Paper Money

Large-size notes reassert dominance in market

The 541 lots in the floor session of the November Stack’s Bowers Galleries United States paper currency auction in Baltimore reasserted the dominance of large-size notes as market leaders.

After a run of auctions by different houses wherein small-size notes and national bank notes sometimes eclipsed large-size issues, this sale marked a return to familiar territory. 

Only nine of the 189 large-size notes went unsold, and of those that did sell, the overwhelming majority were either within or above their estimates. In addition to the $352,500 for the unique Friedberg 212b $500 interest-bearing note featured in the Nov. 30 issue of Coin World, among the other noteworthy results were: $17,625 and $19,975 for a pair of $5 demand notes of 1861 — the first a newly discovered and sixth known issue from Cincinnati (Friedberg 4) in Paper Money Guaranty Fine 15 Net, and the other a St. Louis F-5 in PMG Very Fine 20 Net. A PCGS Currency Gem New 66 F-18 $10 1869 United States note (the “Rainbow note”) brought $15,275, its highest price in seven years, and a $50 Rainbow note in PMG VF-30 (F-151 variety) went for $41,125, exactly the same price as the last time such a note was sold in November 2014. An F-190b 1864 $10 compound-interest note described by PMG as Very Fine 30 Net with minor restoration was at $17,037.50, the highest price ever recorded for a note below the grade of uncirculated.

A common thread was evident among some of the better large-size notes that went for less than their estimated prices. For example, three silver certificates were estimated at $30,000 to $40,000. The first, an F-263 Series 1886 $5 “Silver Dollar Back” note in PCGS Currency Gem New 66 Premium Paper Quality sold for $24,675. Next, an 1896 $5 Educational note, F-268, realized the same $24,675 in PCGS Currency Gem New 67 PPQ. Finally, a $5 1899 “Indian Chief” silver certificate, which at PCGS Gem New 68 is the highest graded F-271 example, sold for $21,150. All three are superb notes, rarities for their condition, if not necessarily for their type. 

It is conceivable that as the premium for quality expands, prospective buyers are more carefully evaluating whether the differences in grade at this level warrant much higher prices before committing.

The small-size results were impacted by the fact that about a third of them were $1,000 Federal Reserve notes. While all 20 sold, only seven met their estimates. Some of the others, at 33 to 50 percent over their face value, were the bargains of the auction. The market in Baltimore was simply not capable of absorbing so many of the same item at one time.

The national bank note part of the sale featured nineteen small-size uncut six-note sheets of serial number 1 notes. The results were typical for the nationals market, in that collectors usually focus on cities, counties or states. Some did not even meet their estimate, while others far exceeded it. A rare Type 2 $10 Louisiana sheet from the First National Bank of Lake Providence in PMG About Uncirculated 58 sold for $23,500 on an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.

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