Less than two weeks after taking leave of the FUN experience, where I’d enjoyed central Florida’s daily temperature readings in the 80s, I found myself putting the Town Car on the road to Fargo, N.D., where temperatures were forecast to be in the single digits below zero, with wind chills deep into the minus-20s range.
While those latter expectations were certainly met, my experience in attending the 53rd annual Red River Valley Coin Club show in Fargo was certainly in keeping with the “Cold Nights, Hot Notes” sobriquet currency auctioneer Lyn Knight tied to the North Dakota National Bank Note sale he conducted there.
Comprehensive specialized state collections of National Bank Notes come under the hammer infrequently. Seldom are they offered in the state itself and never before in such a remote location as Fargo at the end of January and the height of winter. But the result was a resounding success in every respect, in my opinion and in the opinions of the seller and auctioneer.
The 393-lot collection was assembled over a 50-year period by dedicated collector/dealer Glen Jorde of Devils Lake, N.D.
The first note he acquired as a teenager was a 1929 $10 note on the First National Bank of Northwood, his hometown, acquired for $50 while attending a 1963 coin show in Carrington. Jorde still possesses that note, along with 30 or so that he opted not to part with at this time, including a five-county core collection and a handful of others of special significance to him; he remains very much a collector at heart.
Glen’s father Olaf had exposed him and his brother, Elton, to a broader coin collecting exposure than had been their experience out in central North Dakota, by attending the very first RRVCC show. In consigning the collection for sale, Jorde insisted that it be offered at the RRVCC show, with Knight responding favorably and observing in the sale catalog; “Needless to say those who reside outside the area think we must have a screw loose to head to North Dakota in January, but with the live Internet and telephone bidding it will be easy to participate from almost anywhere in the world.”
How successful was the sale? The No. 1 Brown Back territorial on the Capital National Bank of Bismarck was hammered for $85,000. Numerous other notes sold well into the five figures, with a majority probably being hammered in the four-figure range. At the other end of the scale a ratty 1929 Type 2 $10 on the Fargo National Bank, with “a lot of the note missing and the rest worn out,” one of only two small-size reported on the bank, the other being a Type 1 $5, went to an on-line bidder at $100. Then, there was a lot offering roughly the left half of a Type 1 $10 First National Bank in Lidgerwood note from the “Chicken Coop” hoard, one of 17 small notes reported on the bank, that went to a floor bidder for $80.
Commenting on the experience of having his notes sold in Fargo, Jorde reflected; “This was the right place to sell them. I was very pleased with the outstanding attendance and great results. I was particularly pleased that it accorded collectors and others in the area opportunities to acquire notes for building their collections or for relevant personal reasons.”
Commenting on the sale’s success, Knight’s observed; “I don’t know how I could have ever had a better experience or better results. It just showed that grassroot collectors are out there if you get the stuff out to them. I’ll definitely be doing similarly again somewhere.”
Here are some capsule looks at the sales results. The 393 lots were sold for $1,104,621.80, including the buyer’s fee, with all but 20 or so lots that did not meet the minimum opening bid requirement being hammered during the session. With sale of those lots which did not meet the minimum being negotiated post-sale, at those minimums or better and included in that total, the auction sell through was 100 percent. There were 91 total bidders from the floor, with 84 being successful buyers, while 37 Internet bidders were successful, the latter drawn from 32 states and four foreign countries. On average, the per bidder success rate was about 2.4 notes, with lots dispersed to buyers from 26 states and three foreign countries.
That’s ample evidence, I’d say, for concluding that sale content trumps venue for the presentation of a successful auction these days.
My drive to Fargo had gotten underway at about seven o’clock on Thursday morning, Jan. 21, picking up US-10 about five miles out. Initially expressway driving, roughly the last half of the drive to pick up I-94 at Osseo was on two lane roads by way of a half dozen small rural communities along the way. Arriving there at nine, by which time the trip meter on the Town Car read 123 miles, from there it was I-94 on a northwesterly track the rest of the way, with the exception of dropping off around noontime for gas and a quick lunch at Culver’s in Maple Grove, northwest of the Twin Cities, followed by a short diversion south of St. Cloud about half an hour later for a visit occasioned by my Iola Historical Society involvement.
Having arrived in the St. Cloud area at about 1 o’clock, by 2:30 I was back on the road to Fargo, arriving there at 5 p.m., having driven 490 miles for the day. While registering for my room at the Doublewood Inn, I briefly exchanged greetings with Lyn Knight who happened to be passing through the lobby. Having parked the car, when I was pulling my suitcase to the side entrance nearest to my room, I was unexpectedly treated to doorkeeper duties by western Wisconsin and old friend dealer George Blenker’s companion Sue Peterson. At about 6 o’clock, I drove out to a nearby Red Lobster for dinner, returning to my room to cap off a long day by 8 p.m.
