The final two major U.S. currency auctions of the year are now in the books, with Stacks Bowers and Lyn Knight holding auctions in November. Both auctions had strong sell-through rates, an indicator of both demand and realistic expectations on part of their respective consignors.

Stacks Bowers was up first, with their auction in Baltimore. This sale saw ten different notes achieve the five-figure level, with the group a good mix of various types. Unsurprisingly, a small-size large denomination note was the topper – in this case a series 1934 $5,000 from the Chicago district. Graded PMG XF40 Net, it brought $64,625. In large size type, a PCGS CU66PPQ $2 Educational note brought $14,100 to lead the way. Another lot worthy of attention was a Fr.97 series 1875 $10 Legal Tender graded F12 which sold for $6,169.


Lyn Knight’s auction in conjunction with the PCDA convention had 14 five-figure notes—but interestingly—eight of them were U.S. notes and six of them were world currency. The overall sale topper was an 1864 $20 Compound Interest Treasury note, PCGS VF30 Apparent, at $28,200. Second place overall went to a serial number matched denomination set of the Bahamas 1965 Decimal issue, which sold for $26,438. A gem series 1869 $2 Legal Tender in a PCGS holder brought down $23,500, while the always popular and in demand $100 large size National—in this case a series 1882 brown back from the state of North Dakota—sold for $21,150. Close on the heels of this result was a 1937 Canadian $50 with a rare signature combination graded PCGS CU66PPQ which sold for $19,975. It is fascinating to see prices realized for world notes in lockstep with U.S. notes at a major auction.

Heritage has three auctions coming in the near future: a world paper money sale in Hong Kong December 7th through the 9th, and both a U.S. currency and world currency sale in Florida at the FUN show in early January.


Aside from collectible currency, paper money in general has been very much in the news lately. Months ago the European Central Bank announced the discontinuation of the 500 Euro note, and much more recently the Swedish central bank (Sveriges Riksbank) took steps to issue “virtual currency” which would effectively end the issuance of coins and notes. Ironically, the Riksbank was the first western central bank to issue paper money in the 1660s.

Even more impactful, on November 8 the nation of India demonetized their two highest denomination notes in circulation: the 500 and 1,000 rupee. This recall is causing mass chaos as the citizenry rush to exchange the outmoded notes into new currency, with extraordinarily long waits and restrictive daily limits the norm. Intrepid antiques and collectibles dealers in India are reportedly gathering the various signature and series varieties of the now obsolete notes.

What do actions like these mean for the future of collectible paper money? Is it a net positive or negative? One argument is that if less paper money in used in everyday transactions, the currency will fall from the public consciousness and collecting it will be negatively impacted. On the other hand, many of us scarcely use coinage in our daily lives but the rare coin market remains relevant.

The keys for the long term success of the collectible currency market are two things that go hand in hand: confidence on the part of buyers and availability of information. Add to this transparency and honesty in dealing. Unfortunately, the sharp increases in the value of world notes over the past five years have led to the nefarious doctoring and restoration of notes which is often not disclosed at the time of selling. When a dealer buys a note— particularly from a public auction — in a certain grade and then the note reappears later on the market in a higher grade, the entire market is undermined and the effect is long-term damage to the credibility of rare paper money as a whole. Fortunately, the amount of information about paper money is increasing each day, allowing for a better investment with fewer traps.