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
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
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
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
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
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
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.