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CPMX Yields Story of Hawaii Note
By Bill Brandimore, Bank Note Reporter
April 02, 2013

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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As usual, the Chicago Paper Money Expo was extremely enjoyable. I appreciate the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and make new ones. The great thing about currency collecting is the stories that seem to go with an awfully lot of notes. In fact, there was a really great story about a note that dealer Tom Surina shared with me, which unfolded at CPMX. A couple came up to his table, an elderly man and his adult daughter. They had a note and a story.

Fifty years ago, up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the man’s wife made a purchase in town and received a $20 bill in change. When she got home, she took a closer look at the $20 and discovered, to her dismay, that, as she put it, she had gotten a foreign piece of money in change. She showed it to her husband and told him the story. He thought it was sort of neat note and said “let’s just keep it,” and he put it in a drawer.

For the next 50 years his wife grumbled about being cheated by getting that foreign bill in change. Fast forward to CPMX 2013, Tom recognized the note they showed him as a $20 Hawaii note and a star note at that.

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

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He advised them to get the note graded at the show. They did and it came back an Apparent Very Fine-20, as it had some ink marking on it. He made them a substantial offer.

No, it wasn’t the mule variety, but it was still a nice note. They decided, after all these years, just to keep the note. They left the table, but the daughter returned alone to say to Tom, “Maybe now she’ll quit complaining about that foreign note.”

That’s why I love paper so much. There is always a story.

Meanwhile, the show went on just fine. Most of the dealers were happy with their sales. One dealer in world currency mentioned to me that he had done less gross sales, but netted more profit, as the less expensive notes, with a higher profit margin, made up the bulk of his sales this year. That’s an interesting comment. Perhaps more new people are getting into world money. That area has been hot for a while now.

Lyn Knight was quite satisfied with his auction results. He told me that it wasn’t a 2004 level auction, but still quite nice.

John Schwartz, a booth holder at the show, said the auction really exploded when it got to his main interest, error notes. He said they just went wild. This is an area that is drawing more and more attention. Errors, fancy serial numbers, up and down ladders, palindromes, and repeaters are all very popular at the present time.

Most other dealers were generally pleased with the show. Folks came to buy notes and they did. My editor, Robert Van Ryzin, who has written on western mining, was able to pick up a nice package of mining paraphernalia, which included among other things a beautiful check with a terrific vignette of a bear attacking a Native American. I didn’t get shut out either, as I added some Canadian notes to my collection along with two $5 Minneapolis district error notes.

I haven’t found a Minneapolis note I need in a year or so, thus I’ve turned to Minneapolis $5 Federal Reserve Note errors to feed my paper addiction. I also picked up some Detroit obsoletes from an old friend, Larry Falater. Larry was a mentor of mine back in the 1970s and 1980s and even got me into the Grosse Pointe Numismatic Society, a group limited to 24 collectors. I spent some fascinating evenings at the club with Larry mentoring me.

CPMX isn’t all about paper money. Chicago also has some pretty nice restaurants and the KP team at the show enjoyed some satisfying time at Gibson’s Steak House, as well as some other sumptuous repasts.

My son was in town visiting my granddaughter, who is a student at Wheaton College, and we got together for some Chicago deep dish pizza. My main concern now is shedding the five pounds I picked up at the show.

Perhaps the overall appeal of CPMX, for me at least, is much like the Memphis show—great camaraderie. It is even more intense, though, at CPMX, as the venue is a bit more compact.

It also always reassures me that I’m in the right hobby, as the dealers and collectors I interact with are interesting people, who for the most part share my interest in history and enjoy getting together with fellow collectors. There’s always a story to be told, as in the Hawaii note I mentioned earlier, and I always seem to go home refreshed.

If you’re going to be attending the Memphis show in June, be sure to check out the exhibits. They literally highlight the show, as they are displayed in a row running right down the middle of the venue. As you cross from one side on the hall to the other, you get a chance to observe great notes on display with information about their stories. If you like what you see, talk to Martin Delger, the exhibit chairman, about how to get in on the action for next year. You also get to mingle with the exhibitors, who are really interested in educating you about paper money.

You might also think about attending a meeting of the Society of Paper Money Collectors. This is a great organization with a wonderful bimonthly magazine, Paper Money, edited by the noted author Fred Reed. The magazine is well worth the annual dues. Email me if you’re interested in learning more about SPMC.

If you can’t get to a show, however, don’t miss out on the various computer auctions that are ongoing and, of course, there is always the eBay presence, as various folks offer their treasures on this venue.

Check out the array of information available online and in various publications. You’ll need a catalog if you’re going to bid effectively. KP’s general book, Standard Catalog of US Paper Money, is a good place to start. If you’re a small-size U.S. collector, get a copy of Schwartz and Lindquist’s Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Paper Money. World currency collectors should look to the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money put out by KP. It comes in general issues and special issues. George Cuhaj works on that book, with lots of help from contributors living all around the globe.

What are your interests? What have you found lately? Drop me a line to share your insights, questions and comments. I can be reached at

I’ll be at Central States Numismatic Society’s show in Schaumburg, Il., at the end of this month. It will be a great show with lots of Civil War educational presentations. Don’t miss it if you’re a Civil War buff.

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