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Fractional Currency Bargains

A $1 note from the State Bank of Michigan. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

A $1 note from the State Bank of Michigan. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

First things first. To my distinct embarrassment I referred to King George V as VI in my last column. George the VI is his son, and the father of Queen Elizabeth II.

Prices don’t yet seem to reflect the economic effects we have been experiencing of late. Fractional currency notes that are not in the hard-to-find category seem to be showing strength. Red Seal $2 and $5 seem to be on the weak side. World notes, as usual, continue strong. FRN’s are showing up as bargains in the Tuesday night Heritage auctions. Central States auctions are to be held at Heritages Dallas location, even though they brought the auction lots to Central States for viewing. This will cost buyers thousands in sales taxes for those living in states that levy those taxes. Illinois does not impose sales tax on numismatic items. States I am familiar with levy 6 percent tax when buying on the internet. I find myself paying a lot of tax in addition to the 20 percent fees from auction houses. I chose not to attend this years Central States show, as my primary interest was in the auction itself.

It is amazing to see the gain in prices all over numismatics, since I became a serious collector in the 1980’s and before. One of my activities as a collector is assembling an interesting library. Looking through it is entertaining. I note a 1966 ad in a Whitman monthly publication for State Bank of Michigan notes printed by American Banknote, an attractive set of Red tinted notes. Today the uncirculated notes bring about one hundred and twenty-five dollars. The sheets go for five hundred dollars. Back then the individual 4 notes were priced at $1.25, while the sheets were priced at $5. Even more fun was reading a 1941 Barney Bluestone auction pamphlet describing a date set of Large Cents, 1793 to 1857, including the Chain cent. Barney’s comment was “should bring $60”. My way back big find was an About Good 1916 D dime in 1954. I got the whole set in change on my paper route, except for the 1921D. I had to buy that from Earl Schill in downtown Detroit. I bought a really nice one in a strong Very Fine for .75 cents. Enough about my memories, what did you find as a young collector that was exciting?

National bank notes seem strong. I am currently working on locating the national banks from Detroit. This is proving very challenging. Charter 97, the First National Bank of Detroit is especially difficult. As one of the first 100 charters it is pursued by folks trying to amass all numbers in that category. Some of the titles have only 1 or 2 notes known. One saving grace for me is searching out checks from the banks. One of the banks, the National Insurance Bank has only 1 note known. I know where it is, it is in firm hands; but I found a check and that makes me happy. Email me at