Paper Money

Market momentum continues for rare and quality notes

The market for good and rare notes is maintaining its momentum. At the Lyn Knight Currency Auctions November 18 sale in Rosemont, Ill., in the large-size category, as expected, an 1864 $20 compound interest Treasury note (Friedberg 191a) surpassed all others. Including the buyer’s fee, it brought $28,200 in a grade from PCGS Currency of Very Fine 30 Apparent (for small edge splits and minor restorations). 

The only examples of this number to ever sell for more were problem free or of a higher grade. Only 57 of the F-191a variety are known, most graded lower, so the supposed defects of the note in the Lyn Knight auction should not be considered a detriment. It is one of the best available.

Close behind, at $23,500, was a PCGS Currency Gem New 65 F-42 Series 1869 $2 United States note (aka, the “Rainbow note”). Fewer than a dozen are graded this high and only two of them have ever sold for more in this grade. 

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Finally, a rarity that was not third-party graded sold for $16,450, well over its $10,000 low estimate. This previously unreported Series 1890 $5 Treasury note is only the 19th known and was graded by the auctioneer as a restored Very Fine. With many folds and a worn appearance, it may not be the prettiest one ever seen, but it is a rare event if this issue is offered for sale more than once in a year.

An extremely rare and recently-found $100 Brown Back national bank note from the First National Bank of Grand Forks (North Dakota) is only the second of this denomination for the entire state (the other is also from this bank). It reached $21,150 in a grade the cataloger called “XF+.” The Track and Price database has no records of sales for a $100 Brown Back national from the bank; by any measure, this was the “bargain” of the sale.

The small-size section was led by yet another uncertified note, a $500 1928A gold certificate (F-2407) in Very Fine condition. It is one of just 86 known and its $8,812.50 price realized was in line with what similar third-party graded notes have been selling for recently.

Sellers do not seem bashful about testing the market in the next event on the U.S. paper money calendar, a Heritage currency auction of more than 1,600 lots. This auction is being held in conjunction with the Jan. 4 to 8 Florida United Numismatists show in Fort Lauderdale. In addition to the almost ubiquitous small-size high-denomination notes that continue to draw extraordinary attention and prices are a few notable large-size notes and national bank notes. 

A Series 1869 $50 United States note (also called a Rainbow note), F-151, is new to the census and looks to the naked eye better than its assigned PMG VF-25 grade. Another Rainbow note, a Series 1869 $20 United States note (F-127) graded by PCGS Currency as Very Choice New 64 should advance well into the five-figure range. 

One of only 14 known $100 1880 United States notes (F-176) in PCGS Currency VF-20 should easily eclipse the $8,800 it brought when it was last on the market in 1998. An F-344 Series 1891 $100 silver certificate in PCGS Currency VF-30 last sold for $29,900 in 2011 and is expected to surpass that this time. The fourth known Series 1918 $1,000 Federal Reserve note from Boston (F-1133-A), graded PMG VF-30, presents an opportunity not available since an auction in 2007.

Among the nationals Heritage will offer are a Series 1902 $5 Red Seal issue (F-588) from the Merchants National Bank of Fargo (North Dakota) graded PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ.

Also notable is the first offering in nine years of a Series 1873 $20 California national gold bank note from the First National Gold Bank of Stockton (F-1155). Its grade by PMG as VF-20 Net places it among the finest known. 

There are also some uncut sheets of four from national banks in Clifton, Kan., and Saint Paul, Neb. 

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