The month of January was marked by a tremendous amount of activity in the world of paper money. Two large conventions and multiple auctions guaranteed dealers and collectors would have a very busy start to the year. Well over $10 million worth of material changed hands during the month, and overall activity was a tick higher than last year. Heritage held both U.S. currency and world paper money auctions at the FUN convention in Florida and Stacks Bowers held a world paper money auction as part of the NYINC. Additionally, Heritage held an online-only auction of items from the Eric P. Newman collection on January 11th. The FUN U.S. paper money sale totaled $7.5 million and the world paper came to $1.3 million. While we are waiting for the totals of the Stacks Bowers sale, a very rare note from Zanzibar realized an impressive $129,250 in their auction. Any piece of world paper which realizes six figures is in truly rarified air.
The two early Confederate albums we featured in last month’s article both hammered at levels near expectations. The Bechtel album was sold by Heritage for $99,875, and the Thian album was sold by Kolbe & Fanning for $41,300. As has been the trend for more than a year, the top three lots in the Heritage auction were all small-size, large-denomination notes. The sale topper was a PCGS CU65 $10,000 Federal Reserve note from the well-known Binion hoard which brought $158,625. It is interesting that PCGS has graded nine $10,000 notes CU65 while PMG has graded none. The top large size note was a series 1918 FRN, PMG VF30 at $51,700, and the top national note was an 1873 $20 from the First National Gold Bank of Stockton, PMG VF20 Net, at $47,000.
In pricing updates this month, much of the movement is positive. Owing to its large size and scope, the annual FUN auction provides an opportunity to observe prices of notes that do not often trade hands. In some cases, this means updating prices that may have not been changed in over a year. We found that a number of scarce types in high grade were still significantly undervalued in these pages. We were also happy to see that many of the prices realized were at, or very close, to our numbers in the categories of large size gold certificates and federal reserve notes, small size legal tenders, fractional currency, and World War II emergency notes. Military Payment Certificates are an ongoing saga. While a look at the price movement would suggest a weak market with many minus signs, what is really happening is a continuing adjustment from the peak, and frankly unrealistic, levels these notes achieved more than seven years ago. Many notes-especially the replacements-were pumped up to extraordinarily high levels by some dealers and collectors. When these collectors either stopped collecting or sold, the thin market became thinner. Compounding this was that the prior Greensheet editors were slow to bring the MPC prices back down to reality after 2010. We have worked over the past 18 months to reflect what these notes are actually trading for.
NOTE IN FOCUS: 1866 NARAMORE’S UNITED STATES TREASURY AND NATIONAL BANK NOTE DETECTOR
The Eric P. Newman collection has been the source of innumerable rare and interesting numismatic items, and the recent offering from Heritage of more items from his paper money holdings did not disappoint. Bank note detectors were amongst the earliest devices used to combat the newly issued Federal paper money, and had in fact been in use since Colonial times. They were also extensively used throughout the period of obsolete bank notes. The one featured here is special for a number of reasons, but first among them is that is a full, complete sheet of 18 note types: all nine of the first legal tender denominations and all nine of the first national bank note denominations, both $1 through $1,000. Most detectors produced by Robert C. Naramore are in the form of individual cards, one for each note, which were then housed in a cardboard box or leather pouch. A complete sheet is perhaps unique. It was manufactured using photographs of proofs of the notes which were supplied by the Treasury Department. This is the first time in history that photography, rather than printing methods, was used in the detection of forged notes. Bankers and merchants would employ these bank note detectors to check for fake bills in the same fashion a clerk uses the detector ink pen to check your $100 in the store today. Now, 150 years later the latest printing technology is still used to thwart those who attempt to counterfeit paper currency, with such things as latent images, UV ink, holograms, and optical variable devices, but counterfeiters still try nonetheless. This bank note detector, housed in a double-sided wood frame, sold for $3,995. For more information on Naramore detectors, see Paper Money Vol. XXXVI, No. 1.
BY PATRICK IAN PEREZ, EDITOR