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Will Paper Money Market Return to Normal in 2013?
By Bill Brandimore, Bank Note Reporter
December 19, 2012

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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Prices seem stable as the year 2012 comes to a close. That doesn’t mean there are not a few fluctuations. Some notes are up a bit. Some are down a bit. This is par in a normal economy, which is what I am hoping for in terms of where our economy will head now that the election is over and the uncertainty factor will be somewhat abated.

As has been the case for a number of months, Colonial Currency remains relatively weak. That is not to say cheap, as you can’t really get much of anything in eye-appealing condition without spending several hundred dollars or more. There are certainly a great many expensive pieces in this venue as well, but not with the earth-shaking impact of better large-size type notes.

More and more Colonial material is showing up in third-party graded holders. As I have mentioned before many of these notes are given Apparent or Net indicators due to repairs that were made to hold them together during their actual time of circulation. I really don’t think this should be as damaging to the value of these notes as it is to large or small-size type notes as there is really no attempt to improve their condition for financial gain. It is just the way many of them come, with 18th century tape or antique straight pins. This seems especially true with regard to 1748 and 1754 North Carolina issues. There was a great hoard of them that came to light in the 1990s or so, but they have a wonderful folk art character and I find them very appealing in the sense that they really are historical items that you can handle without white gloves. Enjoy them if you will.

Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money
Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money

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I also continue to find Fractional Currency notes at bargain prices in lesser condition. Don’t be discouraged at buying -63 or -64 graded Justice notes. Their margins on the sheet were one-quarter inch between horizontal position and one-eighth inch vertically, and they were cut by hand during wartime. Thus, perfectly cut and centered notes only have one- eighth and one-sixteenth inch margins. Some of the notes of the Fractional group are really unknown in Superb Gem. They might get that grade but that would be conditionally applied to the best note they could find. Look for nice margins, but expect them to be very hard to find. Second Issue notes are notoriously bad relative to centering after being hand cut in a hurry.

Some great large-size and small-size notes sold at the October Heritage American Numismatic Association October National Money Show, including a Net 20 graded 1928 Red Seal Legal Tender $1 star that only brought $3,290 with buyer’s fees. A small tear in the top margin made this rare item affordable for some lucky collector. This note catalogs at $7,500 in very fine.

A Gem 65 KL557/F1180 1905 $20 Technicolor note sold for $49,937, and a 1934 $5,000 Federal Reserve Note on the Dallas District in -64 PPQ condition fell to the hammer at $111,625.

The star of the show, however, was the serial Number 1 Alaska $5 National on Fairbanks with lots of provenance, which came in at $246,750. It even made the Wausau, Wis., newspapers.

I won’t be attending the Florida United Numismatists convention in January, but look for me in Chicago at the Krause Publications Chicago Paper Money Expo in March of 2013.

I enjoy your questions and comments. Email them to me at

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