1891 $1,000 Treasury note achieves $2.5m auction record at Heritage

The unique 1891 $1,000 Treasury note is now the most valuable US banknote

The only known example of the 1891 $1,000 Treasury note in private hands has set a new world record for a US banknote at auction, leading Heritage Auctions‘ April 24-26 & 28 Currency Signature Auction in Chicago.

The note’s vignette depicts General Meade, ‘a damned old goggle-eyed snapping turtle’

The note’s provenance includes some of the most prominent names in US currency collecting, further increasing its desirability for those prepared to make a bid. Starting it $1.2m, it quickly rose past its expected sale price of $2m to sell for $2.5m – a 29.2% increase.

The only other example has been housed in the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institution since it was transferred there by the treasury department shortly after printing.

fr379c thumb 1891 $1,000 Treasury note achieves $2.5m auction record at Heritage The 1891 $1,000 note shares basic design features with the famous “Grand Watermelon” note of 1890, which is well-known among collectors due to its catchy nickname, despite being the more common of the two notes. A spectacular example of the note once held the previous US world record, after selling for $2.2m at Heritage Auctions back in 2006.

Another example of the Grand Watermelon sold for $1.5m in the present auction, as one of only seven examples known to exist.

The note is graded Extremely Fine 45PPQ, though has been previously referred to as Crisp Uncirculated

The 1890 note had been given a grading of Extremely Fine 45PPQ by PCGS, although it has historically been referred to as CU (Crisp Uncirculated). The PCGS grading is more accurate, with the note showing light signs of circulation.

Like the Grand Watermelon, the 1891 note features a striking vignette of General Meade, who is noted for taking control of the Army of the Potomac on the eve of the US civil war’s Battle of Gettysburg. He was once described as “a damned old goggle-eyed snapping turtle” and was renowned for his bad temper, which the engraver has certainly portrayed on the note.

Both notes were introduced to back silver purchases, as the Windom Silver Bullion Purchase Act allowed the amount of silver purchased by the government to double.

Heritage’s April numismatics auctions also saw the legendary 1913 Liberty Head Nickel sell for $3.2m.

About the Author:

Paul Fraser has been passionately involved in a wide spectrum of investment grade collectibles spanning over 35 years. He recently stepped down as Chairman (and owner) at Stanley Gibbons, the London Stock Market listed Collecting Company, which he helped to build from a $5 million Company to one worth over $100 million. Paul is a world renowned Beatles memorabilia expert and handled the deal that took John Lennon's childhood stamp collection, complete with his earliest known signature, to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Paul has also been heavily involved in the rare stamp investing market and was responsible for the sale of the famous Kirkudbright Penny Black cover to the Royal Philatelic Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Paul has been involved with many of the collecting areas featured on this website, and has been responsible for over $300m of investment grade collectibles sales through various collectible companies.

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