HUNDREDS OF FEDERAL NOTES, INCLUDING WAR OF 1812 RARITIES, TO BE OFFERED IN JUNE
By Maureen Levine, Bruce Hagen and Stuart Levine
Both popular and scarce, Federal Reserve Bank Notes occupy an interesting niche in American financial history. This temporary currency, issued by district banks rather than the federal government, was designed to prevent shortfalls while the country transitioned from National Bank Notes to Federal Reserve Notes. That first 1915 series saw little demand. However, the 1918 series FRBNs, issued to fill in for Silver Certificates during World War I (when the United States sold the silver backing those notes to Great Britain), were widely used. Intrigued by their history, Mike Coltrane delved into research and assembled a specialized collection, discovering unlisted signature variants not cited in the Friedberg paper money reference.
One highlight from that grouping is a 1918 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note issued from St. Louis, the only district bank of 12 in the country to emit that denomination. Marcus Baldwin engraved the captivating vignette on the back just a few years after the Panama Canal was completed. According to the 1918 report from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s director, the scene with a woman at the center with a merchant vessel on one side and a warship on the other was intended to “represent America presiding over the Panama Canal, the oceans representing respectively the Atlantic and Pacific.” Baldwin’s representation of “America” evokes depictions of Venus rising from the sea. Crowned with a laurel wreath and holding a caduceus, she stands proudly before a tropical landscape, pleased with the victory achieved in the building of the canal and the facilitation of trade.
In addition to the Federal Reserve Bank Notes in this sale are War of 1812 notes, Gold Certificates, and National Gold Bank Notes. The first part of Coltrane’s premier collection of War of 1812 notes was sold in November, and the equally impressive offering of the final portion will take place in June. Exceedingly rare proofs and signed remainders will be featured, with the showstopper being the unique issued triple-signature 1815 $10 from Savannah, Ga. Many of Coltrane’s notes have been closely held for decades and have never appeared at public auction. “We anticipate enthusiastic participation in this premier event,” says Dustin Johnston, vice president of currency auctions at Heritage Auctions.
STUART LEVINE, BRUCE HAGEN and MAUREEN LEVINE are professional numismatists and Mike Coltrane Collection advisors and catalogers.
This article appears in the Spring 2021 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine.