Paper, Ink and Steel
Michele Orzano served as editor of Paper Money Values magazine and the Paper Money section. She has written extensively on legislative and legal topics and has won major state and national awards in graphic design and feature and news writing. Michele was essential in Coin World's ambitious coverage of the 50 State quarters circulating commemorative coin program and since 1993 has written most of the paper money coverage. She graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor of arts in journalism.
Feb 13, 2015, 11:18 AM byDavid Queller, who grew from a shoe-shiner to become owner of the Mickley-Hawn-Queller example of the 1804 Draped Bust dollar, learned to succeed. He died Dec. 24, age 93.
In the nearly 30 years I’ve worked at Coin World, not a day has gone by that I haven’t learned something.
Often the personal connection behind a coin or medal or piece of paper money is the factor that most fascinates me. It’s people who collect these numismatic items. People who do the research to tell the story behind these items.
So when we lose a member of the hobby, whether I had the privilege of knowing them or not, I often reflect on their contributions beyond the collectible item.
Noted pattern and dollar collector and researcher David Queller died Dec. 24, 2014, closing out a remarkable life at the age of 93.
Mr. Queller is probably best known for owning the Mickley-Hawn-Queller example of the 1804 dollar. Heritage Auctions sold the coin in 2008 for $3,737,500.
Mr. Queller didn’t grow up with privilege and money. He was born June 27, in Brooklyn, New York. A brief tribute published online at Heritage Auctions’ website provides a basic background of his life. One paragraph in particular caught my eye:
“As a child of the depression, David found that what he’d get from life, he’d have to earn. He learned early how to be successful. When times got tough, and his family needed to put food on the table, he worked selling magazine subscriptions, shining shoes for free (because he’d make more money in tips than he would charging a fee), and then finally quit school to work in his father's hardware store. After a hard day toiling in the city, David would return to Brooklyn for night school, where he studied until World War II broke out.”
He did what he needed to do to meet his obligations in the family. His attendance at night school classes tell me he had a thirst for knowledge and the desire to improve himself.
When the United States entered World War II, he attended U.S. naval officer training school and spent the war studying engineering at Columbia University, Denison University, and the University of New Mexico.
“When the war ended, he declined the opportunity to become an officer and instead headed home to Brooklyn. There, he began to formulate a business plan that would allow him to take the foundation of his father’s retail hardware store and transform it into a wholesale warehouse supplying the postwar economy of New York with high-quality industrial tools,” according to the Heritage tribute.
He married in 1958 and began a family that would number four children and nine grandchildren at his death.
Some would say he was in the right place at the right time. Maybe. But I think no matter what, he was always looking ahead for the next opportunity in his career. He retired in 1997 and moved to Boca Raton, Florida.
He was not born into money or privileged circumstances. But it appears he was always considering his options to expand his understanding of many things, including his chosen collecting field.
His story tells me that collectors, no matter their circumstances, must continually find ways to move forward in their knowledge. Books and friendships within the hobby are two pathways that come to mind.
Those paths do not always lead to another item to add to a physical collection. But venturing down them will enhance the collecting experience.
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Dec 11, 2014, 17:50 PM byThe men and women depicted in the vignette on the face of this $5 Treasurer of Lyons City (Iowa) are harvesting hops, an ingredient in beer.
Often a design on a piece of paper money can lead you down a trail of adventure without ever leaving your desk.
That is exactly what happened when I saw an obsolete note issued by the Treasurer of Lyons City in Iowa. The note was offered by Lyn Knight Currency Auctions during the recent 29th annual National Coin & Currency Convention Nov. 19 to 23 in Rosemont, Ill.
The note was graded Choice About Uncirculated by the firm and sold for $125 (not including the buyer’s premium).
The $5 note was issued on Nov. 2, 1858, and is signed by George Burton, as city recorder, and J.T. Wilson, mayor the town located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Clinton County. Iowa joined the Union in 1846 so this note is from the early days of the state and depicts what looks like a harvest scene.
A closer look at the long stalks and the shape of the leaves caused me to wonder what kind of crop the men and women were harvesting.
