Arguments For and Against Including Replica/Novelty Currency Items on Ebay.com

It used to be the case that trolling for good notes through the myriad of listings on eBay.com was like panning for gold. Inevitably, some great finds were mixed up with nothing but pyrite (fool’s gold), usually in the form of replica or novelty notes. To be clear, the vast majority of these notes sellers were not trying to fool anyone and pass off something fake as genuine to an unsuspecting customer. Instead, they used Friedberg note identification numbers and standard methods of describing paper money so their replicas would show up in eBay search results. This made browsing eBay.com annoying for serious paper money enthusiasts who weren’t quite interested in an imitation 1905 $20 Technicolor note for $8.95.

To eBay.com’s credit, they have now put replica/novelty items in their own category. When one attempts to list a note for sale, eBay.com makes it clear that replica notes should NOT be listed in the authentic currency section. Still, some notes slip through the cracks and wind up being displayed where they shouldn’t be.

To be fair, replica currency is just like any other item that gets sold on eBay.com. Many people happily shop eBay for imitation art work, non-name brand fashion, and other items that are more affordable and yet still serve the purposes of collecting. Most people don’t want to spend over $1,000 on a rare print when they can get the same bang for their buck at $29.95. Even better, should their print get stolen or damaged, they’re only out a few bucks compared to hundreds or thousands.

The following are arguments for and against including replica/novelty currency at eBay.com.

For Replica/Novelty Items:

The purpose of eBay.com is to create a marketplace for reselling all kinds of goods. Toys, cars, plates, silverware, antiques are all available. Some people even auction electronics, retail items, and clothes. Therefore, it would be unfair to discriminate against those selling replica currency because eBay.com’s purpose is not to serve as a high-end auction gallery. Rather, it is place where there’s something for everyone, and if there are buyers for replica currency, it shouldn’t be forbidden to sell these items on a global auction website.

Further, eBay.com would not necessarily be acting in its own best interests by banning replica items, as long as it is made clear to consumers that the items are not authentic. Whereas a $10,000 banknote might sell once a week at most to a high level collector, it might be possible to sell thousands of pieces of replica currency to a broader consumer base and make the same (if not more) money in auction fees. The same argument can be made for imitation sun glasses, china, or handbags. It’s not unlawful to sell these items unless they are intentionally being identified as genuine where they truly are not.

As long as consumers are reasonably protected in eBay.com’s trustworthy environment, there should be no problem selling copies of real notes if there is a demand for them. The same holds true for any other collector item worthy of imitation and sought by customers on all budget levels. Otherwise, eBay.com risks becoming a boutique auction website opposed to an all-inclusive marketplace.

Against Replica/Novelty Items:

Customers seeking genuine currency can become understandably annoyed when they have to sift through pages and pages of both authentic and unauthentic notes. It wastes time, confuses people, and clutters search results. There’s nothing worse than finding that one note you need for your collection, only to discover that it is not genuine. Such experiences frustrate serious buyers of real collector currency, and it discourages them from returning to eBay.com. Why even bother spending an hour browsing through pages of items for sale if there’s a good chance it will end up being wasted time?

More importantly, there is a small, yet noteworthy minority of sellers who actually try to trick people into buying unauthentic notes. This happens to many breaking into the hobby who may not know the warning signs of a bad auction or a bum note. Their innate trust in the eBay.com system is their folly, and unscrupulous people are always waiting to take advantage of someone for a quick buck. Allowing replica notes to be posted alongside genuine notes lulls some buyers into a false sense of security, and in many cases just plain confuses people. This type of situation is ripe for scammers to pounce on an unsuspecting paper money enthusiast.

Some might also begin to question eBay.com’s credibility as a trustworthy online auction house if all they can find are reproduction items in search results. There are thousands of items for sale at any given moment, and eBay.com staff can’t police every auction unless there is an egregious violation of its policy. One can also make the Walmart vs. Sak’s 5th Avenue argument: when you want a quality product, you have to go to a quality store. Sure, Walmart makes the grade for everyday purchases, but don’t tell your future wife that you purchased your engagement ring during a price rollback sale. It’s OK and even best practice to segregate items so that the right customers are shopping material they might actually want to buy.

Overall, eBay.com is still a great place to buy and sell paper money. Many dealers sell most of their inventory on eBay and have built great reputations. Outside of currency, some people have even founded their own businesses based on reselling items on eBay. It’s actually an amazing phenomenon and one of the great stories in e-commerce’s relatively short history. Connecting buyer and seller is now just a matter of a few mouse clicks. No longer does someone have to wait for a big currency show or major auction to buy notes: if they’ve got a half hour to kill and a few bucks in their wallet, they can get the perfect addition to their collection sent by mail in a couple days for a great price.

