Among the rarities presented and sold by Stack’s Bowers Galleries at their November 2023 U.S. Currency Showcase Auction was a fascinating piece of early American financial history unmatched in its category. Visually striking, this historically significant 1775 CC-9 Continental Currency $20 note realized $156,000 (including buyer’s premium), exceeding expectations and earning it a cherished place in the pantheon of American currency.
Connected to one of the most important personalities in America’s founding, this example bears the influence of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. Printed on paper furnished by Franklin himself and featuring motifs drawn from his own hand, this note is exceptionally complex and well-crafted despite being made during an era when most notes were crudely produced and prone to counterfeiting. Franklin favored and furnished marbled, multi-colored polychrome paper designed to thwart counterfeiters and the ancestor of anti-counterfeiting features used on currency today.
Authorized by the Continental Congress in May 1775 these notes were among the first issues of paper money authorized by the American government in a time when state-specific notes were the primary medium of exchange. The Continental Congress would in turn issue a variety of notes before the end of the conflict in denominations ranging from $1/6 to $80.
However, this legacy would be short-lived, as for much of early American history paper money was distrusted by the people who preferred gold and silver coins from around the world. Issues backed by the federal government were scarce save for Treasury notes produced during the War of 1812 and notes issued by the Bank of the United States which operated under a federal charter. Those that did circulate were issued by a variety of state and local institutions, thus creating a financial patchwork much more complex than what existed during the Revolutionary War and the preceding colonial era.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, paper money was once again thrust to the forefront of American life and this time permanently with the introduction of Demand Notes in 1861 which were soon replaced by Legal Tender Notes known as “Greenbacks” in 1862. Despite opposition, these “Greenbacks” became a fact of everyday life in the years following the conflict supplanting the patchwork of state and local issues.
Complete prices realized from the Stack’s Bowers Galleries November 2023 Official Whitman Expo Auction are available online at StacksBowers.com. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is now accepting consignments to the Official Auction of the Whitman Spring 2024 Expo, their summer Global Showcase Auction as an official Auctioneer Partner of the ANA World’s Fair of Money and the firm’s ongoing series of Collectors Choice Online Auctions. For more information or to consign your coins to a future sale, contact Stack’s Bowers Galleries at [email protected] or call (800) 458-4646.