Observing the frigid conditions outside when I arose at about 6:30 on Friday morning – temperature zero, winds in the 20 mph-plus range, resulting in wind chill factors approaching minus-30 – my first order of the day was breakfast in the Doublewood’s Bistro restaurant at seven. At about 8 o’clock I drove over to the nearby West Acres Mall to walk for about 90 minutes. Then it was time for some paperwork and lunch at a nearby Perkins.
It was around 2 p.m. when I headed down to the Lyn Knight Auctions lot viewing area, where I found Knight and staff ready for business. A couple TV news crews were present interviewing Knight and Jorde. Also present overseeing the security arrangements was Doug Davis from Texas, whose ambitious hobby service project is the Numismatic Crime Information Center. At about 3 p.m., Bob Hanna, the anchor person responsible for organizing the RRVCC event, arrived on the scene to check out arrangements in the bourse room, with assistance from fellow member Kevin Nold.
At about 4 o’clock I happened to cross paths with coppers specialist Tom Reynolds, who had driven up from Omaha. He was there to participate as a bourse dealer and get his feet wet where the National Bank Note realm is concerned. Thereafter, Don Mark from down in Iowa, a fellow member of the Higgins Museum board, was encountered as well. Later, among others, I also passed some time with Mark Anderson from New York City and Shawn Hewitt from Minneapolis, the president and a board member respectively, who were on hand to fly the flag of the Society of Paper Money Collectors.
At 7 p.m. I joined a National Bank Note collector “get together” assembled at the inspiration of Lyn Knight. While many of the participants were from the upper Midwest, outsiders among the 30-some seated around a large conference style arrangement included dealer Jesse Lipka from New Jersey and Andrew Shiva from New York. The latter is presently deeply engaged in building upon the NBN census efforts pioneered by the late John Hickman and enhanced over the years by Don Kelly. Probably 10 or more of those seated around the table were experiencing their first visits to Fargo and North Dakota.
As the discussions rolled through the evening many intriguing NBN collecting topics and experiences were explored. It was approaching 9:30 p.m. by the time the session started breaking up. As I headed to my room to call it a day, my mind briefly rolled back to some similar gatherings I had sat in on when attending Virginia Numismatic Association conventions back in the 1970s. At those events a couple hours of one evening were invariably given over to impromptu “Rag Picker” sessions, with a score or so attendees participating, including the likes of Charlie Affleck, Grover Criswell and Paul Garland, all no longer with us, along with Frank Hannah and others. Those past and the present occasions were all most enjoyable.
Saturday morning, with frigid conditions still prevailing outside, I headed over to the West Acres Mall for my morning constitutional. This time I opted for a couple sausage and egg McMuffins for breakfast at the McDonald’s in the food court before returning to the Doublewood at about 9:30 a.m.
The RRVCC bourse was already in full swing by the time I arrived upon the scene. The bourse configuration was a record, with 37 participating dealers occupying 59 tables. Attendance was solid throughout the day, as it has always been over the years, but I felt activity this year was just a notch or two stronger than usual.
At 4:30 p.m. the Lyn Knight Auctions offering of the Glen Jorde Collection got under way to a packed house of 125 or so bidders and observers, with Jim Fitzgerald from Texas calling the sale. There was lively bidding from the floor and online, and occasionally over the phone, during the course of the evening with perhaps 50 bidders still holding down chairs in the room when the last lot was called at about 9:30 p.m. Personally, I successfully bid in one of two lots I had my eyes on as additions to my “Right Name, Wrong State” collection.
Rolling out of bed at about 6 a.m. on Sunday, with weather conditions having moderated sufficiently, I headed out on a very pleasant and invigorating hour long walk about the nearby streets. It was about 8 a.m. when I returned to the Doubletree and headed to the Bistro for breakfast, joining in on the table and conversations of area dealers Larry Berg from Bismarck and Norman Ruud from nearby Pelican Rapids, Minn. Picking up the note I’d won at the auction shortly after 8:30, before heading out I briefly stuck my head in the bourse room where a handful of dealer tables had been uncovered in anticipation of the second day of the show, briefly thanking Hanna for his efforts before firing up the Town Car for my homeward bound trek.
Retracing my outbound travels down I-94, it was a pleasant and swift drive until I crossed the St. Croix River into Wisconsin at about 1 p.m. Having encountered rain as I approached the Twin Cities, the conditions quickly transitioned into freezing rain and heavy snow for the last 200 miles or so. It was about 2:30 p.m. when I turned off at Osseo to gas up and have a late lunch of creamed chicken and pumpkin pie at the Norske Nook, a rather renowned restaurant throughout west central Wisconsin. From there, the last 123 miles home on Highway 10, most stretches of which had yet to be visited by snowplows, got under way at about 3:15 p.m. and found me arriving home as the hands on my watch hit 6 o’clock.