The fortieth Memphis International Paper Money Show has come and gone with currency dealers from around the world gathering to buy, sell, and exchange thoughts on the market. One of the main talking points among attendees was the announcement by Lyn Knight, owner of the show, that starting next year the show will be held in Kansas City. The mere mention of the city “Memphis” has held a special place for many United States currency dealers and collectors for many years, because it conjures memories of the various times many of them could share collecting stories, discuss new discoveries, and of course, eat great food. However, the changing numismatic marketplace and travel realities have necessitated a change in venue. It was evident that there were fewer non-dealer attendees at recent shows, meaning less retail business for table holders. Meanwhile the auctions associated with the show remained strong because internet bidding does not require one to actually be in Memphis to participate. Travel to Memphis from many parts of the U.S. can be costly and difficult when compared to other popular convention cities. The rise of world paper money has made the show a desirable event for dealers from outside the U.S., and it can take up to four flights to arrive there, so it was clearly time for a new venue – Kansas City. While there will be an adjustment to the new location next year, the fact that it is taking place in the backyard of the show owner and in a more centrally located city are positives for attendees to look forward to.
This year’s Lyn Knight auction took place in three live sessions and another seven internet-only sessions. Tradition dictates the first session is dedicated to world paper money, with nearly 1,000 lots crossing the block. The highlight was a quartet of extremely rare early Philippines notes issued under Spanish administration, which sold for a combined $75,200. There were comments at the show to the extent that just a handful of years ago price estimates in the world paper sale were in the hundreds and low thousands and now a number of lots were approaching $10,000.
The following two sessions were dedicated to U.S. paper money, and there were some monumental notes sold. Looking into the numbers, there were 35 notes which sold for five figures and four that broke through the six figure barrier. The sale topper was an 1863 $100 Legal Tender graded PCGS AU55 PPQ (Fr-167a), the famous Spread Eagle note, which brought $270,250. This note was last sold in 1971 as part of the Donlon collection. The other six figure notes were a trio of silver certificates: a series 1878 $20, a series 1880 $50, and a series 1880 $100. The $50 (Fr-328) was particularly strong: graded VF30 PPQ by PCGS it exceeded its high estimate to sell for $105,750. Another exciting offering was a set of the famous Montgomery notes issued by the Confederate States which brought a combined $83,000. The Memphis auction showed that the currency market is firm but not yet back to the highs seen 8-10 years ago.
On another topic, dealers at the Memphis show told us that many readers are unaware of one important long-time Greensheet characteristic for pricing: that is, bid prices for all notes in grade 63 and higher are for notes that have the EPQ or PPQ designation.
Therefore, notes which are at these grade levels that do not have this designation may
trade at a discount. We have added a notation on each page to this effect.
NOTE IN FOCUS: $50 FIRST CHARTER NATIONAL BANK NOTE
The $50 Original Charter National Bank Note is a classic rarity in the pantheon of the national bank notes. Covering Friedberg numbers 440 through 451, these notes were in circulation from 1863 to 1901. Despite this long period of issuance, and over 800 banks which issued this denomination, incredibly there are only 27 known notes today. A hallmark of early American engraving, the face of this note features two vignettes of Washington: on the left is Washington crossing the Delaware, and to the right is Washington in prayer with a rich allegory of Victory and Liberty above. The reverse features an engraving of the painting “Embarkation of the Pilgrims” by Robert Walter Weir. The original of this work, commissioned in 1837, resides in the rotunda of the United States Capitol building. An example on the First National Bank of Geneva, Ohio graded PCGS VF20 Apparent sold for $35,250 in the Memphis auction.