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Walk Through The March 2013 Currency Catalog

Written by Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus

Author: Q. David Bowers / Monday, March 04, 2013 / Categories: Crossing the Block
As I compose this message I have in my hand the catalog for the paper money section of the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Baltimore auction. Held in conjunction with the Whitman Coins andCollectibles Expo, this sale, to be held on Friday evening, March 15, will attract attention worldwide, plus a lot of interest and activity at the show itself. While paper money has been intensely collected for many years, in recent times this specialty has become increasingly important, what with interesting varieties of small-size notes 1928 to date appealing to many collectors. Traditional older notes are standard, of course.

Our sale begins with lot 5001, a 1771 note of colonial Connecticut, from which point other notes from that colony are offered, followed by Delaware and then an extensive run of Georgia notes. Massachusetts issues include, as expected, certain notes and certificates from plates engraved by Paul Revere, perhaps the most famous of colonial bank note engravers. Notes of colonial New Jersey are interesting and important as well, as are some later state notes in the colonial style. Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia are also represented, after which will be found a nice selection of Continental Currency notes, commencing with the famous issue of May 10, 1775, the $20 on marbled paper secured in France by Benjamin Franklin.

Obsolete notes, generally defined as those issued by state-chartered banks from 1782 through July 1866, but mostly prior to 1865, have become an especially dynamic focal point of interest in recent years. The interest has been accelerated by the appearance of incredibly important private holdings such as the Schingoethe Collection and our own offering of the John J. Ford Collection. Our present Baltimore offering begins with lot 5138, a rarity from Montgomery, Alabama, after which notes are listed by states, including seldom-seen Proofs. The parade of Obsolete notes includes lot 5183, a spectacular Bank of North America Proof $1,000, a denomination that hardly exists for any east or northeast bank except for the misleadingly-named Bank of the United States (which should be titled Bank of the United States of Pennsylvania). This Bank of North America note is estimated at $15,000 to $25,000. If it were a federal note you could probably move the decimal over one point! Suffice it to say whether or not your collection contains this variety will probably depend on your success in this particular sale. Rhode Island notes are, in a word, definitive. The offering of Proofs is simply amazing -- world class, memorable and wonderful. If Rhode Island notes are your specialty or you are planning to collect them, bidding in this section of our sale is absolutely essential. I am not taking much of a risk when I say that many of the notes are likely not to be offered again in the lifetime of anyone reading the catalog.

Tennessee is represented by many notes that are seldom seen, ditto for certain Virginia notes. Then come presentation volumes of vignettes, a very rare class of collectible. Lot 5355 offers vignettes by the American Bank Note Company -- much rarer in my experience than federal note vignettes. Some sheets of Confederate currency come next.

Regular federal notes begin with lot 5164, a Gem example of the popular 1869 $1 “Rainbow” note. From there the parade continues with type notes, popular designs, and the like, among which a superb Gem 1896 $5 “Educational” note is especially important. In reviewing the catalog you are likely to get some bidding inspiration if you at the same time look up many of these items in the bestselling Whitman book, The 100 Greatest American Currency Notes. Most of the important types are listed there. Gold Certificates are seen toward the end of the large-size note listing, followed by Fractional Currency.

Small-size notes feature the Thomas Vandenbosch Collection of scarcities, rarities, interesting varieties, and just about anything else imaginable. Beyond that high-denomination notes beckon, including $500, $1,000 and an incredible $5,000 Federal Reserve notewith serial number 3A. Hawaiian notes, North African issues, Military Payment certificates and other items follow, after which there is a spectacular section of low and unusual serial number notes. Sets and runs of notes will command interest and attention. A double denomination $5-$10 note will attract bids from many directions. I remember some years ago when Aubrey and Adeline Bebee had nine of these notes, an important discovery. This is probably from that group. Error notes come next.

National Bank notes begin with California and continue onward to include quite a few interesting things, including a $1,000 pack of $20 bills from the American National Bank of Pensacola, Florida. Such are seldom seen from any bank. Among Ohio notes will be found an important Cincinnati First Charter $100 note from the National Lafayette Bank. While National Bank notes conclude the Baltimore “live auction” portion of our sale, at the end of the catalog will be found a selection of notes offered in our Internet-only session which closes Tuesday, March 19, at 3:00 pm Pacific time.

If paper money is your forte, attending the Whitman Coins and Collectibles Expo will be a highlight. Or, if like most of our buyers you bid on the Internet you will have an enjoyable experience as well. Either way I wish you the very best of success in capturing the pieces that attract you the most.