The Legal Tender Act of July 14, 1890 brought forth a spectacular issue of rare and desirable United States Currency: Treasury or Coin Notes. Ranging in denomination from $1 (a.k.a. “The Stanton Note”) to $1,000 (a.k.a the “The Grand Watermelon”) Treasury notes allowed bearers to exchange their notes for silver or gold coin. Whether the bearer received silver or gold coin was left to the discretion of the Treasury. Given the choice, our guess is most customers felt gypped unless they walked with gold in their pockets, but then again, it was the late 1890s and these were the days when a dollar was actually still worth a dollar. A nice stack of Morgan dollars is nothing to shake a stick at, so while these Treasury Notes were an odd lot, they were definitely a valuable tool for everyday folks to hedge their savings in precious metals.
All Treasury or Coin Notes are considered rare, particularly in uncirculated condition or better. Naturally, there is a regular flow of $1, $2, $5, and even $10 notes that surface every now and again for collectors to buy. The higher denominations, however, are profoundly rarer, and usually take center stage at any major currency auction.
Our feature note for today is Fr. 376, 1890 $50 Treasury or Coin Note, with signatures of Rosecrans-Nebeker. This particular note is also known as the “Seward Note”, because it features William H. Seward, the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln between 1860-1869. He also committed “Seward’s Folly”, the so-called Alaska Purchase from Russia. More than a century later, it’s clear Alaska is no folly at all, offering the continental USA an unparalleled amount of natural resources, strategic positioning, and the Palin Family ( 🙂 sorry just had to throw that one in there).
This note is EXTREMELY RARE, with just under 25 examples known. We’ll chronicle a few of the better known examples below. If you happen upon one of these bad-boys in your Grandma’s shoe box, it’s time to trash that mid-sized car of yours that keeps breaking down and put a down payment on a tricked out Bentley. If Grandma’s note is well preserved, make that TWO Bentleys.
Example 1. This $50 Treasury or Coin Note anchored a Lyn Knight Currency Auction in 2007. A PMG 65 Gem UNC grade for this note, plus a cool B7* serial to boot pushed this note’s final price into the stratosphere, hammering at $475,000
The above is considered the BEST specimen of this note type seen in the last few years. It is unknown whether or not any other notes in private collections can meet or beat this note’s commanding PMG 65 Gem Unc. EPQ grade.
Example 2. This $50 Treasury or Coin Note turned heads at a 2005 CAA (St. Louis) Heritage Auction. Although just a touch under the grade of the note above, this unslabbed beauty makes a great centerpiece to any collection. $299,000
At $299,000 this monster can definitely hold a candle to the PMG Gem Unc, but is slightly 🙂 more affordable – just enough that you’ll only have to sell your lake house to put a down payment on it.
Example 3. Anything with the Dauer pedigree is worth collecting, and this example of Fr. 376 is no exception. It graced a September 2006 Long Beach Heritage Auction and caught the attention of a few bidders, although the Heritage Archives reports it as unsold. Not Sold
It’s unfortunate this example didn’t sell. Our guess is the reserve on the note was just out of reach of the crowd bidding on it. Still, it’s a great example of the $50 Treasury or Coin Note, with everything intact and solid in appearance. Although lackluster compared to the first two examples at PMG Very Fine 25 NET, this one is still worth collecting. It would probably sell for around $50,000 if it appeared at auction again.
Example 4. Here’s a much more affordable and down-to-earth $50 Treasury. This note appeared for sale at www.currencyquest.com. At PMG Very Good 8, this particular note has definitely seen better days. All the same, it makes a wonderful addition to any collection and will undoubtedly recoup its purchase price on resale. Sold: Final Price Unknown
Out all the notes we’ve listed, this one is definitely within reach of most people. Even though the PMG VG 8 grade is not as desirable, it is still a great note to own all the same. Keep your eyes on this one: it might be coming to auction near you soon!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief chronicle of Fr. 376. A parting thought: are there any undiscovered examples of this note still out there? Although we have no census data in front of us, our guess is YES, there must be!
Trademarks, images, and any copyrighted language used in this blog entry are property of Heritage Auctions, LLC, Lyn Knight Currency Auctions, and CurrencyQuest.com. This article is written for news and entertainment purposes only. If you have interest in purchasing one of these notes, please refer to the auction house or currency dealer indicated in each note’s description for further information. We make all efforts to list accurate information. If something looks out of place, please kindly let us know. Thanks!