The Often Perplexing Fr. 214 1879 $10 Refunding Certificate

What the heck is a “Refunding Certificate” anyway?

The Fr. 214 1879 $10 Refunding Certificate is an interesting relic of a bygone era. When the United States government first started issuing currency, the vast majority were Legal Tender notes, Silver Certificates, and Gold Certificates. These notes were commonly used in day-to-day banking transactions. Legal Tenders were used for regular commerce between merchant and customer and to pay “public and private” debts.

What most people don’t realize is the government also issued a series of notes that bore interest. 1863 saw the introduction of the Compound Interest Treasury Note and the Interest Bearing Note; two financial vehicles used to encourage the purchase of government securities. Given their nature, both Compound Interest Notes and Interest Bearing notes are generally very rare and highly sought after. Denominations ranged from $10 – $1000 and paid the bearer additional money upon redemption. All known examples – especially high denominations – are museum pieces and unknown in most collections.

$10 Refunding Certificates offered bearers an indefinite return of 4% per year. This made them particularly attractive as investment tools for regular folks looking to made a little extra cash. Unfortunately, a July 1, 1907 act of Congress effectively stopped paying interest on these notes. If you still had one of these notes in your possession, it accrued $11.30 in interest, or a redemption value of $21.30 (including the $10 you originally invested).

Unlike its interest bearing predecessors, many examples of this note survive to this day, some in tip top condition.

The following is a scan of a $10 Refunding Certificate sold at auction, hammering at $15,525 in 2009. The note’s grade is stupendous: PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ. Accordingly, the lofty winning bid in excess of $15,000 was well justified.

Fr. 214 1879 $10 Refunding Certificate - PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ - From a 2009 Heritage Auction
Fr. 214 1879 $10 Refunding Certificate - PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ - From a 2009 Heritage Auction

Most common examples of this note grade above Very Fine, by virtue of the fact that former owners left them in safe places to avoid any sort of damage or else they might have lost their deposit and interest. This is in stark contrast to Legal Tenders, Silver Certificates, and Gold Certificates of the same time period, which were subject to heavy usage and often stored in odd places.

Feel like buying one of these Fr. 214 notes? Make sure you have plenty of padding in your wallet: these “interesting” 😉 notes will set you back at least $2,000. High grade examples – grading above About Uncirculated – go for exponentially more. In fact, one note sold at a Heritage Auction for more than $19,000 in 2008. Its grade was the same as our example above, PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ (Exceptional Paper Quality).

Here’s some parting wisdom, just in case you come across a $10 Refunding Certificate in your travels. There is another type of this note, Fr. 213, that is exceptionally rare. While Fr. 214 is charged with “Payable to the bearer”, Fr. 213 is charged with “Payable to order”. This slight variant has not been seen at auction in recent memory. That doesn’t mean they do not exist. Our guess is they reside in some high end collections kept far away from prying eyes.

Forget collecting your $21.30: the Fr. 214 and Fr. 213 1879 $10 Refunding Certificate will net you THOUSANDS more. It literally pays to know your currency!

This article is written for news and entertainment purposes only. All references to Heritage Auctions, LLC are trademarked and copyright Heritage Auction Galleries. When’s the last time the government refunded you for anything? Get one of these bad boys in your collection and when you sell it off, your “refund” will be substantial!

Mr. Ogden “Livingston” Mills, I presume? Fr. 1503 Star Worth the Trip to the Jungle

You large sized currency types 🙂 have it easy: just buy anything bigger than what you see in your pocket 8) (Gotcha). Small sized currency lovers, however, have to be a bit more discerning. A brief “troll” through eBay’s currency listings will yield thousands of small sized notes: from 1934 $1 Silver Certificates and 1988A $100 Federal Reserve Notes, to 1934A $20 “Hawaii” Brown Seal Notes and 1928B $2 Legal Tenders. Question: rare or not rare? Mostly not rare, but there are exceptions to every rule when it comes to collecting elite specimens of United States Paper Money.

A couple weeks ago we dispelled the mythic standing of 1963B $1 Barr notes pitched as one of the hobby’s greatest rarities on eBay. This note is the perfect trap for the unsuspecting collector who jumps at the chance to own a note signed by a Secretary of the Treasury who only served for a few short months (12/21/1968 – 1/20/1969). Wait, but this guy didn’t even make it to Valentine’s Day – surely his notes must be priceless? Sorry, not really. A Choice UNC will run you about $6.

Suffice to say one of the true rarities of all small sized currency came much earlier on, at the pen of an oddly named Ogden Livingston Mills, Secretary of the Treasury 2/13/1932 – 3/4/1933. His “John Hancock” on the 1928B $2 Legal Tender note is literally priceless. Tack a star on the serial number and you’re talking museum show piece, something that you might be able to afford in your next life as a billionaire.

First things first, let’s have a look at Oggy Mills’ signature and henchman Walter Orr Woods, Treasurer of the United States 1/18/1929 – 5/31/1933:

Treasurer Walter Orr Woods
Treasurer Walter Orr Woods
Secretary Ogden Livingston Mills
Secretary Ogden Livingston Mills

Looks harmless enough, right? Mr. Mills’ penmanship is par for the course and he even accentuates his middle name with a nice “L.” in the middle for us. If I were Ogden, I would have signed “O. Livingston Mills”, because Livingston is a much cooler first name.

But back to business… Last week we chronicled the caviar of collectible $1000 bills, the 1928 $1000 star note. This week we show you a note just as – if not more so – rare: the 1928B $2 Legal Tender Star Note, with just 8 specimens known to exist. This number pales in comparison to the 12+ 1928 $1000 stars known in the collecting fraternity. Here, have a look for yourself:

Fr. 1503* 1928B $2 Legal Tender Note - Woods-Mills - 8 Known
Fr. 1503* 1928B $2 Legal Tender Note - Woods-Mills - 8 Known

This particular specimen graced Heritage Auctions’ catalog January 11, 2008, and definitely got the attention of some serious collectors. With a final hammer price of $46,000 (including buyer’s premium) this rock star note easily led the small sized note pack, and perhaps the entire auction itself with its huge valuation. Remember folks, there are large size notes that couldn’t hold a candle to this puppy!

With a paltry 8 star specimens known, it’s safe to say Ogden Mills’ legacy in the paper money hobby will be remembered forever. Sometimes, it’s not what you’re named, it’s where you’re named. In this case, Woods and Mills found just the right spot on the 1928B $2 Legal Tender, a note which most people would dismiss as too pedestrian for serious collecting.

In this case, it literally pays to know your paper money facts. If you see this note parked next to a Mark McGwire rookie card at a garage sale, we hope you’ll make the right choice and kick McGwire to the curb. “Livvy” Mills should definitely garner MUCH more respect!

This is article is written for entertainment and news purposes only. All trademarks and business names are property of their respective holders. Snarky remarks about an individual’s name are protected by the 1st amendment, although in this case they might be warranted. 🙂 Please contact Heritage Auctions, LLC. if you have interest in making an offer on this note to its current lucky-as-hell owner.