No sooner had the new $100 Federal Reserve notes been released than we started getting questions about what Friedberg numbers they were assigned.
It was a more interesting question than usual because the notes released are marked Series 2009A, and were given the catalog numbers Friedberg 2186 for notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at its Washington, D.C., plant, and F-2187 for those printed at the BEP facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Not released were the Series 2009 notes printed earlier but that still sit in vaults because of printing and paper defects. The catalog numbers for these notes are F-2184 and F-2185, for Washington and Fort Worth respectively.
We are told that, once all the Series 2009 $100 FRNs are inspected, they, too, will be issued. If they are, it will pose an interesting question; namely, how common or rare will they be?
BEP printing records tell us that 1,440,000,000 regular $100 FRNs and 86,848,000 star $100 FRNs were printed for Series 2009. By bank, the regular notes range from a low of 32 million notes each for the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston, Cleveland and Minneapolis up to more than 310 million notes for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Star note totals ranged from 320,000 notes for Richmond to more than 38 million notes for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
The big “but” in these figures is that we are not sure if we will ever know the number of defective notes destroyed and for which Federal Reserve Bank they were printed. This fact, along with the knowledge that so many $100 FRNs are shipped for use in foreign countries, will make establishing prices for these an adventure in speculation. It could take years to understand how many exist.
This is a modern example of a well-known fact among those who study the hobby: The numbers of notes printed can be both misleading and unreliable. In Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. Friedberg and Ira S. Friedberg, we have long resisted requests to include numbers printed for large-size notes, because they play such a minimal role in establishing value. We caution collectors against over-reliance on this statistic. The most important factor is the rate of redemption and destruction, both of which occur far more frequently with paper notes than with coins. Another factor may be a discrepancy between the amount printed and that actually issued.
A pair of examples of the disconnect between the original number printed and those surviving can be found in the recent Heritage Currency Signature Auction at the Long Beach Coin, Stamp and Sports Collectible Expo in Long Beach, Calif.
An F-1172 note is a common Series 1907 $10 gold certificate with the Houston B. Tehee-John Burke signature combination. Approximately 38 million were printed, and 867 survive, giving us a survival rate of about .0023 percent. In About Uncirculated 50 one sold at the Long Beach auction for $940. In PCGS Currency Gem New 66 quality another example brought $7,637.50, a note that is one of just 60 Uncirculated examples out of the total of 867 known.
The lesson for the collector is simple: Pay attention to the census figures and population reports. Avail yourself of the many resources available today that were a dream in days past.