(No title)


Stacks Bowers ANA Auctions Sets New Records.

It has been a while since we had time to do a new currency blog.  A lot has happened in the past 18 months.  Stacks Bowers, the country’s oldest numismatic auction firm, just completed their 2016 ANA Auction.  And the paper money auction results were very strong.

The national banknote highlight was the Original Series $100 from Salem, NJ that sold for $164,500.  It’s pre-auction estimate was just $80,000 – $120,000.

The second best national was a very rare territorial ace from Pueblo, CO.  It sold for $49,350 against a pre-sale estimate of $20,000 – $30,000.  Eight other national banknotes also realized more than $10,000.

What’s Hot:  The notes that sold best had conservative estimates and were fresh to the market.  The market is in a period of change where a lot of the traditional buyers are sitting on the sidelines or being very picky about what they buy.  Anything still has a chance to perform well, but early and legitimately rare notes like first charters continue to outperform.  Red seals and blue seals were moderately soft.

Upcoming Rare Currency Auction at Manifest Auctions


Manifest Auctions will be holding their quarterly currency auction on Saturday February 1pm EST.  There are over 300 lots of collectible currency.  

Manifest is known for having auctions with rare and high quality national bank notes, large size type, and small size stars.  Some items in this sale are expected to sell for in excess of $30,000.  However, there are also plenty of lower value items for the collector on a budget.

The entire sale can be viewed at Manifest’s website.  Or you can sign up to bid online by using the live internet bidding platform at LiveAuctioneers.com.

Some National Currency Highlights Include:
#1 Blue Seal from Honea Path, SC
Uncut Sheet of Brown Backs from Lufkin, TX
Red Seal from Spirit Lake, IA
Several #1 Large Notes from Pennsylvania
$100 45PPQ Brown Back from Philadelphia
$5 FCP from NYC in 58PPQ
Several Rare Indiana Third Charter Notes
Blue Seal from Seminole, TX
$100 1882 Date Back from Lockhart, TX
Blue Seal from Daytona, FL
Blue Seal from Camas, WA
Blue Seal from Lind, WA


National Currency Blog – Upcoming Currency Auction


Manifest Auctions will be holding their quarterly currency auction on Saturday October 25th starting at 5pm EST.  There are over 400 lots of collectible currency.  
Manifest is known for having auctions with rare and high quality national bank notes, large size type, and small size stars.  Some items in this sale are expected to sell for in excess of $30,000.  However, there are also plenty of lower value items for the collector on a budget.

The entire sale can be viewed at Manifest’s website.  Or you can sign up to bid online by using the live internet bidding platform at LiveAuctioneers.com.

National Currency Blog – Canadian Chartered Bank Notes


This may seem like an odd topic for a blog about American national bank notes, but the two have more in common than you might initially think.  Canadian Chartered Bank Notes are kind of like a hybrid between obsolete bank notes and national bank notes.  First off, there has been a lot more written about Canadian chartered bank notes than what we are covering here.

Chartered bank notes most resemble national bank notes in that many are very rare today and most collectors focus on certain regions.  Chartered notes also circulated with other government issues, the same way that national bank notes competed with federal issues.  Unlike obsolete bank notes which all have no legal tender status today, and national bank notes which are all good for face value, the redemption value of a chartered bank note is hit and miss.  All of them have collector value and some are still good at their face value; it just depends on if the bank failed or if it was bought out.

Just like obsolete notes from The United States, many Canadian notes were printed by The American Bank Note Company.  I don’t enjoy admitting this, but Canadian notes are often much more attractive than similar American notes.  Unlike national currency which was standardized and only has about 50 different design types, there are literally thousands of different designs used by the Canadian banks.  It would be absolutely impossible to collect every design type.

Fifty and one hundred dollar bills still tend to be very rare.  Serial number one notes are also hotly collected.  Condition is also of extreme importance the same way it is for all American and Canadian bank notes.

