BY PATRICK IAN PEREZ, EDITOR
The United States currency market got a major shot in the arm with the March Whitman Baltimore Expo and the associated Stack’s Bowers auction. It was the largest sale in terms of prices realized for the firm, netting just under $10.5 million. While it will surprise exactly no one that the first part of the Joel Anderson Collection provided a large chunk of that total, the overall sale was strong. The Anderson notes brought home over $7.9 million for 64 notes for an average of more than $123,000. A remarkable 44 of the 64 notes sold for above their high estimate, and the only note that did not sell above the low estimate was the Series 1891 $10 Silver Certificate (Fr.-298) which brought $45,800 versus a $50,000 estimate. While the outright rarity of the Anderson notes were going to bring high prices regardless, a true measure is both the demand and comparisons to what comparable or the same notes brought in the past. The top two lots of the sale both sold for $960,000: the Series 1863 $1,000 Legal Tender (Fr.-186d) and the Series 1880 $1,000 Legal Tender (Fr.-187b). While one (or both) of these notes certainly had the potential to break the $1 million mark, falling just short is nothing to scoff at. Close on the heels of these two notes was the Series 1863 $500 Legal Tender (Fr.-183c) at $900,000. The previous high for this exact note was $621,000 in 2005.
The Anderson sale was the greatest offering of the so-called “middle of the book” issues in recent memory. Named because of where they fall in “Paper Money of the United States,” by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, these include Interest Bearing Notes and Compound Interest Treasury Notes. In addition to the rarity, these note types feature many designs and vignettes that are not found on any other piece of American currency. This alone may contribute to their demand. That there are collectors who will to go into the six figures to acquire these esoteric pieces is certainly a positive thing for the market. Interest Bearing Notes were essentially circulating bonds, and the top note of this type, the 1861 $500 (Fr.-209a) sold for $660,000. This note was last seen by the collecting community in 2005 when it sold for $299,000. While a high-denomination rarity is expected to be a stunner, the result of the 1861 $50 Interest Bearing Note was truly astounding, selling for $576,000, more than doubling its high estimate. This note is made payable to Samuel Colt, an aspect that surely increased it price. Nonetheless, this note was sold for $86,250 in 1999, realizing a 568% return in less than two decades. Two Interest Bearing Notes that deserve mention are the 1861 “Two Year” Specimens in the denominations of $50 and $500 that both smashed their $25,000 high estimate, bringing $43,200 and $40,800 respectively. In the case of the $500, this Specimen is the only example of this note anywhere.
Turning to the Compound Interest Treasury Notes, the lead example was the 1864 $10 (Fr.-190b), certified Uncirculated-61, bringing $96,000. The previous high watermark for this exact note was $54,625.
Another hallmark of the Anderson notes is that many of them are at the very top of the condition census of their type, and these performed very well. The Series 1907 $10 Gold Certificate (Fr.-1168), certified Superb Gem-67 PPQ (all notes graded by PCGS Currency) sold for $24,000. The previous high for this note type in 67 was $13,800. The finest known Series 1875 $5 “Woodchopper” Legal Tender (Fr.-65), graded Gem-66, sold for $9,900, nearly double its previous high. Top-grade Federal Reserve Notes drew very spirited bidding. A Series 1914 $10 from San Francisco (Fr.-951a) graded Superb Gem- 68 that is otherwise common brought $11,400, a full 280% over its high estimate. A 1914 $100 certified Superb Gem-67 (Fr.-1104) took home $8,400 and a 1914 $20 from Atlanta (Fr.-984) also in Superb Gem- 67 sold for $5,520. Even the least-expensive note of this part of the collection, a 1914 $5 FRN sold for $780, well above its estimate. The second part of the Anderson Collection will cross the block in August at the ANA in Philadelphia.
We must also mention another stunning note that sold in Baltimore, and that is the 1861 $5 Demand Note issued from Philadelphia (Fr.-2) in Gem-65 from the A.J. Vanderbilt Collection. Last sold way back in 1990 for $26,400, this note sold for an astounding $372,000. The appetite for rare notes is clearly there in today’s market.
On the wholesale side of the market, among the best movers have been circulated, mid-grade large-size type notes in the $500 to $5,000 price range. This is especially seen in Legal Tenders and Gold Certificates. There are many Legal Tenders, especially in the lower Friedberg numbers, that are deceptively scarce and it seems the market is recognizing this. All one has to do is browse online auction results and compare the frequency with which notes appear to see this. The Series 1917 $1 and $2 Legal Tenders outnumber the earlier Series 1880 by a wide margin, although the difference in price is not yet as wide. As a result, honest, evenly worn notes in Fine through Extra Fine are in demand.