Among the many different genres of American paper money collecting, one stems from the most contentious time in our history: the tumultuous period of the American Civil War. During this time, a four year span of notes was issued by the Confederate States of America.
Almost as soon as the war was over collectors had begun assembling sets of Confederate notes. The Confederacy issued 70 individual types in denominations of 50 cents up to $1,000. Many of these types were printed in large numbers and have high survival rates to this day. Others saw lesser print runs, were redeemed or destroyed and are quite rare today. In the 20th ccntury, noted dealer and Confederate paper money specialist Grover Criswell developed a numbering system using a T for type, followed by a hyphen, then the number for the design. His numbering system included the 70 official types as well as two speculative types now considered to be non-government fantasy pieces.
Today many collectors are type collectors, attempting to secure as many different types as they can for their collection. Due to the limited surviving population of the rarest types, few are fortunate enough to complete a full set. However, for those with the patience and financial means to do so, the reward of completing such a difficult set can be enjoyed in the matter of a few years for around $200,000.
There are six key notes to the set. The first four come from the first issue of notes from Montgomery: T-1 through T-4. The “Montgomerys,” as they are called, are all rare and highly desirable, with approximately 200 or fewer of each type known. These green and black printed notes are of the $1,000, $500, $100 and $50 denominations and are the only notes issued with Montgomery as the capitol. The next key note is the T-27, an 1861 $10 featuring Liberty seated by an eagle and shield. Currently just over 100 of these rare notes are known. The last of the six is the T-35, an 1861 $5 known as the “Indian Princess” due to the vignette at its right end. Just around 140 of these notes are currently known. All of these are five-figure notes, reaching into the mid five-figures for quality higher grade examples.
With the six key notes as a road block to many, some choose to build their collection with the 64 more obtainable notes. Other collectors choose to build year sets and more advanced collectors collect by variety. There are countless varieties to find within Confederate paper money and more are discovered every year. From plate variations, to errors, to different watermarks, there is something interesting for almost everyone. Criswell attempted to identify these varieties and assign catalog numbers to them. Today, noted author and CSA note researcher Pierre Fricke has expanded on that work and the work of others to give a numbering system to varieties within each type. These numbers, known as “Fricke numbers,” are the standard in the field of Confederate paper money.
Another popular way of collecting involves a series of three $100 types issued in 1862 and 1863. These notes, Types 39 through 41, bore interest at a rate of 7.3% and are referred to by many specialists as “730 notes.” These notes were often issued by Confederate military officers and civil agents and bear stamped or handwritten manuscripts attesting to when, where, and/or by whom they were issued. Also, “interest paid” stamps from various locations provide another angle of collecting. There are many collectors who specialize in these, as well as a number of publications and a group dedicated to the collecting of these notes.
Collecting Confederate paper money is a fascinating and rewarding endeavor. If you have an interest in history, particularly the American Civil War, there is something to be found for you here. There are many beautiful notes as well as wonderful histories and backgrounds involving the notes and those who were involved in their development and issuing. There are also a number of great people within the hobby, both collectors and dealers, who share this interest and are a joy to know.
Our upcoming Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo will have a nice selection of Confederate notes, from rare varieties, to high grade examples of more common notes, to rare 730 notes and top-pop third-party graded types. In future blog posts we will dig deeper into the types and series individually. In the meantime, browse the upcoming auction, or pick up a copy of “Collecting Confederate Paper Money” (2014) by Pierre Fricke. Also, if you have questions regarding Confederate paper money or ways to collect, feel free to write me at [email protected]. Happy collecting!