I think the biggest difference between chartered notes and national bank notes would be the quantity printed.  I don’t know the exact number, but hundreds of millions of national bank notes were printed and close to 400,000 still exist today.  Canada has a fraction of the population of the United States.  They just didn’t print any where near as many chartered notes.  So while great national bank note discoveries are made on a weekly basis, the same really isn’t true for chartered notes.  The original supply just wasn’t as large so great discoveries don’t happen as often.

National Currency Blog – When To Sell National Currency


It has been almost four months since I have been able to get in a blog entry. So I thought I would take a few moments and update everyone on what has been going.

We have been to about twenty different states to both buy and sell national currency. I personally went to Colorado Springs during that time period to work on learning how to grade coins. I can now fully appreciate how lucky we are that paper money is especially easy to grade. We are of course talking about easy to grade in person. High end paper money can be very difficult to grade based on digital images alone. However, that is a story for another day.

The market for national currency has been pretty slow since March. We haven’t really had any amazing rarities show up in the past few months. That is actually pretty standard though. It is so easy to think about all the great national bank notes that have unexpectedly shown up in the past. Then you remember that you are thinking about a thirty year span and you can still only think of a dozen real show stoppers.

One of the talking points we have been hearing a lot is how will the drop in the price of gold and silver affect the collectible currency market. Over the past five years we have had two things driving the discovery of new national bank notes. The first driver was the economic/housing crisis. People who weren’t sellers in 2006 found themselves in positions in 2007-2009 where selling a bank note meant the difference in making the mortgage payment or not. So a lot of neat stuff was coming out then. The next period of discovery was 2010-2012. This was driven by the precious metals boom. People went to the ol’ safety deposit box to pull out some jewelry and maybe some gold coins. Lots of those people also happened up on a bank note or two and decided to investigate them as well. These sellers weren’t people who necessarily needed the money, but they found themselves in a position to get curious about what their currency was worth. Some of those people were pleasantly surprised and turned into sellers.

Now people want to know what the driver will be for the next three years. We think the answer is simple. We are breaking price records, both publically and privately, for what rare currency is selling for. The people who know what they have and have been waiting (maybe since the 1980s) for the right time to sell are now starting to dip their foot into the pool to check the water. They are finding that the water is quite warm. So we think the next wave of sellers will be the informed sellers who have been waiting on the sidelines for the right time. Now is likely the right time.

There is always going to be a stream of fresh notes coming from your regular sources like death, disease, divorce, and debt. However, it is always nice when there is another factor bringing things out of the woodwork. Headlines on major websites like yahoo tend to get people curious. We have had our fair share of news stories about two million dollar bank notes. Sadly, those stories relate to high denomination notes from the 1800s. You probably don’t have one of those hanging out in your safety deposit box. The very best national bank notes can bring five figures, and lots of notes sell for a few thousand dollars. So if you think you have something of interest, please don’t hesitate to ask us what it is worth. You might be surprised. Info@RareNationalCurrency.com

How To Handle A One Collector State Collection


It has now been two months since Glen Jorde sold his massive collection of North Dakota national bank notes.  The auction was certainly not a failure, but I think the deal was probably worth more privately.  Glen said he thought auction was the fairest route to liquidate his collection, and I agree.  An auction gives everyone a chance to compete and the seller doesn’t have to risk offending lifelong collecting friends.  About once a year a collector decides to sell his state collection:

2008 – Frederick Mayer – Colorado Collection
2008 – Chet Krause – Wisconsin Collection
2010 – Richard Melamed – Minnesota Collection
2012 – Wallace Lee – Michigan Collection

We also saw very respectable collections from Oklahoma, Ohio, New Mexico, and Westchester County get auctioned in the past five years.  I am going to share some information I have learned from watching these very specific state and/or county collections get sold.

1)      The top 1% always sells well but usually underperforms private results.  The two leading lots in the North Dakota collection were serial #1 notes from Bismarck and Rugby.  Bismarck sold for $97,750 and Rugby brought $37,950.  At the top of the market the notes were worth $125,000 and $75,000 respectively if sold privately.  The day of the auction I think you could have probably gotten $100,000 and $50,000.  So the prices they brought were pretty much on target, but still slightly cheap.

