Paper Money

Rare notes reportedly found in pile of papers

You never know what you may find in a stack of old papers. Sometimes you get lucky, as did Antonio Alessandrini, the proprietor of Numismatica Globus in Caracas, Venezuela. Some time ago, the dealer says, he bought a file from the family of Gen. Nicolás Rolando.

Rolando was a military and political leader of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1894, he was elected constitutional president of Venezuela’s Bermudez State, and after that he served in many civil, military, and revolutionary roles. He obviously signed many documents, and as Alessandrini was moving his office recently, he came across the file again and gave it another look. He discovered a number of state bank notes, called “Crédito Público del Estado Bermudez,” of different values, that he says “have never been known before,” all with Rolando’s signature as president of Bermudez State.

Making your worthless notes worth something”Make your ‘worthless’ note worth something Have you noticed the weapons depicted on early American notes? John Kraljevich Jr. puzzles over what’s generally missing from that arsenal, in his “Collecting Paper” column.

He sold two of them recently, a 1,000-bolivar note and a 1-bolivar note, for over $1,500 in an auction on his website. Both were printed and issued in the Venezuelan city of Barcelona and are dated by hand June 10, 1896. Each measures about 7 inches by 6.5 inches and has the signatures of five other officials. The serial numbers (60 for the 1-bolivar note and 77 for the 1,000-bolivar note) are handwritten. Archival documents show a printing of 200 of the former and 110 of the latter. It is not known if all were placed into circulation.

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These notes were authorized on March 16, 1896, and the March 23 date printed on them is the date of general issue and possibly the day they were printed. Nine denominations were authorized. Of them, the 1-, 5-, 10-, 20- and 40-bolívar notes were not usually used as public debt bonds. Rather they are values meant to be used in payments, as other similar issues of the time. The notes did not pay interest, making them analogous to the contemporary issues of Venezuelan banks.

Alessandrini speculates that very few of these notes have survived. He will offer other denominations in future auctions and may be contacted by email.

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