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.