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Enjoy this selection reader-owned bank notes and the history behind them as told by expert Peter Huntoon.

Reader’s Showcase: Key West, Fla.

By Peter Huntoon

Every once in a while, a national goes by that simply takes your breath away. This 1902 plain back from Key West is just such a note.

It appeared in Stack’s Bowers’ Spring 2019 Baltimore sale as lot 6008. It is flawless with full top margin and brilliantly penned signatures of the cashier and vice president. They didn’t win any penmanship awards but their signatures add greatly to the note, especially for a 1902 blue seal where signatures were usually rubber-stamped.

Key West is the southernmost town in the continental U. S. at the end of the U. S. 1 causeway built to the island. The bank was a modest affair and notes from it always have been in high demand. This note is in a holder with a ridiculous grade of Very Fine.

It is really an uncirculated presentation piece that probably exhibits some handling. If I owned it, that holder would hit the trash faster than you could write the serial number. It is nonsense. The grade VF no longer has meaning. I see VFs go by in holders where the grades in them range from the low end of the very goods of the 1960s and 1970s through the high end of these gently mishandled Uncs.

Just what is the meaning of VF anymore? I would put this note in a most-favored place in my collection and enjoy it until they pried it from my dead fingers! I just hope no idiot ironed it in a clumsy attempt to bring it up to a higher grade. Since it is in a holder, you often can’t tell until you cut it out. I’ll leave it to you to find out what it brought. Whatever it brought, it’s worth it.

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