Skip to main content

Know history, know values

For many years facsimile signatures of the Treasurer of the United States and the Treasury secretary have appeared on U.S. paper money.

Collectors take note of who the people are, their terms of office and which ones were in office such a short period of time that their notes are scarce or rare.

Joseph W. Barr served as President Lyndon Johnson’s final Treasury secretary for little more than a month from Dec. 23, 1968, to Jan. 20, 1969. The $1 Federal Reserve Notes with his signature are referred to as “Barr notes” and many individuals hoarded them in the expectation they would be scarce. It is only in recent years that better uncirculated examples of notes from the five Federal Reserve districts that issued them and the four star replacement notes are carrying something of a premium to other notes of the period.

A person who might have had his signature for a short time on American paper money but didn’t is Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy. He had his sights set on the job of Treasury secretary after Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932.

Roosevelt never considered this possibility seriously but had Kennedy’s name penciled in for Treasurer of the United States. That post was basically ceremonial at the time. Kennedy knew it and didn’t want it.

But imagine if he had taken it?

We would have had a signature that only would have gotten more famous as the years went by.

History that could have happened, but didn’t, called counterfactual history, can be an interesting parlor game, especially for collectors.

In the event, a fellow named W.A. Julian took the post and he served until he was killed in an auto accident in 1949.

Kennedy likely would have been out and gone in just months. He was restless. He put his boundless energy into the post of the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and was responsible for drastic reforms of Wall Street that were put into place to prevent a repetition of the crash in 1929. Then he left to hold a couple of other government posts.

This little tidbit of almost history I ran across in “The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy” by David Nasaw.

Speculating about what might have been is part of the enjoyment of reading history.

Learning about what actually happened is critical for collectors in their ability to intelligently buy and sell the objects of their desire. Reference works are a necessity in this activity.

Take a look at today for the 12-12-12 Sale and acquire those references that you need.

Nobody said that history can't be put on sale.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."