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Cherrypicking Pointers for Notes
By Bill Brandimore, Bank Note Reporter
February 19, 2013

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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I mentioned in the “Paper Money Market” column that there seems to be a bit of bracket creep in grading. This appears to be somewhat in the 65/66 and 20/25 areas. Recently I’ve seen some 65 notes that didn’t have really nice margins.

I’ve also noticed some Fine 15s, by my judgment, that were graded at 20. It seems that you have to buy a 25 to get an acceptable Very Fine.

When I first started collecting paper, I was told that three light folds made a note Extremely Fine, three harder folds made it a VF, and four folds made it a really nice Fine. So, as I have said, echoing much smarter folk that I: Buy the best note you can afford and buy the note not the holder.

Rob Kravitz has a second edition out on his excellent Fractional Currency book, titled, A Collector’s Guide to Postage & Fractional Currency: The Pocket Change of the Union. It’s published by the Coin & Currency Institute and is nicely done.

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There’s considerable historical material and a lot of tips on what to look for in particular notes. Just as Buffalo nickel collectors tell you which dates are weak strikes, Rob tells you which notes are hard to find nicely centered.

Rob is the incoming president of the Fractional Currrency Collectors Board. If you want information on this club, email me for specifics.

As you read this column you should be making your plans for the March 7-10 Chicago Paper Money Expo at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill. There will be a Lyn Knight auction and a number of dealers from around the country in attendance.

This is a show where you might be able to find that elusive note you’ve been looking for. Last year, for example, I saw two 1928E* $2 Red Seals on the floor. There also should be a lot of block notes to choose from, as this show is meant for currency collectors.

I’ll be there along with other members of the Bank Note Reporter team. We would enjoy talking with you and swapping stories.

Collectors of obsolete notes might enjoy a book I’m currently reading, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, by Walter Stahr. This book gives interesting information regarding the times surrounding the Panic of 1837, the politics of the Jackson era, the Bank of the United States, the emergence of the Whig party and laws governing the issue of currency in New York State in the era of obsolete notes. Even more intriguing were the insider sort of accounts of the Civil War years as Seward worked with Lincoln.

I find that I can learn a lot about our bank notes when I read up on the early history of the Republic. Our currency was directly involved in the affairs of the day, and holding them in my hands adds to my enjoyment of the hobby.

Cherrypicker’s pointers: The 1935A Silver Certificate series is an interesting one. Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau, Jr. and U.S. Treasurer W.A. Julian were in office together from Jan. 1, 1934, until July 22, 1944. During that time they signed Silver Certificates of the 1928E, 1934, 1935 and 1935A series.

I find the 1935A series especially fun to study and collect. This series includes the Hawaiian overprint $1 notes, the North Africa Yellow Seal $1 notes, the R and S Experimental $1 pairs, as well as the ordinary run of 1935A certificates.

The series also contains mule notes. Mules have different-sized plate numbers on the back and front of a note, macro as in 1 mm and micro in ½ mm.

The mules are contained within the normal run of 35A issues and are not present in the Experimental, Hawaii or North Africa examples. At least no mules have ever been discovered outside of the ordinary runs.

This series was in production through most of World War II and includes a number of blocks (blocks meaning the prefix and suffix letters of a serial number).

Putting together a block set would be amazing. Block sets for the subset of Hawaii include YB, ZB, AC, CC, FC, LC, PC and SC as well as five different runs of star notes, all with an A suffix. North Africa notes were made in three runs of BC, two runs of CC, and in FC, IC and RC. Stars were printed in four different runs. By runs, I mean groups of serial numbered notes that were printed at different times. The Experimental notes were all printed in the SC block with one run of stars. 1935A notes were printed from early 1938 through late July 1944.

I haven’t added up all the possible blocks for the regular 35A group, but they are considerable. The Schwartz and Lindquist small-size book lists a number of them that are of good value even in VF.

Some of these include: AB, BB, CB, DB and EB, all mules, and varying in VF value from $50 to $400. The MA non-mule, with only three-known runs, at $3,500 in VF. The KC mule with micro back plate number 470, four known, is valued at $3,500 in VF. The mule star is tougher than the macro back plate non-mule star at $100 in VF, while the non-mule *A is $15 in VF and the *B valued at $25.

Obviously these notes are worth looking for—a treasure hunt waiting in piles of well-worn Silver Certificates generally priced at a little over face. So, if you get bored at a small local show, go fishing for these elusive items.

Naturally this block set business isn’t confined to $1 Silver Certificates. There are scarce blocks in many other venues, sometimes in what would seem to be pretty common notes. This is a good reason to have a library to refer to.

It is probably a good strategy to memorize some of these scarce notes. Then you have the information with you at all times. Having your nose in a book might look suspicious.

Another word of caution: Don’t gloat to the seller if you find a great bargain. That would be bad form. Tell me by email, however, and I can gloat for you to encourage other cherrypickers. Speaking of local shows, they are a great place to find unrecognized treasures. It also is supportive of the club network throughout numismatics.

If you don’t belong to a local club, look into it. You’ll find new friends and increase your enjoyment of our hobby.

I make it a point to try and attend local club shows within a four-hour-or-so range of travel, that gets me to several metropolitan areas as well as numerous small-but-dynamic shows in my neighborhood. If you travel with a friend or two, you double up on the pleasure.

So, until next time, or CPMX, enjoy the hobby and email me at with your questions, comments or interesting finds.

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