2)      The bottom 30% of the collection does very well.  This is where the auction hype comes into play.  A well promoted auction brings in non-collectors and collectors from other areas of paper money.  These people just want to be part of the action so they might pay $400 for something really worth $250.

3)      The serious but average collector can’t absorb all the material.  This is probably the most important thing to understand.  The average national bank note collector is probably 50 years old, with a family, mortgage, and a good job.  His collecting budget might be $10,000 a year.  These collectors drive the hobby.  He might learn about the auction two months before it takes place.  When a lifelong collection gets sold there is probably $100,000 worth of material he would like to buy, but he has to focus on the one or two lots most meaningful to him.  There are probably ten other collectors like him who have to sort through $100,000 worth of wants on a $10,000 budget.  What ends up happening is these guys focus on a couple of notes that sell for way too much money, and other extreme rarities get passed over because everyone is saving up waiting for their must have lot.  A savvy dealer can go to an auction like that, spend $50,000, wait a few months and make a 10-20% profit as the collecting budgets of the true collectors gets replenished.

Other dealers have theories on how to best approach state collections.  Some people advise buying early while collectors are waiting to get a feel for how much money people are going to spend.  That is true; bargains are much more likely to occur early as opposed to later.  There is certainly money to be made on a huge one collector sale.  You just have to plan ahead and come in with an agenda.

Where Are All The Florida Red Seals?


We got back from 2013 Florida United Numismatists Show in Orlando about a month ago.  It was a good time as usual.  However, while I was there I started asking myself a serious question.  Where are all the Florida red seals?  There are officially 31 1902 red seals known to exist according to census records.  I personally know of at least three others.  There is also probably another handful rumored to exist or hiding in private collections.  So as of right now the most one could reasonably assume that exist would be around 40.

The towns in Florida that currently have existing red seals are Apalachicola, De Funiak Springs, Gainesville, Graceville, Jacksonville, Key West, Madison, Marianna, Miami, Perry, Quincy, St. Petersburg, and Tampa.  That is 13 towns in total.  However, over the past twenty years we have only seen four towns ever come up for auction.  Those towns are Jacksonville, Madison, Marianna, and Apalachicola.  Despite being relatively rare items, these red seals traditionally sell in the $4,000 to $7,500 range.  So where are all the other red seals?  Specifically:

Gainesville – Very Fine
Graceville – Extremely Fine
Key West – Very Fine
Perry – Extremely Fine
Quincy – Extremely Fine

Those notes, in those grades, would be very interesting to see.  I have a black and white copy of the Graceville somewhere.  However, I have never seen the other notes.  It’s not like they are lost.  They are just tucked away in private collections somewhere.

One of the most excited things related to Florida red seals is the possibility of what could still be found.  Red seals were also printed by banks in Alachua, Arcadia, Chipley, Fort Myers, Jasper, Lake City, Milton, Ocala, Pensacola, Sanford, and St. Augustine.  Some of those banks are common, and some are quite rare.  A high grade red seal from any of those towns would be a great discovery.

Want to share a find with us?  We would love to see pictures of any red seal from Florida.  We can help you with the value and give you our best offer.  We are motivated buyers.  Info@RareNationalCurrency.com


For good measure I included a decent looking VF red seal from Madison, FL.  This sold for around $7,000 in 2012.

Old Money Corp – Designing Jewelry With Old Coins


I thought I would take a few minutes and introduce some of the married collectors out there to a really cool numismatic item I happened up on a few months ago.  I was at an arts and crafts fair near my home and saw a vendor who is turning old collectible coins into jewelry.  Before anyone freaks out about coins being destroyed, don’t worry, they are being put to a good use.  Betsy Gresham Eager is the owner of Old Money Corp and the creations she is coming up with are worthy of mention.  The readers who see me at shows know that I am probably not the most fashion forward person, but these things are cool and are certainly a two bird type of thing.

