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Official Currency Sale of the ANA Worlds Fair of Money A Hit

The Wednesday evening session of United States Paper Money was one for the ages with a staggering number of world-class rarities made available to eager bidders. Anticipation grew widely in the days leading up to the sale with anxious collectors seeking to fill gaps or upgrade their current holdings. Standout rarities offered included an 1878 $500 Legal Tender, two 1890 $100 “Watermelon Notes” and an 1880 $1,000 “DeWitt Clinton Portrait” rarity. Further scarce design types and varieties received strong attention as well from First Charter Period high denomination banknotes to a newly discovered 1928B Two Dollar Legal Tender replacement. The sale drew a large crowd and generated excitement not seen for some years within the paper money auction market.

The auction commenced with highly diverse selections of Postage Stamp Envelopes and Encased Postage Stamps from the Chester L. Krause and Stephen L. Tanenbaum collections respectively. These scarce monetary substitutes of the 19th century garnered significant attention from astute collectors of these types. Obsolete banknotes followed with over 250 lots including several important properties from the Stuyvesant and Kensington collections; a unique Minnesota Five Dollar Color proof highlighted the former and an important “Town View,” York Pennsylvania Five Dollar issued piece was featured in the latter. Lot 7129, a very desirable Continental Bank Three Dollar note from Boston exhibiting the popular polar bear vignette, ultimately realized $5,175, over double the presale high estimate.

Nestled between obsolete currency and the start of the Colonial Notes were six unusual but important lots: a pair of rare satirical notes followed by four desirable vignette presentation books. The first was a rare “Loco Foco Juggernaut” satirical piece, followed by a circa 1837 Humbug Glory Bank Six Cents in Mint Drops, both of which achieved strong results. A pair of ABNC presentation books was then offered, the first featuring many Latin American-used vignettes, the second a scarce oblong format, nautical themed reference. The remaining two books featured a rare” Presidents” B.E.P. volume followed by a Presentation book of Treasury Secretaries with both attracting great attention from bidders.

The world class Tremont Collection of Early Massachusetts Currency led the Colonial offering, highlighted by many finest known examples of legendary types such as “Sword in Hand,” notes and a 1740 Silver Bank Note issue. Following Colonial and Continental notes and preceding Federal Type Notes were incredibly important historical documents. A John Jay-signed 1779 bill of exchange payable to Caron de Beaumarchais eclipsed the presale high estimate of $25,000, selling for $32,900. The two following documents were pieces signed by David Rittenhouse and Benjamin Franklin, and both saw spirited bidding.

Federally issued banknotes of the United States comprised two-thirds of the sale, with the “Watermelon Collection” leading the way. This collection contained a vast assortment of strictly large size currency with series dates from 1861 to 1923. A focal point of the long held collection was banknotes of the $50 and $100 denominations with classic types including a “Rainbow Fifty,” a “Spread Eagle Hundred,” a “Monroe Note” and a “Watermelon Note.” Other important higher denominations included National Banknotes, with all charter periods well represented. The highlight of the collection was Lot 7516, the Reading Pennsylvania 1875 $50 note in a sensational grade for the design. The lot drew strong attention from the floor and ultimately sold above the presale estimate of $60,000 to $90,000 realizing $103,500. A rare 1882 $1,000 Gold Certificate, one of nine known, also performed well, costing the new owner $92,000. The more mainstream lower denomination types also enjoyed spirited bidding including a “Silver Dollar Back,” Five Dollar note from the 1886 Series. The note was certified by PCGS as Gem New 65 PPQ and realized an impressive $32,900. Overall the Watermelon Collection saw great floor and internet bidding activity and will certainly be an inspiration to aspiring collectors.

The nearly 400 remaining lots offered after the Watermelon Collection featured the finest array of banknotes offered in the firm’s history. A multitude of six-figure rarities were sold with key Legal Tender and Treasury Notes being focal points. Lot 7597 presented an 1878 $500 Fr. 185d pedigreed to the Anderson Collection and formerly, the Amon Carter Collection. The note realized $276,000. The next lot, 7598, featured a Fr. 187j, $1,000 note with the striking central portrait vignette of DeWitt Clinton. The note — one of only 13 known to exist with three permanently impounded within institutional collections — realized $253,000. A key high denomination Treasury Note was next to cross the $100,000 mark when a PCGS Extremely Fine 40 PPQ 1891 $50 “Seward Note” brought $138,000 as lot 7676. The second offering for the night of a Fr. 377 $100 “Watermelon” design followed as lot 7677. The note was certified by PCGS Currency as Extremely Fine 40 and realized $172,500. Countless lots came in with near six figure realizations, including several important pieces from every type from a $50 Interest Bearing Note to a seldom-encountered “Open Back,” 1891 $100 Treasury Note.

Condition rarities filled pages within the catalog as many lots offered represented the finest available material. Large size notes at the Superb Gem level abounded with eight impressive pieces achieving a PCGS Superb Gem 68 PPQ grade. Of particular importance at the 68 PPQ level was Lot 7653, a highly popular “Indian Chief” Fr. 277 Five Dollar Silver Certificate, that realized a hefty $38,187.50. Another finest known Silver Certificate, a $20 bearing the “Diamond Back” design of 1886, certified by PCGS as Choice About New 55, drew $69,000. Banknotes of the current size enjoyed strong bidding with a finest-known 1933 $10 Silver Certificate that ultimately realized $36,718.75. This coveted type is a pinnacle design for small-size collectors and one of just two known at the PCGS Gem New 66 PPQ level.

Overall the market seems quite strong, a perception reinforced by this successful auction. A staggering 95% sell through rate was achieved, another testament to the growing population of collectors and overall demand. Over $7,000,000 in rare currency was sold in the Stack’s Bowers Official Auctions of the August 2012 ANA World’s Fair of Money, an impressive part of a nearly $42 million sale, the highest grossing event in the firm’s history.

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