By: John and Nancy Wilson
It is hard to imagine three uncut four- subject sheets of Series 1896 Educational Silver Certificates all with serial numbers 1 to 4 on them along with the presentation bound book and letter owned by anyone outside our government.
Yet they comprised the highlight lot Aug. 17 at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection Part V in Rosemont, Ill.
By way of Mrs. Entriken who got them from the Schermerhorn Estate, they came into the possession of Bass in 1971. This has to be one of the greatest purchases of all time.
It was a spectacular moment when the possibility of a paper money lot selling for $1 million or more arrived. We wondered if some wealthy person outside the hobby had an interest. David Lisot was there to tape the sale. He tapes many programs, including this sale, and has them available on CDs after the conventions for a reasonable price.
Mr. F. David Calhoun, who is the executive director of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Foundation, was also in attendance. Q. David Bowers talked about Harry W. Bass Jr. and the set of notes soon to cross the auction block.
The lot came up for sale at 8:45 p.m. The auctioneer was Melissa Karstedt who called for the opening bid for Lot No. 5055. Christine Karstedt called out $850,000, which quickly went to $1 million by a floor bidder sitting in front of us. Dealer Donald Kagin sitting halfway down the left side of the room went to $1,100,000. He was looking across the room at the person who went to the million dollar level. We could hear his heart beating in the hope his bid would stand. The under bidder of this important lot was shaking his head no.
The auctioneer very patiently called out for a higher bid, we think it was $1,250,000. After very slowly and deliberately asking for a higher bid three times, she closed the lot for the price of $1,265,000, which includes the 15 percent buyer’s fee.
A round of applause followed the closing of the lot. Looking over at Kagin, he had a huge smile on his face and realized that he was the high bidder on the lot. He said that he always wanted to own this set of notes, and now he did, along with another partner. Dealer Donald Kagin representing the Kagin’s, Inc., of Tiburon, CA, along with Todd Griffiths’ CT Group (Century Tangibles Group) of Irvine, Calif., purchased this lot jointly. The three sheets were brought to the room and photographs were taken with Don along with Calhoun. The entire sale, which was just 54 lots, took about one hour to complete.
This was a sale that we were glad to be part of and will long remember. It had a strong book and floor bidders, active Internet bidders and several phones set up in the back for staff members to call customers. Floor bidders were successful on most of the lots that sold. Only one of the lots didn’t sell.
Another observation we would like to make is that certified notes do much better than examples that aren’t encapsulated with a grade.
The total selling prices for the Bass Part V was $1,827,993, which includes buyer’s fees. This catalog will be in great demand especially with Appendix A, which contains four pages of the biographies of the designers and engravers of the Educational Series.
The Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation page lists all the Bass proofs that were sold in this sale. You can view them at the website located at: http://www.harrybassfoundation.org/ and hit the Links tab.
Contact Stack’s Bowers Galleries in New York, 123 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019; Phone (800) 566-2580, or (212) 582-2580, or visit the website at www.stacksbowers.com.