First, we are all contractually obligated to buy our wife a gift for Valentine’s day.  Secondly, we would all probably rather spend the money on coins or currency.  What if I told you could buy a coin, give it to your wife as a present, and not receive divorce papers within the day?  Well I think that is what we are looking at here.  The best part is that Betsy’s jewelry is really reasonably priced, so you could afford flowers and a night out to go along with it.  And you might just make yourself look more cultured and up to date on fashion than you really are.  Everyone wins.

I have included a few pictures below of just some of the really cool coin jewelry she has available.  You can see her full inventory on her site at Old Money Corp.

I personally really like the above ring. ($55)

I don’t think you can go wrong with these earrings.  ($45)


National Currency Blog – Lessons Learned The Hard Way


Now that we are four years into this blog, I think it is time to have a frank (one-sided) conversation about national currency. A lot of people from outside the specialty, but inside the field of numismatics like to think that just because they have a reference book that they are ready to buy and sell national bank notes. Below are some lessons that I have learned the hard way that I would like to share here:

Original Series vs. Series of 1875
This point also applies to 1902 date backs and 1902 plain back. Simply put, there is no premium for an original series note over a series of 1875 note. Collectors just don’t care. We all realize that original series notes are older and often times rarer, but it just doesn’t matter. It is all just a first charter to collectors. There is no premium in the current market. 1902 date backs are multiples rarer than 1902 plain backs, but it just doesn’t matter. Right now 99% of people are collecting by bank. Type matters when it comes to brown back vs red seal, etc. However, seal type varieties being important are a thing of yesteryear.

$5, $10, or $20 Is Meaningless
Back when national bank note collecting first started it was popular to collect all denominations and all types of notes from a bank, especially if that was the only bank you collected. This was possible back then because the price to play was usually a small percentage over face value. Today even the most common notes start at about $200. There is no motivation to collect duplicates, even if they are different denominations. This concept can be especially difficult for coin people to understand. In the world of coins the denomination is exceedingly important. For example, one 1885 $10 gold piece could be common and sell for $1,000, but the $20 piece could be an extremely rare variety and sell for hundreds of thousands. You will often times see a note on ebay advertised as “1 of 4 $10 plain back.” While that may be true, it certainly should not affect your buying decision. Even if the denomination is unique, like they are six tens and one twenty, the twenty should sell for the same as the ten. Ones, twos, fifties, and hundreds are exempt from the above statement.

Kelly Is Obsolete
And I don’t say that with any malice or disrespect to the author. However, the last edition of the Kelly book was published in the summer of 2008 which was just a couple months after the official high of the market, and right before everything with the economy happened. If you want to lose your ass, then pay Kelly premiums for common blue seals in fine condition. That is the fastest way to go broke in this hobby. If someone approaches me with a semi-common 20 known blue seal in fine condition with no signatures and no eye-appeal, I might consider paying 25% of Kelly. And in most cases it is just better to not make an offer. You likely won’t be able to buy something like that for what it is really worth and you are likely to upset someone who doesn’t understand the difference. Red seals are also priced extremely high in the Kelly book. Brown backs are pretty accurate, as are small size notes and first charters. The real landmines lie in the third charter area.

Auction Is The Benchmark
“I paid $3,000 at auction in 2005, so I will need at least that.” Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen. And remember, I am specifically talking about national bank notes here. So many more national bank notes are being discovered every year that what was rare in 2005 could easily be common today. And even if the rarity level is the same today, the odds are that the under bidder has filled the hole, is no longer collecting, or is dead. We are losing collectors at an alarming rate. Furthermore, auction records set the price for a national. Once something has sold for $3,000, then that is the value. If you have something really fresh that doesn’t have an auction result, then as a dealer I can set the price, and probably do pretty well with it. If I am selling an auction retread then the best I can do is probably get the same price. The same people who are collecting today, likely collected in 2005. If they wanted the note then they would have bid. And I don’t say the above statements to suggest that prices at auction are so high that a dealer can’t compete. That simply isn’t true. The fact is just that as a dealer I can get more from a collector than an auction house can, assuming the item does not have an auction history. Collecting national bank notes is fun, but if you only buy out of auction then you will lose a lot of money when it comes time to resell.

