Paper Money

Small-size notes star in ANA paper money auctions

There’s always an axiom in United States paper money collecting saying that people collected small-size notes because they found large-size notes unaffordable. Recent results have cast doubt on this truism, but the recently concluded American Numismatic Association currency auctions on consecutive nights in Anaheim by Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions turned the old wisdom on its heels. Small-size notes grabbed the attention and the money. The reasons are speculative, but it would not be out of the question that bidders who used to focus their attention only on the big format notes are now also devoting some time and money to small-size issues.

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Leading the way in the Stack’s Bowers sale, if not in price but in attention, was a Series 1933 $10 silver certificate (Friedberg 1700) graded Gem Uncirculated 67 Exceptional Paper Quality by Paper Money Guaranty. It is the best note of the type graded by either service, and at $105,750 including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee, set a record for a small-size issue, excluding high-denomination and star notes. Called the “king of small size currency,” it broke by more than $20,000 the previous high for this note that was set in July 2015. 

High-denomination notes continued to excel. A scarce Series 1928 $5,000 Federal Reserve note from the Atlanta district (F-2220-F) in PCGS Currency Very Fine 35 realized $117,500 despite showing minor restorations. A duo of consecutively numbered 1934 $5,000 Federal Reserve notes for the Richmond district (F-2221-E) graded PMG About Uncirculated 55 and Crisp Uncirculated 63 Net, Previously Mounted, brought $258,500.

The stellar performer among the large-size notes was a newly discovered and rarely seen triple signature $50 1882 gold certificate (F-1189a). Despite a grade described as “PCGS Fine 12 Apparent. Restorations. Rust Stains on Back,” at $37,600 it more than doubled its estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, showing once again that rarity often trumps quality.

As expected, the leader among national bank notes at $164,500 was a $100 Original Series issue from the Salem National Banking Company (New Jersey). It is the only $100 First Charter issue known for the state and was graded PMG Choice VF-35. 

A newly discovered 1902 Date Back $5 national bank note (F-594) from the First National Bank of Sonoma (California) was bought for $25,850 in PMG VF-35.

The Heritage auction was dominated by five high-denomination notes. Tops among them at $152,750 was an F-2221-H Series 1934 $5,000 Federal Reserve note from the St. Louis district in PMG Choice Uncirculated 64. A Boston Federal Reserve $10,000 note (F-2231-A) in PMG AU-55 was next at $129,250. The other ones sold for prices ranging from $88,125 to $99,875. 

An interesting $10,000 specimen of the face of the unreleased 1934B $10,000 Federal Reserve note, with serial number 00000000 and canceled with the word SPECIMEN, sold for $49,350. PMG graded it AU-58, though a grade in this case is probably unnecessary.

The Katherine Davalos Ortega Serial Number 1 Presentation set that was given to her in recognition of her service as Treasurer of the United States and that was probably the most unique item in the sale sold for an impressive $35,250.

Leading the large-size note category in the Heritage sale was a $50 compound interest Treasury note. This F-192b note carried a grade of PMG VF-30 Net. Its first public appearance makes it only the 18th known and tied for the highest graded. It sold for $129,250. It is an infrequent occurrence for denominations of these other than $10 and $20 notes to be offered for sale.

Finally, the tenth F-1180 $20 “Technicolor” gold certificate to be offered since January was hammered down at $45,531 in PCGS Currency Gem New 65 Premium Paper Quality. 

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