Small Issue Sheets of Large Notes a Rarity
By Peter Huntoon
The primary factor
dictating rarity was the number of notes issued.
Sooner or later, every collector searches the
Van Belkum data in the Kelly or Hickman-Oakes
catalogs to find the smallest issuances from
banks of interest.
The tiny issues go on the dream list. Such a
note turns up once in a blue moon.
The accompanying table is a list of every
large-size issuance in the country of 15 or
fewer sheets from a given plate combination.
There are a fair number of them.
There are a few reasons why so few were issued.
One was that the bank failed or was liquidated
just as sheets of a new variety began to be sent
to it, thus prematurely terminating the issue.
Another common situation was that the corporate
existence of the bank ran out just as sheets
from a new variety in the waning series began to
be sent. This caused the issue to be cut short.
Once the bank was extended, the unissued sheets
from the old series were canceled.
A peculiar example of the corporate existence
running out just as a new variety began to be
issued involved the listing for the three sheets
of Series of 1882 50-50-50-100 Date Backs, from
The Farmers National Bank of Shelbyville, Ind.,
National Bank Note face plates were standardized
in 1910 to four subjects. Banks issuing from
two-subject 50-100 plates found those replaced
with four-subject 50-50-50-100s. In this bank's
case, the Comptroller's office had just gotten
to the four-subject variety when the bank was
Previously, 400 of the Series of 1882 date back
50-100s had been issued, and one of each
denomination is reported from those two-subject
sheets. Sheet serial numbering progressed from
the Date Backs to the later series.
Consequently, the short issue Series of 1882
Value Backs and 1902 Plain Back serial numbers
are not in the single digits.
Notes from this type of short issue comprise the
genuine sleeper notes for collectors to find
because they can slip by if no one is familiar
with the serial number data.
The exotic high-value 500-1,000 sheet
combination for The Chatham National Bank of New
York (charter 1375) made the list simply because
it was printed in such small numbers.
At last count, large-size National Bank Notes
were issued from 11,757 different banks from a
total of 54,215 different sheet combinations.
With those numbers, surely there had to be a few
cases where only one sheet of some combination
got issued. The list reveals that it happened
four times during the 66-year large note era!
Presented for your enjoyment are photos of notes
from the certified proofs for several of these
short-issue sheet combinations. The explanation
for each accompanies the images.
Proofs from all four of the plates where only
one sheet was issued are included. Try to find a
note from one!
If you check the current census data against the
listings on Table 1, you will come up with only
one hit in the entire lot. Ironically, that is
for the first entry on the table, an issue of a
single Series of 1902 Date Back 10-10-10-20
sheet from The Caldwell National Bank, Kan.,
charter 6333. The entire sheet was saved from
the last shipment received before the bank was
The Professional Currency Dealers Association,
Currency Club of Long Island and Society of
Paper Money Collectors helped support the
research leading to this article. James Hughes,
collections manager, National Numismatic
Collections, Natural Museum of American History,
Smithsonian Institution, provided access to the
Sources of Data
Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 1875-1929,
Certified proofs from National Bank Note face
plates: National Numismatic Collections,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Van
Belkum, Louis, 1968, National Banks of the Note
Issuing Period, 1863-1935, Hewitt Bros.
Numismatic Publications, Chicago.