After a little bit of research I discovered they were harvesting hops—a flavoring ingredient in beer. Hops, the flower of the plant, look like small green pinecones. The plants are grown on a wire trellis system connected to 20-foot tall wooden poles. The plants produce tendrils, like grapevines, that wrap around the trellis lines and help the plant grow upward.
But why hops? It all made sense when I learned a bit more about that part of the country.
German immigrants began arriving in Iowa in the 1840s, according to Iowa History Online. By 1848, more Germans followed due to political unrest throughout Europe. The towns of Keokuk, Burlington, Muscatine, Davenport, Lyons, and Dubuque were the favored destination settlements for Germans.
So imagine, you are far away from your homeland. You miss the culture, the foods and, the drink, you knew so well. These German farmers quickly found the Iowa soil to be welcoming to hops.
In 1854, Iowa passed a prohibition law, but like other alcohol prohibition laws it was not enforceable. In 1858, the law was amended to allow the sale of beer and wine made from fruits and grains in view of the growing German-American community.
Hops have had a resurgence in Iowa over the past several years as a number of micro-breweries continue to crop up across the state.
Just another example of the importance of paying attention to tiny, sometimes seemingly unimportant details in the paper money designs.
Oct 10, 2014, 13:12 PM byThe somewhat bland design on this 1934 Russian 5-ruble note isn’t the eye-catcher. It’s the bold, hand-signed autograph of entertainer Bob Hope across the center of the note. Hope’s first overseas USO tour was in 1943 and that’s mostly likely where this portion of a short-snorter was signed. All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
Paper money aficionados are attracted to bank notes like ants scurry to a lollipop dropped on a sidewalk.
The sweetness of finding just the right note to expand or start a collection is irresistible.
But the notes are more than just a physical record of a country’s economic existence. The designs often tell a story, and the printed dates on the notes nail down a specific time in world events.
The story of the humans who’ve designed, used and saved these bits of history can become especially sweet memories.
A collector who seemed to understand the human aspect of collecting was Ruth Walden Hill. She died in 1995 at the age of 96 and spent almost half a century collecting paper money from around the world.
In an article published by Coin World in 1979, Mrs. Hill said:“Frankly, I have no favorite note. It is the excitement of the many facets of paper money that interest me.”
Heritage Auctions began offering some of her abundant collection of world bank notes at the April 2014 Central States Numismatic Society convention, and is continuing with sales at future Signature Auctions and Tuesday Internet sales.
Plain, exotic and historic notes all rub elbows, so to speak, in these sales.
Some examples include a 1934 Soviet Union 5-ruble note with a bland design. But it’s not the design that attracts the eye, it’s the bold, hand-signed autograph of entertainer Bob Hope across the center of the note. Imagine the stories told about how the autograph was obtained by a member of the armed services before it came to reside in Hill’s collection.
Hope’s first overseas USO tour was in 1943, and Russia is mostly likely where this portion of a short-snorter was signed. This note, along with an Iranian note also bearing Hope’s autograph, sold for $56 Sept. 8, 2014, at the Heritage Auctions Long Beach Expo World Currency Signature sale.
A short snorter is a note signed by various persons traveling together or who met up at different events, and the note records the meeting, according to the website for The Short Snorter Project. The website tells the story of the tradition, which started in the 1920s, and that once involved alcohol and IOUs. The notion of creating and collecting such monetary remembrances spread throughout the U.S. armed forces and was particularly popular during World War II.
Plain would not be the way to describe the design on the face of a very rare 1905 Bank of Portugal 50-mil-real-ouro note with a connection to one of Portugal’s far-flung possessions. The auction catalog described it as “a masterpiece of engraver’s art depicting ships navigating about rocks in rough seas,” with busts of Portuguese explorers Perode Alenquer and Diogo Cao at lower left and right foreground with an anchor between them.
An exotic design from an exotic place. The Azores, a group of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, are one of two autonomous regions of Portugal.
The note, graded by PCGS Currency as Very Fine 25 Apparent for a minor stain on the face near the bottom center, sold for $3,525 by Heritage on April 24, 2014, during the Central States Numismatic Society convention.
