Paper Money

Rare notes off market for years in Lyn Knight auction

Fresh material is usually a cause for excited bidding, and the three sessions of the Lyn Knight Currency Auctions sale in conjunction with the June 2 to 5 International Paper Money Show in Memphis, Tenn., include a number of notes that have been off the market for a generation. The large-size type section has some that should approach and cross the $100,000 barrier.

Opening at $150,000 and with a low estimate of $250,000 is the emblematic $100 “Spread Eagle Note.” This Series 1863 legal tender note (Friedberg 167a) bears a PCGS Currency Choice About New 55 Premium Paper Quality grade and is one of less than two dozen known with only three grading higher. It can be traced back to lot 37 in the 1944 Grinnell auction, where dealer William P. Donlon bought it for $175 and subsequently used it as the cover illustration of his book on large-size notes. It was next sold in the 1971 sale of Donlon’s collection and has not been on the market in the 45 years since.

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A rare Series 1880 $100 silver certificate of (F-341) comes with a $100,000 to $200,000 estimate in PCGS Currency Very Fine 35 Apparent (for what it calls a minor restoration). Twenty-four are known but six are in institutions. 

A Series 1863 $50 legal tender note with the F-150b designation will be offered for the first time ever. This note is the only one reported in the Gengerke Census (a widely used listing of top notes) and is graded by PCGS Currency as VF-30. It was originally in the collection of Amon Carter and comes with a estimate of $100,000 to $200,000.

A $20 demand note of 1861 makes its first appearance on the market since a private sale in 1993. Only 22 are known for all cities, and this F-13, payable at Boston, is one of just four from there. Paper Money Guaranty’s grade of VF-25 makes it the finest known. A restored VF-20 example sold for about $62,000 in 2013.

The $20 compound-interest notes have made a half dozen appearances lately, each being the more common F-191a, of which about 60 are known. The F-191, with an overprint date of July 15, 1864, is another story. Only four of them exist, and not one has been seen since 2007. The one being sold in Memphis has no public record of sale and carries a grade of VF-30 Apparent (minor restorations) by PCGS Currency and an opening bid of $30,000 against an estimate of $50,000 to $100,000.

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