THE AUGUST AUCTIONS of both United States and World paper money are highly anticipated every year, and although the full catalog of the Stack’s Bowers Global Showcase sale is not yet published as of this writing, it is sure to feature many hundreds of lots for dealers and collectors. As I’ve written numerous times recently, the market for World paper money continues to outpace most other areas of numismatics. The increase of collectors combined with a significant increase of regular offerings from major auction houses has resulted in a rapidly changing landscape for the genre.
While this has been very positive, it is not without growing pains. For many years, the online marketplace eBay was the primary source of material for collectors of world paper money, and for too many dealers, was also the primary pricing source. Despite the fact that banknotes were often misattributed and incorrectly graded, many took eBay prices as a matter of fact. Combine this with an overall out of date standard catalog, and oftentimes errors become part of the permanent record. Fortunately, a solution to the cataloging problem was created when Owen Linzmeyer decided to take on the monumental task of publishing a new world paper money catalog.
This of course is The Banknote Book, which Greysheet acquired just over two years ago. We have been pushing like crazy to make this the standard reference used by dealers to catalog their inventory, and although it may not seem like it from afar, much work continues behind the scenes to advance the completion of The Banknote Book.
While Owen regularly keeps up with the latest banknotes issued around the world, immediately adding them to the catalog and assigning them catalog numbers, there is significant progress on unpublished chapters. Major countries, including France and the remaining parts of Ireland and Scotland are scheduled for completion very soon, and we have a production plan for the completion of others including Netherlands, Sweden, and Greece. One aspect that is important to recognize is that even though prior catalogs exist for these large nations (sometimes multiple), nothing is taken for granted when writing The Banknote Book chapters.
Owen and the other authors verify that every note actually exists, including all dates, signatures, and other varieties. This is to ensure that the errors of the past are not brought forward and that the information contained is definitive. A key factor is that prior catalogs would be missing dates of a note, or perhaps just give a range of dates. This ambiguity has created all sorts of problems, chief among them being that dealers and collectors were not able to express which dates were the keys for note issues. As more and more specialized collections come to the market, The Banknote Book catalog system will be the only one that allows for proper indexing of all notes. Also, when new dates or varieties are discovered and verified they are immediately added.
Back to the market, going back just over one calendar year, Heritage Auctions have held six different world paper money sales that have realized greater than $1 million each. Altogether, these six auctions have totaled nearly $9.5 million worth of world paper money. While Stack’s Bowers sales totals are not quickly findable, they sell a tremendous amount of world paper money which pushed this total even higher. One of their predecessor firms, Ponterio and Associates, were early auctioneers of tremendous world paper collections. While very uncommon fifteen years ago, is it somewhat normal today for individual notes to sell for more than $10,000 at auction and in private sales. The expansion of third-party grading to world paper money has added tremendous value, but collectors should be aware and cautioned that a huge amount of notes have yet to be graded. Thus, relying on population reports to determine scarcity is not foolproof. While it will take some time, the price guide component of The Banknote Book is always improving, and we are working on data projects on a scale that we hope will change the way world paper money is researched and valued forever. Stay tuned!
Author: Patrick Ian Perez