July 2023 Greensheet Market Analysis: Currency Market Remains Positive

The monthly currency market is on fire and shows little sign of slowing down.

by Patrick Ian Perez | Published on July 12, 2023

THE MOST RECENT major auction activity in the United States currency market was the Central States Numismatic Society convention sale held by Heritage which netted a healthy $5.76 million in total prices realized. That amount was garnered from just 1,427 lots, for a per lot average sale price of more than $4,000. While this sale’s total was down year over year on the previous Central States sale, that is more of a reflection of the consignments in the two auctions and not necessarily the strength of the overall market. For example, this year’s sale did not feature any high-denomination Small Size Federal Reserve Notes ($5,000 and $10,000), while last year’s sale contained four such pieces which contributed more than $1.11 million to the total. It is little surprise this was the case, as all notes of this type have been going into strong hands and are disappearing from the marketplace. Back to this year’s CSNS sale, the demand was broad, shown by the fact that the top six of the seven lots by value were all from different types. A Large Size Treasury Note, Legal Tender, Silver Certificate, Federal Reserve Note, two Nationals, and a War of 1812 were all represented. There were three six-figure lots, led by an 1890 $100 Treasury Note (Fr.-377) certified AU50 Details by PCGS Banknote which sold for $264,000. The comment from PCGS noted minor restorations and minor design redrawn although the note has more than acceptable eye appeal. Back in October 2018 Stack’s Bowers sold the Anderson Collection example of this note in the exact same AU50 grade also for $264,000. What is notable is that the Anderson piece is problem-free, making this new sales result fairly strong. If the Anderson note were to reappear today it would most likely sell for 20% to 25% more. Another result from the Central States sale that is truly eye-opening is that of an 1864 Confederate States $500 note. A famous type featuring Stonewall Jackson, this example was certified Superb Gem 66 by PMG, one of just two at this level, and realized a tremendous $40,800. For context, last October Stack’s Bowers sold a Gem 65 for $4,560 and another in March for $6,600. So while this type has been trending upward, a result of more than $40,000 illustrates the competition for the finest examples.

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Another specialized auction that took place in late May was held by Kagin’s, titled Colonial Highlights from the John J. Ford Collection. The first of two parts, the sale consisted of 146 lots of various Colonial paper money, and from a market perspective it was a great opportunity for price comparison as many of these notes had not sold since the Ford sales nearly 20 years ago. The sale was led by a Five Dollar note issued by Massachusetts State from the series of October 18, 1776 and printed by famous American Paul Revere. Freshly graded by PCGS Banknote as AU55 it sold for $37,200. In 2004 this note sold for $29,900, and appreciation of 24.4%. A very early Province of Massachusetts note of 20 Shillings from the emission of October 14, 1713 and redated 1716 sold for $11,700. This note sold in the Ford Part III sale for $12,650, a slight loss of 7.5%. An interesting point is that in the Ford sale catalog the note was graded a raw Extra Fine and “possibly unique” while this time around the note was in a PCGS Banknote holder as VF25 with a comment of Restorations. Can the lower price be attributed to this difference in assigned grade? I feel there is little doubt this was the case. Today’s buyers are quite sensitive to certified grade and this often dictates the level of interest or lack thereof. Unfortunately what can be missed is the context. The certified grade of a Colonial banknote cannot be evaluated the same as the certified grade of a 1917 $1 Legal Tender. When we were evaluating and updating Colonial pricing for Early Paper Money of America, it was required to understand that a significant number of extant pieces, especially the rarest notes, will have some type of restoration or other problem. In cases where the known population can be 10 notes or less, the same discount cannot be applied for “problems” like in other series and should be priced accordingly. For Colonials specifically, the rarity and historical significance are more important than a third-party grade in most cases. The sale featured many notes that sold from the low hundreds to the $1,500 level, showing that Colonial currency is a very accessible way to own historic and interesting numismatic items. Part two of this sale featuring Ford Collection notes will take place later this year in the fall.

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Author: Patrick Ian Perez

Patrick Ian Perez image Patrick Ian Perez began as a full time numismatist in June of 2008. For six years he owned and operated a retail brick and mortar coin shop in southern California. He joined the Coin Dealer Newsletter in August of 2014 and was promoted to Editor in June 2015. In addition to United States coins, his numismatic interests include world paper money, world coins with an emphasis on Mexico and Germany, and numismatic literature. Patrick has been also published in the Journal of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS).

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