Third party grading of currency has been a part of our hobby for roughly 15 years now. From the very beginning it was a game changer, commoditizing notes and bringing new legitimacy to a market in much the same way it had for coins since the 1980s. Naturally the more mainstream genres of United States currency were the first to benefit. Large Size currency saw new highs as numeric grading of currency exposed grade rarities and sparked competition among collectors seeking to own the finest examples of particular notes. The creation of registry sets by PMG and PCGS helped to drive prices higher. Other areas like Small Size, Fractionals and Colonial and Continental Currency soon followed and as more notes went into TPG holders those markets also grew to new highs.
The past couple of years has seen a new interest in third party grading of Confederate Currency. What has historically been a very “old school” field of collecting where accepted standards of grading were not always in line with the modern marketplace is now becoming more mainstream. Due to the nature of production of these notes and the harsh environment in which they circulated, Confederate Currency can be hard to find in higher grades, especially Choice Uncirculated and higher. Of the 70 official types of Confederate treasury notes printed from 1861 to 1864, nearly all are true rarities in Gem Uncirculated grades.
For example, our March 2015 Baltimore auction featured a T-65 1864 $100 graded Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ. A perusal of the PMG population report shows that out of the 766 T-65s they have graded just two have been graded 66 EPQ with none finer! That puts the 66 EPQ note in the top .002 percentile of the PMG population report for T-65s. For comparison, PMG has graded 36 1896 $5 “Educational” Silver Certificates at the 66 EPQ level along with eight at the 67 EPQ level. The T-65 in our March auction, lot #3437, realized $3,055. While that was easily an all-time price record for what is considered to be a fairly common type note it certainly doesn’t compare to the mid-five figure price one would expect to pay for a top-pop $5 “Educational.” It is however roughly ten times what a “raw” T-65 could be bought for in Uncirculated on most any bourse floor.
In that same March auction a T-57 1863 $50 graded Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ, lot #3429, realized $3,525. That note was tied with one other example for the finest of 157 graded by PMG. Again this is about ten times what a “raw” Uncirculated example of this note might sell for but far less than what a top-population Large Size type note may bring. Consider that PMG has graded over 100 1896 $1 “Educational” Silver Certificates in Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ alone.
Other impressive Gem grade Confederate price realizations include:
- August 2015, lot #40073: T-24 1861 $10 PMG Choice Uncirculated 64, second finest PMG graded example, $4,406.25.
- August 2015, lot #40076: T-69 1864 $5 Remainder PCGS Gem New 68 PPQ, finest graded T-69, $1,527.50.
- March 2015, lot #3386: T-9 1861 $20 PCGS Gem New 66 PPQ, tied for second finest graded, $2,350.
- March 2015, lot #3442: T-69 1864 $5 PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ, one of six with none finer, $1,656.75.
- June 2014, lot #354: T-66 1864 $50 PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ, single finest graded, $1,292.50.
While we can’t predict that Confederate Currency will ever enjoy the same widespread appeal of Large or Small Size type notes, we are finding that some collectors are branching out into Confederate notes as a result of their expanded presence in third-party holders. This growing demand should continue to push prices for the choicest examples higher as more buyers appreciate the true scarcity of these notes at the highest end of the grading spectrum.