August is always an exciting month for the world of numismatics in the United States, with the annual American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money taking place. For more than a century the leading dealers and collectors have gathered together to buy, sell, and exhibit rarities and exchange news and research. ANA conventions have often been the venue at which new discoveries are announced. There is also a long standing tradition of auction sales at the ANA convention, and by far the greatest amount of premier U.S. currency offered so far during 2016 will be auctioned in a few short weeks.
First up during ANA week is Stacks Bowers, who’s live auction session goes down on Wednesday, August 10th with 653 lots crossing the block. It has been evident that one of the hottest areas of U.S. currency has been high denomination small size Federal Reserve Notes, and the Stacks Bowers auction features at least seven lots of these sought after pieces. The top lot is a pair of $5,000 notes that are both very low serial numbers
and consecutive from the Richmond district. One of the pair is thought to be a very rare replacement note, which we will go into further at the end of this article in the “Note in Focus” section. There are additional high grade examples of $10,000 and $5,000 notes, and also a 1934 $1,000 note graded Superb-66 from Chicago. Much has already been written about the Paymaster Collection, which is the only fully complete set of Military Payment Certificates ever formed. Containing many high grade replacement MPC notes, far and away the highlight lot of this collection is a bound booklet of Series 701 progressive proofs and specimens. This series was never issued for circulation. It is always exciting when a “Watermelon” note is up for grabs, and the Stacks Bowers sale features one graded PCGS XF45. While perhaps not as famous or expensive as its older brother the Grand Watermelon, this series 1890 $100 Treasury note is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000.
The Heritage ANA currency auction takes place the following day, Thursday, August 11th, with a selection of 115 lots. Remarkably, this sale is also led (in terms of pre-sale estimates) by five small size high denomination notes. In this case there are two $10,000 notes and three $5,000, the standout a $5,000 from the very scarce St. Louis district graded PMG CU-64. It is uncommon for an auction to have one example of an 1864 Compound Interest Treasury note, and this session has two, a $20 and a $50. These notes were issued towards the end of the Civil War and very few are known today because almost all were redeemed once the note stopped bearing interest in 1868. The $20 note is graded a problem free PCGS VF25 and the $50 is graded PMG VF30 Net. Lastly a very historic set of serial number one series 1985 notes presented to then Treasurer of the United States Katherine Davalos Ortega will be sold, which also includes the plate used to engrave the signature of Ortega.
NOTE IN FOCUS: POSSIBLE $5,000 REPLACEMENT NOTE
As mentioned, lot 10484 in the Stacks Bowers ANA auction features a pair of consecutive 1934 $5,000 notes from the Richmond Federal Reserve district. The note we are looking at here is serial number E00000078A, which is graded PMG Choice Uncirculated-63 Net previously Mounted. However, the grade is not so important in this case. It has long been known that the Bureau of Engraving & Printing did not produce Star replacement notes for $5,000 and $10,000 notes because of their relatively small printage figures, but it is reasonable to conclude that every note of this denomination was not made without some being damaged in the process. Instead the BEP chose to replace damaged notes with a note with the exact same serial number, without using the star character as part of the serial number. This conclusion is drawn because the bluish/green color of the seal matches notes made significantly later than the original 1934 notes which have a light green seal. If the note was not a replacement, it should have the same seal color as the immediate preceding serial number, which makes this lot so important. If the note with serial number E00000079A were to ever surface and it had a light green seal, then one could be fairly certain the current note is indeed a replacement. This lot also serves to show that U.S. and world paper money remain fertile ground for new research and discoveries, something all collectors can get excited about.