Civil War Currency and Our Confederate Hoard
1861 Confederate Cent,
Haseltine Restrike, Proof-65,
photo courtesy of Stack’s Auction
I graduated from Gettysburg College with a B.A. degree in history, so the Civil War period of 1861-1865 and the years following have always been of special interest to me. The “Civil War,” or “War between the States,” or “War of Northern Aggression”, as it is still known in parts of the American South, was a cataclysmic period in American history. It continues to be of great popular study today, with tourists and amateur scholars and battle re-enactors poring over the battle sites all these years later. Some of the popularity is relatively recent, stoked in part by the multipart series on PBS Television from filmmaker extraordinaire Ken Burns (who happens to live in New Hampshire).
Collectors of American numismatic items still find the subject of great interest. Today, many collect all manner of paper and hard currency of Civil War vintage. The coins of the Union are the most popular and affordable (1861-65 Indian Head cents, two cent pieces, three cent pieces, etc). One cent coins of the Confederate States of America are extremely rare and essentially “non-collectible” for all but a few. For example, the pictured 1861 Confederate cent, a Haseltine Restrike in Proof-65, recently sold for $43,700 at a Stack’s rare coin auction on January 26, 2010. Moving beyond the Confederate coins, there are thankfully some Confederate States of America collectibles that fall into the “affordable” category – primarily Confederate bonds, and notes, i.e. paper money.
Recently we purchased a small “hoard” of Confederate currency and bonds that is quite unusual, and which we’ll make available in future catalogs and special offerings. It is one of our largest purchases of such material since we’ve been in this business. Littleton numismatist Ken Westover is seen reviewing the newly acquired Confederate bonds, which continue to grow in popularity. The stacks of Confederate currency to Ken’s left contain many notes in exceptional condition.
What I found most interesting was that the bonds in this purchase from the estate of a New England dealer were all different, suggesting a collection rather than a dealer’s inventory. What’s more interesting was a letter that came with the group of C.S.A. bonds and currency, which carried no special notation in the lot. Ken is holding the letter, dated May 11, 1876 from Albert U. Wyman, acting Secretary of the U.S. Treasury under President Ulysses S. Grant, and addressed to the head of a Boston organization: “In compliance with your request... I transmit herewith a set of the various issues and denominations of Confederate paper money, and bonds, as complete as can be selected from the collection in possession of this department.”
Unfortunately, we don’t know if the bonds we obtained in this purchase are the same ones described in the letter. It remains a possibility, though that information has been lost over the intervening 133 years. The letter adds a bit of mystery and mystique to the group, to say the least, and the entire collection would make an interesting display if loaned to a museum. In any event, the small hoard of Confederate bonds and notes is of very significant numismatic and historical interest, and some of its contents will soon become available to Littleton customers.
LCC Numismatist Ken Westover examines the newly acquired hoard of Confederate Bonds and Currency
Exceptional-quality Confederate Currency from the hoard – stacked by denomination