U.S. Bonds the Other Rare Collectible
By Bank Note Reporter
What's rarer than some U.S. currency issues?
According to Tom Casper and Fred Schwan, you
need to look to U.S. government bonds for the
answer. Casper and Schwan spoke on the topic on
Saturday, March 7, during a meeting of the
Chicago Coin Club at the Chicago Paper Money
Exposition in Rosemont, Ill. Fifty to 60 people
were in attendance.
The presentation was one of two at CPMX related
to exhibits on the bourse floor. The other was
at the meeting the International Bank Note
Society that same day, where Neil Shafer spoke
on Philippines emergency and guerilla currency
of World War II.
Casper, who had his award-winning exhibit of
government bonds on display on the CPMX bourse
floor, told those gathered for the CCC meeting
that although U.S. government bonds didn't
circulate like paper money, they have a lot in
common with currency, including the use of
attractive vignettes, signatures, serial
numbers, portrait position letters, and face
check numbers, plus they were printed by the
government in intaglio. They are also scarcer
than some currency issues because, upon
redemption, the bonds were often destroyed by
Fortunately for collectors, some hoards have
survived and a number of unredeemed bonds exist.
Turning to the Liberty Loan bonds, issued from
1917-1923, he said redemption periods on these
were up to 30 years, with the first bonds issued
earning 3.5 percent and later ones climbing to
4.5 percent. If you bought one of the 3.5
percent bonds, you could exchange it for a later
higher interest bond. These bonds were also
redeemable for gold up until 1933.
There were two major types of bonds that could
be purchased. Included were the coupon or bearer
bond, which didn't have to be registered to the
owner, and the registered bond.
With the coupon bond, every six months the
bearer would clip a coupon from the bond and
take it to the bank to redeem it for the
With the registered bond, the bond carried the
registered owner's name and could only be
redeemed by that owner. Interest payments on
these would come in the form of check sent
through the mail.
Among the Liberty Loan bonds, Casper said, the
$50 shows Thomas Jefferson, the $100 Andrew
Jackson, the $500 George Washington, the $1,000
Abraham Lincoln, the $5,000 James Monroe, the
$10,000 Grover Cleveland, the $50,000 William
McKinley, and the $100,000 Ulysses S. Grant.
There were four Liberty Loan drives. The first
was on April 24, 1917, which paid 3.5 percent.
The second was on Oct. 1, 1917 for 4 percent.
The third was April 4, 1918 at 4.25 percent; and
the fourth was on Sept. 28, 1918 at 4.25
percent. There was also a Victory Liberty Loan
bond issued in 1919 that paid between 3.5 to 4.5
Casper explained that as not everyone could
afford to buy a bond, stamps were sold. These
green-colored thrift stamps were pasted into a
book, and when the book was full it would be
worth $4. You would add 12 cents to that, and
for $4.12 you could buy a $5 savings stamp that
According to Casper, the bonds were sold by some
2 million volunteers who went door to door.
Buyers would receive a window sticker to show
they supported the war effort.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts also took orders and
sold stamps. And school children participated in
regular "Stamp Days" at their schools.
Bond rallies were also popular and were attended
by movie stars and promoted by posters created
by famous artists.
Some 60 million bonds were issued during the
Liberty Loan period, Casper said, amounting to
$21 billion. About half of the population bought
bonds, with one-third issued to Americans with
annual incomes of the below $2,000. Most
commonly sold were the $50 and $100
denominations. Approximately $4 million Liberty
Loan bonds remain outstanding, which, he said,
translates into about 8,000 bonds, with the
fourth Liberty Loan bonds being the most
commonly encountered by collectors.
Expanding on how the registered bonds ended up
in the collector market, Fred Schwan said that
many bonds were lost or stolen and some were
spoiled (i.e., they bore mistakes, such as
spelling errors, requiring their reissue). If
you were the registered owner and your bond was
lost or stolen, you could get a duplicate. The
original bond could not be redeemed and thus
became available to collectors.
Schwan provided an overview of bond sales from
1935 to present, beginning with the 1935 Series
A "Baby Bonds" and continuing with the 1936 B
bond, the 1937 Series C, and the 1938 Series D,
which was in the style of the later Defense and
War bonds of World War II. He noted that of
these issues he has only encountered an example
or two in collections, as A through D bonds are
In the spring of 1940 E bonds came out as
Defense Savings bonds, which can be collected by
state or even by territory.
In January 1942, after the attack on Pearl
Harbor, the government switched from Defense
bonds to U.S. War Savings bonds, which were
available from thousands of issuing offices.
Also issued for direct sale to soldiers were $10
Soldier's bonds. Schwan lamented that he once
owned the serial No. 1 $10 Soldier's bond and
has since been trying to purchase it back.
With the advent of electronic trading, including
via eBay, the hobby has learned that some bonds
are more common than previously believed. In
1995, the $10 Soldier's bond was rare, but it
now trades in the $40 to $70 range. Schwan
continued with an explanation of the
introduction of the F and G bonds, which were
sold to institutions rather than individuals.
Around 1980, sales of E bonds to individuals was
replaced with Series EE, which can still be
There are also bonds with commemorative
overprints, such as the EE Patriot bond, which
has an overprint marking 9/11 and can still be
obtained through banks, and a Gulf Coast
Recovery overprint on Series I bonds issued
after Hurricane Katerina in 2005.
Attendees received a souvenir card produced by
the CCC showing a 1918 $5 Federal Reserve Bank
Note from the Chicago Federal Reserve. The CCC
will celebrate its 90th anniversary with a
banquet on April 25 at Gianotti Italian
Steakhouse, 4926 N. River Rd. Reservations are
For information on this and a special medal
being prepared featuring Augustus Saint-Gaudens
"Standing Lincoln," visit the club's Web site at