I had a telephone call on Tuesday from a fellow who wanted to know what his Confederate $100 bill was worth.
I asked him what color the signatures on the note were.
“What do you mean what color? What color should they be?”
I didn’t tell him what color they should be. I simply repeated the question and told him to take a look at the note and tell me what he saw.
There was a bit of silence on the other end, so I interjected another question.
What is the serial number?
“What’s the serial number?” the caller repeated.
“Yes, take a look and tell me what it is.”
“I’m calling from a library,” he said.
Though he did not say it, I suppose it was likely that he did not have the note with him, but he did not say that. He just repeated the statement of where he was.
He asked me if he could call me back. I replied in the affirmative. I thought he said he would call the next day, but he did not, nor did he call yesterday.
I suppose he either lost interest or called somebody else.
My questions, of course, were intended to elicit information that would reveal whether the notes were real or reproductions.
Signatures on reproductions are black while on genuine notes the signatures are brown.
There are lists of known reproductions all over the Internet with the serial numbers. I keep one pinned on my wall.
One or the other question about Confederate notes usually reveals the caller to have a reproduction and some poor coin dealer somewhere won’t have to deal with it.
However, some callers won’t give up.
I remember one caller some years ago who said the signatures were black, and when told they should be brown, he replied, “Well, yeah, they could be brown.”
Then he gave me a known serial number for a reproduction and that concluded the conversation. I expect he called somebody else after me, because he did not like my answers.
I don’t know why, but paper money questions tend to go in streaks. This week I also received a call about star replacement notes in the Federal Reserve Note series.
Could these calls be the first of a new wave of paper money curiosity?
I’ll let you know.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."