Buyer pays $242,000 at auction!
Rare Civil War Era Money Surfaces in New Hampshire
March 3, 2001 – Littleton, NH – A previously unknown example of rare Civil War era paper money has come to light in Littleton, New Hampshire. The colorful $20 denomination gold certificate, issued in 1866 as part of a federal program to pay for the war and its aftermath, is valued today at more than $250,000.
"The note was in the possession of a Connecticut River Valley family for four generations, handed down by a great-grandfather who was a New York City banker. It was meticulously kept in a cardboard folder because the family thought it might be valuable, but it took them repeated attempts to learn how important it really is," said David M. Sundman, President of Littleton Coin Company of Littleton, New Hampshire and a collector of early U.S. paper money.
The owners, who want to remain anonymous, told Sundman they could not locate any information about the historic note on the Internet. Two different New England coin dealers offered them only $2,000 or less for their collection that included the rare note and 64 other pieces of old, 19th century paper money. Fortunately, they sought a third opinion and contacted Sundman.
"I was about five feet away when I first saw it, but I immediately exclaimed, 'That's a rare note!,'" recalled Sundman.
"I subsequently told them it could bring a quarter of a million dollars at an auction, maybe more. This is only the sixth known specimen of this note. You never know when things like this may turn up! It's like a treasure hunt, but this time the gold was made of paper," he said.
In March 1863, Congress authorized the issuance of gold certificate bank notes in denominations of $20 to $10,000 to help finance the Civil War. They were issued between 1865 and 1878, and redeemable in gold. Today, all these early gold certificate notes are considered extremely rare.
Nine of the $20 notes are listed as unredeemed (never turned in), but this is only the sixth known specimen to survive. One of them is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
Sundman and the Littleton Coin Co. staff are helping the family place their historic note in a public auction to be conducted next year at a major convention of paper money collectors.
A similar 1860s era $20 denomination gold certificate note was purchased for $528,000 at a public auction earlier this year conducted by Lyn Knight Currency Auctions of Overland Park, Kansas. At the time, only five of the notes were known to exist, with two of them in museums or government possession.
Knight estimated the New Hampshire discovery note will sell for at least $250,000 when it is offered in an auction in March, according to Sundman.
"After first being offered less than $2,000 for it, we were thrilled to learn the bill's real value. Obviously, if you don't know your currency, you better know your coins and currency dealer. It pays to be cautious and to follow your cautionary instincts," the anonymous owner of the note stated.
The rare bill is 50 percent larger in size and more colorful than today's paper money. The primarily green front depicts an eagle, and the serial numbers are red. The back is printed in orange and gold colored inks with an illustration of a $20 gold coin of the era.
"The eagle is perched on a Union shield, symbolizing the Civil War fight for the preservation of the Union. This was designed during the height of the war when it was not certain if the Union would prevail," explained Sundman.
The New Hampshire discovery note is hand-dated January 8, 1866 and bears an authorization signature handwritten by Henry H. VanDyck, an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.
For additional information about the note or Littleton Coin Company, write to 1309 Mt. Eustis Rd., Littleton, NH 03561; or call (800) 645-3122.