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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., charter 4800.

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 extended.

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 liquidated.


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 certified proofs.

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.


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