Paper Money

Star notes go nova during June Rickey Collection sale

One of only three replacement $10 1923 United States notes, graded Fine 15, realized $82,250 in Lyn Knight’s June 19 auction.

Images courtesy of Lyn Knight Currency Auctions

They Lyn Knight currency auction Friday session at the Memphis International Paper Money Show June 19 was cataloged in two catalogs. 

The first of them, leading off the evening, was “The Rickey Collection of Large Size Star Notes,” 289 lots of one of the more specialized subsets of paper currency. Star notes, notes used as replacements for ones found defective after production, are common in the small-size arena, but far less so among large-size notes. They did not exist until 1910. Stars on any earlier notes were decorative only, and although from 1910 until 1929 about 95 million star notes reportedly were printed, we do not know how many were put into circulation. Fewer than 9,000 are recorded today.

The Rickey Collection was assembled over 15 years. It included each of the 29 types of large size stars known, with the exception of the noncollectible Series 1918 $10 and $20 Federal Reserve Bank notes. Many of the notes are the finest known of their type. A few stood out. Foremost among them was one of only three $10 1923 United States notes (Friedberg 123*), which, while graded only Fine 15 by PCGS Currency, still brought $82,250. At $64,625, going for more than double what it last sold for in 2011, was a unique $10 silver certificate of 1908 (F-303*), the “Tombstone Note” with the bust of Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks. It was graded by PMG as Very Good 10. Immediately after that was the finest known of six 1891 $20 silver certificates of (F-321*). Graded by PCGS Currency as Extremely Fine 45, it sold for $35,250.

All but two of the 20 $50 and $100 Federal Reserve notes sold for more than $10,000. The most significant of these, at $21,150, was a PCGS Currency Very Fine 30 Premium Paper Quality Series 1914 $50 FRN from the St. Louis district (F-1053*). It is the only one known from this bank, and, as an added bonus, has serial number H22*.

The leading bidder in this section of the auction is a stellar illustration of how much the business of shows and auctions for both coins and paper money has evolved over the last decade. This leading bidder was not sitting on the floor holding up a number, nor on the telephone, nor represented by a mail bid in a book on the table. Instead, more lots went to live bidding on the Internet than to any other venue. Only the auctioneer knows how many bid successfully via this medium — a situation that is inconvenient for the curious but a bonanza for those who want to build a collection in anonymity or who don’t feel like leaving the comfort of home. 

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