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Opportunities Abound in Current Paper Market
By William Brandimore

I am back home after attending several shows. I was at the Michigan State Show in Dearborn for their 150-table show, April 23-25. The spring show is a bit smaller than the Thanksgiving show, but it is nevertheless a quality show.

The exhibits were excellent, and I enjoyed serving as one of the Best-in-Show judges. Michigan State has always had a nice selection of paper money and paper money dealers. So, if their Thanksgiving week fall show doesn't work for you, consider their smaller spring show as a pleasant experience and opportunity for currency collectors.

After Michigan State, I headed southeast with my collector friend, Bill Rau of Frankenmuth, Mich., to the 70th annual Central States show in Cincinnati. I currently serve as immediate past president of Central States and have enjoyed their shows for 25 years or so. Central States is an excellent venue for paper money collectors and draws major paper dealers from around the country.

Boston dealer Tom Denly spent a little time with me discussing the market. Tom affirmed what I've been saying about colonial notes. They are a buying opportunity at the present time. Fractional currency seems steady, and large and small type notes offer various opportunities. Common notes are soft, better notes seem to be holding their own and great notes are appreciated and bringing great prices.

Tom's recommendation for an area to dig into, however, is the obsolete venue. These private bank notes from the late 1700s to just before the Civil War are hot at the present time, especially notes from the northern tier of states. Confederate notes also seem available at reasonable prices.

Obsolete notes are fun and interesting with a lot of varieties, proofs, strange titles and historic and interesting vignettes. There is probably a book on the state you are interested in, but only Haxby's - a 20-year-old, four-volume - addresses all the states. You can shop for obsoletes on a budget, or pay high prices for rare and historic material. Obsolete notes offer a lot of home town or local interest value, as well. As these notes were generally hand-signed, one can find some local and national historic signatures.

At Cincinnati, I sat in on an extensive Heritage auction. With prices falling recently, the catalogers offered price ranges and a lower starting bid which served as a reserve. A number of more ordinary notes sold at or near those recommended openings. Quite a few sold in the price ranges listed and a few sold well above the estimates. It seemed that notes were stronger.

When I got home, however, and started entering new prices in my BNR spread sheet, it was obvious that, if not another hair cut for prices, it was still another trim. I would say prices seemed 5 to 10 percent softer than previous levels.

Something that makes the drops seem more dramatic is the memory of the Tom Flynn sale of Spring 2008. At that sale, a number of notes went crazy, bringing much more than most expected. There are always a few anomalies as bidders get locked into stubborn bidding.

The modest prices some of the ex-Flynn notes brought in this spring's auction seem more in line with reality. As an example, an About Uncirculated 1928A $5 Federal Reserve Note on Minneapolis didn't get a tumble at the $500 starting requirement, although one brought $1,200 at the Flynn sale.

A number of the better early FRN $5, $10. $20, $50 and $100 items sold low. Five hundreds and $1,000s, however, seemed static from the FUN show prices in January.

As always, finest-known notes went wild, especially if they were 66 or 67 graded notes. It seems buyers are willing to pay a nice premium on 66 notes over 65 graded material. In your buying activities, keep this in mind. Sometimes a 66 isn't that much more expensive than a 65, but the 66s seem stronger at auction.

Now we need to start looking forward to the Memphis event - the big daddy of paper money shows. This year the dates are June 26 to June 28. If you haven't been there before, go. This is the show. If you go, take a look at the exhibits. Martin Delger, a Michigan collector, has been handling the exhibits forever, it seems. He does a great job and provides us with an opportunity to see amazing items.

What I enjoy most of all about Memphis is the camaraderie. When I return each year it seems as though I resume conversations from last year almost in mid sentence. I've made good friends there over the years and it is always rewarding to renew them at each new show. Paper money collectors of veteran status are always interested in assisting those new to the hobby.

If you come, attend some of the meetings: Society of Paper Money Collectors, Paper Money Collectors of Michigan, The Fractional Currency Collectors Board and numerous other clubs. Many club members will be decked out in their organizations uniform shirt. This is an enthusiastic group.

Other draws for this show are the amazing places to eat - ribs, steak, seafood, you name it. Many restaurants have become traditional. You just have to get there - The Butcher Block, Rendezvous, The Pier, and on and on.

Upcoming auctions hold a treat for National collectors, Lyn Knight is putting on an auction from his home base in Kansas. Bid live if you can't get there. Michigan collectors are eyeballing a $100 Brown Back in the Van Belkum collection that hasn't been seen in 30 years or so. Also for sale will be New Mexico Nationals and notes that have been in captivity since the Grinnell sales of the 1940s.

A final note. I began my collecting career as a paperboy in the early 1950s. I had three pals who were also checking their change, but except for their company in my youth, somehow I wandered around alone, so to speak, until the mid 1980s when a dealer friend talked me into joining the American Numismatic Association, the Central States Numismatic Society, the Michigan State Numismatic Society and several local clubs. It opened up a whole new world for me.

I enjoyed the shows these organizations put on, their magazines and the countless friends I made. As a result of hobby club participation, I now have friends all over the country. I have learned a great deal that would have been missed, but for educational opportunities through my clubs. If you don't belong to a club, think about joining one.


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