November was a multi-million dollar month for the United States currency market, with the Heritage sale of part VIII of the Newman Collection and Stack’s Bowers auction in Baltimore. The most anticipated lot was the 1861 $10 St. Louis Demand note which sold for a healthy $168,000. Not surprisingly, the rest of the top five lots were Colonial notes. A very rare North Carolina 5 Pounds note from November 1729 sold for $38,400; a New Hampshire 6 Pence of January 1763 brought $33,600; a New York 16 “Lyon Dollars” from November 1709 took home $31,200; and a Rhode Island 2 Shilling 6 Pence of February 1743 sold for $28,800.

This sale also featured a selection of tough Friedberg numbers in the large size Legal Tenders and Silver Certificates which sold very well. Almost all of these notes were in the Very Fine to Extra Fine grades, showing how scarce and prized original notes are. Generally, these notes are either found heavily circulated or in high grade uncirculated, which puts many collectors in a difficult position: a collector doesn’t want a rag, but cannot afford a gem. Hence, better types in the mid-level circulated grades are eagerly sought after. In total, Newman Part VIII realized $1,987,881.

The Stack’s Bowers Baltimore currency sale featured multiple five-figure notes, led by a Series 1934 $5,000 Federal Reserve note from the Dallas district, graded PCGS VF35 which brought $90,000. Another small size note-perhaps the most famous of all-an example of the Series 1933 $10 Silver Certificate certified PCGS Gem New-66, brought $66,000. The top National note in the Baltimore sale was an Original series $5 from the First National Bank of Richmond, Indiana, serial number one. This bank also boasts an ultra-low charter number 17. A pleasing PCGS VF35, it brought $26,400.

Similar to the Heritage sale, the Stacks Bowers auction realized just short of $2 million. These two auction sales are certainly positive signals for the currency market as we head into 2018.

Pricing updates this month are mixed, although plus signs outnumber the minus signs. Large size Legal Tenders still show strength, especially within the better varieties that we have been adding pricing for over the past few months. Large size Silver Certificates and Gold Certificates are among the most stable series, however some lower grade common types take minor declines. In small size, high grade (CU66 and CU67) Legal Tenders and Silver Certs see multiple declines, however a general statement that they are falling in price would not be accurate. Looking at many recently sold lots, it is clear that any note with minor distractions is not being actively bid on in comparison to a note that is perfect bright white. While these notes are correctly graded, this might include a very minor ink smear or natural paper wave. So just like with coins, buyers are increasingly selective within a given grade while buying. The area where we have made the most drastic adjustments over the past year-plus are Military Payment Certificates. This series was seriously out of line with what the notes were actually realizing at auction, especially with regards to replacement notes. Certainly the advent of third party certification created a frenzy and drove prices to never-seen-before heights, but after that initial spike (which is now more than 10 years ago) prices have certainly corrected. The good news is that we are now seeing prices come in relatively consistently. While there is certainly a strong collector base for MPCs, it is our hope that reliable pricing will help grow this very interesting series.

Rather than a note in focus for this final month of the year, we dedicate this space to the great numismatist Eric P. Newman who passed away on November 15 at the age of 106. After many years of research and collecting data, in 1967 he published Early Paper Money of America, which is still the standard reference to Colonial currency. The numbering system and rarity ratings significantly increased the collector interest in the field, as there was now a handy reference to guide those getting started. Importantly, his research and record-keeping provides us today with a link to great Colonial paper money collections of the past, including those of F.C.C. Boyd, Henry Chapman, and D.C. Wismer. There is little doubt that the stunning realizations mentioned above would not have been possible without the dedicated work of Mr. Newman. He was also a large figure in Obsolete currency, as his collection became the source material for some of the specialized books in the field that have been published over the past 40 years. His prodigious collecting preserved innumerable rarities for future generations, the fruits of which we have been enjoying over the past three years. He was the perfect example of combining collecting with research, for the benefit of both the scholar and investor.