A note from the short-lived nation of Katanga provides current and future generations with a tangible piece of history.
The design on the face of a National Bank of Katanga 100-franc note, dated Aug. 15, 1962, shows a woman hold ears of corn that appear to be freshly harvested.
The State of Katanga was a breakaway state from 1960 to 1963. It proclaimed its independence from the Republic of Congo-Leopoldville during a coup. A few short months after the note illustrated here was placed in circulation, the leaders of the breakaway state surrendered. The state was absorbed into its former homeland.
The Katanga note, graded Very Fine by the auction firm, sold for $99.88 at the Long Beach Expo World Currency Signature Auction Sept. 4 to 8, 2014, by Heritage Auctions.
So who was this woman who amassed such a fascinating collection?
Mrs. Adolf B. Hill Jr. III, as she liked her letters to be addressed, was widely considered to be the “grand old lady” of paper money collecting in North America, according to the biography for her induction in 2010 into the International Bank Note Society’s Hall of Fame.
Her interest in paper money began in the 1950s shortly after the death of her husband, Adolph. Her friends remember her as generous with her time and knowledge.
Paper money dealer Dusty Royer of Missouri said she was “first of all a collector, so condition [of the note] was secondary.”
Royer remembers Mrs. Hill as always being willing to help other collectors and especially researchers.
In his Note-ables column published in the May 25, 1998, issue of Coin World, Gene Hessler reflection on his quarter century friendship with Hill.
“Ruth Hill was an extremely good friend and she had considerable influence on me. At American Numismatic Association conventions and the Memphis International Paper Money Show, we always spent time together talking paper money and socializing. Ruth’s extreme generosity included invitations to her many friends to join her for dinner during numismatic gatherings.”
The notes the gracious “grand old lady” collected have been preserved for future generations of collectors. They are a tangible reminder of a time and place not many of us will ever experience.
The notes are available to collectors who treasure the story behind the note as much as the note itself.
Sep 9, 2014, 16:05 PM by
Errors are the headache of the manufacturing world. But paper money errors can sometimes make a collector’s day.
As with any production process, errors will occur and the processes used at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in paper money production are no exception.
Error dealers and collectors have always told me the types of errors that can be clearly spotted by anyone tend to draw a higher price than errors that are more subtle.
That’s what makes a Series 1935E $1 silver certificate with a portion of the third printing missing so interesting.
This eye-popping error note sold for only $470, during the Sept. 3 to 9 Heritage Auctions Currency Auction during the Long Beach Expo in Long Beach, Calif. (All prices cited include the buyer’s fee.)
In addition to the partial missing overprint error, the face of the note was scribbled on with a blue wax marker by a BEP inspector clearly indicating it should be pulled out for destruction. In addition, someone at the BEP attached to the face a vivid red- and white-striped BEP rejection sticker.
Those two actions individually but certainly together should have alerted someone down the line to pull this note.
But to some collector’s delight it didn’t happen and the note has a new owner. That note was graded Choice About New 58 Premium Paper Quality by PCGS Currency.
For those with deeper pockets, the auction also sold a double-denomination error – known as the King of Errors.
A Series 1974 Federal Reserve note with a $20 face and $10 back sold for $32,900. The note graded Choice About New 58 Premium Paper Quality by PCGS Currency.
Heritage sold another double-denomination Series 1974 $20/$10 FRN for $28,200 during its Currency Platinum Night Auction Aug. 6 during the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill. That note was graded Choice About New 58 PPQ by PCGS Currency.
Another collector was happy to be seeing double in winning the auction of a Series 1976 $2 Federal Reserve note with doubled overprint of the serial numbers and the Treasury and Federal Reserve seals. The note was graded Gem New 65 PPQ by PCGS Currency and realized $15,862.50.
BEP employees and inspection equipment have definitely improved through the years. That has reduced the number of errors coming into the market today. But it has not eliminated them. So keep your eyes open.
Check those paper notes in your pocket, you never know what you might find.