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

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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.

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