If you’re still annoyed by various eBay.com shenanigans, we encourage you to browse our website, comprised off 100% genuine United States currency from the hobby’s top dealers. If you’re serious about buying currency, you should definitely browse our pages for the next big addition to your collection!

Be a Star with Fr. 1880 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Notes

Ah, the clunky 1929 brown-sealed Federal Reserve Bank Notes. These notes are sometimes confused with 1929 National Bank Notes, since they both bear the same series year and engraving style. Additionally, if you looked at equal denomination 1929 Nationals and 1929 Federal Reserve Bank Notes from the back, you wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart unless your eyes were good enough to see the National Bank charter number through the paper. Unlike their large size 1918 predecessors, which featured elegant designs and iconic images on the note reverses, the 1929 Federal Reserve Bank Notes appear a bit drab and somewhat institutional. In many ways, they were also viewed as redundant to the public shortly after the release of the first 1928 small size Federal Reserve Notes.

As with most notes post 1928, the vast majority of 1929 Federal Reserve Bank Notes don’t have tremendous collector value. Today, we’ll consider Fr. 1880, the 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note that was issued by seven of the twelve Federal Reserve Banks: New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco.

Your garden variety Fr. 1880 in Very Fine condition most likely isn’t worth more than $85 unless its issuing bank is known to be rarer compared to the others. In fact, an un-slabbed Very Fine example of Fr. 1880-B from the New York district recently went for $79 at a March 2012 Heritage Auction. A month later at an April 2012 auction, Heritage sold a PCGS Gem New 66 PPQ example of Fr. 1880-B for $862.50, demonstrating a steep rise in value if the condition of the note is exceptional.

Fr. 1880-L 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note PMG Choice Unc. 64 - Heritage Auction: May 19, 2009 - Sold for $402.50
Fr. 1880-L 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note PMG Choice Unc. 64 - Heritage Auction: May 19, 2009 - Sold for $402.50

Things get interesting, however, when you start to winnow away the more common districts. At a September 2011 Heritage Auction, a Fr. 1880-K note from the Dallas district graded as PMG Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ hammered at $5,520. In January of 2009, Fr. 1880-I from the Minneapolis district (fewest notes printed of all districts) graded at PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ cracked the $1K barrier at $1,035.

Then, of course, you have star notes. As usual, most Fr. 1880 star notes command a much higher value compared to their standard serial number counterparts, but value also depends on the district from which it originated. In a May 2011 Heritage Auction, a Fr. 1880-B* New York Star Note, un-slabbed in Fine condition, went for $322. Not bad, for a “finey” eh? But wait, there’s more.

If you’re interested in completing a district set of Fr. 1880 star notes, you might need to refinance your home. While Fr. 1880 New York Stars are generally affordable, the game changes completely when going after star notes from the San Francisco and Chicago districts.

Pictured below is a Fr. 1880-L* star note from San Francisco that sold at a September 2011 Heritage auction for a staggering $4,312.50, and it only grades at PCGS Very Fine 20! That’s quite a purchase indeed. Imagine if it was Gem Unc? Our guess is the price would easily double or even triple.

Fr. 1880-L* 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note Star from San Francisco - Heritage Auctions:  September 9, 2011 - PCGS VF 20 Sold for $4,312.50
Fr. 1880-L* 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note Star from San Francisco - Heritage Auctions: September 9, 2011 - PCGS VF 20 Sold for $4,312.50

Next, we present an even rarer Fr. 1880 star note, hailing from the Chicago district. Heritage Auctions only lists one sale of this note in its archives, and it dates back to a September 2005 auction. Either someone is hoarding Chicago stars or this note is the one you might chase for a lifetime in order to complete your district set! This particular note graded un-slabbed as Extremely Fine, and none have been auctioned since! Final sale price was a substantial $6,900.

Fr. 1880-G* 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note Star from Chicago - Heritage Auctions:  September 23, 2005 - Extremely Fine Sold for $6,900
Fr. 1880-G* 1929 $50 Federal Reserve Bank Note Star from Chicago - Heritage Auctions: September 23, 2005 - Extremely Fine Sold for $6,900

Again, just imagine what a Gem Unc would fetch? Would you have to sell your Maserati to get one? 🙂

So, even though 1929 Federal Reserve Bank Notes aren’t particularly exciting at the moment, don’t forget that there are still substantial sums of money paid for rare star examples. Sure, a run-of-the-mill 1929 $50 FRBN from New York might not even be worth double face value, but a Chicago Star is an entirely different story.

Rarity matters, regardless of how mundane you might think a particular note type is. Not yet convinced? Read back a few blogs about Federal Reserve Notes printed in the last 25 years that are valued over $20,000! Never count out any note until you’ve identified it correctly.

Images are copyright Heritage Auctions, LLC. Please refer to www.ha.com if you have interest in acquiring these particular notes.