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Vignette Spotlight: The Declaration of Independence

Often, we think of the Fourth of July as a day off from school or work to enjoy ourselves in the company of friends and family around the grill. But it also commemorates one of the key events in the path towards American independence.

Long a staple of paper money in the United States going back to the first half of the 19th century, the Declaration of Independence has been a consistent motif on our currency. From stock vignettes offered by private banknote companies to more recent renditions produced by the Bureau of Engraving & Printing, the Declaration has been a consistent fixture.

Such depictions were almost entirely based off of John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence which had been completed in 1818 and later placed in the Capitol Rotunda in 1826. Depicting 42 of the 56 signers, this scene is familiar in numismatic circles for its repeated use going back as far as the 1830s. In that decade, an adaptation by Underwood, Bald, Spencer & Huffy can be found on the $100 obsolete notes issued by the Kirtland Safety Society Bank which was headed by notable members of the Latter-Day Saints movement like Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.

With the passage of the National Bank Act in 1863, a new type of currency – “National Bank Notes” – were issued by thousands of banks across the United States all using a series of standardized designs. For the $100 a vignette of Commodore Perry transferring his flag at the Battle of Lake Erie and a female allegorical figure representing “Union” can be found on the face of that denomination. On the back, a rather faithful reproduction of Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence can be found. The very same vignette would later be adapted for use on the $2 Federal Reserve Note in 1976; these notes are infrequently seen in commerce like their $100 counterparts issued through the late 1890s.

Collectors will have the opportunity to acquire one of the rarest iterations of this popular vignette in the August Global Showcase Auction. Issued by the Salem National Banking Company, this note is the sole Original Series $100 known for the entire state of New Jersey creating a rare opportunity to acquire a rather attractive example of this prohibitively rare type.

For more information about our auctions or to consign your numismatic items, please call 800-458-4646 or email [email protected].

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