the highest ever for one in a grade below Gem 66, for which notes have twice exceeded $54,000. The relatively wide gap despite the closeness in grading is becoming familiar when buyers place a premium on perceived quality.

Foremost among the 797 national bank note offerings, at $35,250, was a fantastic discovery, a $10 Series 1882 Brown Back note (F-482) of the National Bank of Raleigh (North Carolina), graded Very Fine 30 Exceptional Paper Quality by PMG. Heritage called this an “extraordinary find” in that it is the first note ever reported for the bank. The story behind the note is as interesting as its rarity — it was part of a Christmas present along with two gold $2.50 coins from the bank’s cashier, F.K. Briggs, to a family member. It was consigned by the heir of Briggs’ granddaughter. Included in the lot were the two coins and the Christmas card.

Even with its a less interesting story, a Series 1902 $5 Plain Back note (F-601) of the First National Bank of Crows Landing (California) in PCGS Currency Very Fine 35 caught the attention of more than enough bidders and brought $32,900. Only two large-size notes are recorded from this bank, to go with nine known small-size issues, and none had been offered for sale in 40 years.

No comments on the state of the U.S. currency market these days would be complete without mention of high-denomination issues. In Long Beach, two $5,000 notes broke $140,000 each. The more significant of the two, at $152,750, was a Series 1928 $5,000 Federal Reserve note from the Chicago District (F-2220-G) in PMG About Uncirculated 55. Series 1928 notes are much less frequently seen than ones from the 1934 series. Heritage, in fact, reckons that only about two dozen of them exist, from all districts. The other $5,000 issue, this from Series 1934 and also a Federal Reserve note from Chicago (F-2221-G), sold for $141,000 with a grade of PMG Choice Uncirculated 64.

Next up on the auction docket is a sale by Stack’s Bowers Galleries at the Whitman Baltimore Expo Nov. 1 to 5 followed by a Lyn Knight sale Nov. 17 to 19 at the Professional Currency Dealers Association Convention in Rosemont, Ill. 

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