Paper Money

Mismatched serial numbers on $10 silver certificate

All small-size paper currency issued by the United States has two serial numbers, one on either side of the face, and most of the times, the numbers match as intended. When the numbers do not match, even an otherwise common note becomes something rare.

A Series 1934 $10 silver certificate offered in Heritage Auctions’ April 29 Platinum Night U.S. Currency Auction bears two different serial numbers: the one at lower left is ?00000055A and the one on the right is ?00000051A.

Note the solid black star at the beginning of each serial number. The stars make this note even more unusual, in that “star notes” are replacement notes, each printed to substitute for an earlier note that was rejected for being an error or in some other way inferior. Star notes are printed in much smaller numbers that regular notes; to find a star note that itself also bears an error is considered remarkable by collectors.

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So how did this happen? Heritage offers a theory:

“The Track & Price census for this issue shows no low star numbers known, and our surmise here, considering that this error occurred on one of the very first star sheets produced at the Bureau, is that the numbering machine was set incorrectly and the entire first star printing was cancelled and destroyed before any of the mismatched notes were released to the public.”

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While that is a distinct possibility, one other cause theoretically exists. The portion of the equipment that overprints the serial numbers on a note is designed to automatically change with each sheet that is printed (multiple notes are printed per sheet, with each note overprinted by two serial numbers wheels). Sometimes, one or more number cogs on a serial number wheel can stick and not change.

Whichever scenario is the right one, the note is “unique to our best knowledge, and the ultimate star note error we have ever seen or heard of,” according to Heritage.

The silver certificate is from the Jeffrey S. Jones Collection of Small Size Currency. Heritage writes about the collector’s appreciation for the note, saying, “There are many notes which could be considered ‘favorites’ in a collection of this magnitude, but Jeff had a special place in his heart for this note, which he purchased privately for $26,000,” before adding, “He has seen no others, we have seen no others. ...”

Paper Money Guaranty graded the note Choice About Uncirculated 58 Exceptional Paper Quality, indicating that the note has only slight wear and has paper that is in a higher state of preservation than similar notes lacking the EPQ designation.

The note has an estimate of $20,000 to $40,000, according to Heritage.

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