Shopping Doesn’t Help, It Hurts
This is a concept that most people don’t understand, so I am going to try to change the example. Imagine there are twenty Chevy dealerships within 50 miles of you. You want to sell your 2004 Malibu. You certainly are not going to just walk on the lot and take your first offer and call it a done deal. You are probably going to do a little homework, visit two or three dealers who appear to stock at least some Malibus, and take the best offer between that group. Hopefully you aren’t going to visit all 20 dealerships. And surely you don’t think that by visiting an extra 17 dealerships that someone is going to pay you $10,000 for a $4,000 car. However, when we change this to currency, people assume that by shot-gunning an email to 100 dealers that they are somehow going to get more money. The fact of the matter is that currency collecting is a small hobby and the network of dealers is very tight. We know that we aren’t they only people competing for a deal. If you work with three dealers, you will probably get three similar offers. There isn’t a rogue dealer or collector paying twice market value. So when trying to sell your note or collection, certainly talk to more than one person, but there is a diminishing return once you start shopping the deal to a fourth, fifth, and twentieth person. If you shop to too many people then everyone will realize the deal is no longer fresh and desirable and your high offer is likely to walk away.

I am sure I will think of some more hard lessons, but those are five good ones for now.

National Currency Blog – What’s New, November 2012


It’s hard to believe that it has been almost six months since my last blog entry. A lot has happened since the Memphis show. The market is in a really interesting place right now. Over the past four years in the down market we have expected to see anything that was not exceptional to sell for a 25 to 50% discount compared to what the same note would have sold for before 2008. Things are changing a little bit now; low end items have a lot of support. However, there aren’t enough buyers (at auction at least) to support a ten million dollar auction. Dealers aren’t speculating on anything right now. When something goes to auction it is only selling to collectors. There are lots of collectors looking to spend up to $1000 to fill holes. However, the good times of collectors upgrading and dealers speculating are probably over, maybe forever. The bull market of yesteryear was driven by dealers buying for inventory and collectors voraciously snapping up anything they liked.

The biggest news of the past month has been that long time collector and dealer Glen Jorde has decided to sell his North Dakota collection. The last time we saw a state collection like this sold was October 2008 when the Chet Krause Wisconsin collection hit the market days after the stock market crash. There have been other state collections available since then, but nothing compares to what Glen has in his collection. Just to name a few notes, there will be serial number one territorial notes as well as unique red seals and blue seals. Considering that Glen was the most well-connected collector in the Dakotas for at least 30 years, there will likely be some real show stoppers that no one even knows about yet. I will certainly update the results of the collection in late January.

Unfortunately, we also saw the passing of two of the original collectors in the hobby. Lowell Horwedel and Vernon “Ossie” Oswald both passed away since the Memphis show. Lowell sold his California national bank note collection in 2004. His collection contained dozens of ultra-rarities that have never been seen before or since. Lowell was also one of the last dealers to keep a huge inventory. Like Lowell, Ossie was one of the original dealers specializing in national bank notes. He had a coin shop in Allentown, PA and he had a network of other coin dealers supplying him with fresh nationals. He too stocked hundreds of national bank notes. The old business model required stocking stacks of material and taking it to shows and waiting for a collector to find you. Today there are probably less than five dealers who keep a large inventory. Thanks to the internet, there really isn’t the need to have something for everyone at a show.

There have also been a lot of significant national bank note discoveries in the last four months. The first five dollar note ever printed by the Territory of Arizona was discovered and sold privately. Ebay has turned up a couple of unique red seals from Oklahoma. A museum in Alaska showed us their serial number one Fairbanks red seal that was previously unknown to exist. Even Bonham’s is getting in on the act. They are auctioning a serial #1 Creede, CO 1882 $5 brown back in a couple of weeks. All of this action brings up the question, are national bank notes really rare? The above mentioned notes are just the highlights. Plenty other $10,000 plus notes have come out of the woodwork. I would wager that if the market was cut into four month sections and taken back historically to 1970, the four months that just passed have to be right up there at the top for most active.


Older posts «