A massive surge in demand for high-grade notes from around the world spurred annual sales for 2018 for Heritage Auctions’ Rare Currency department to $44,075,071.
Only once has any auction house in the world surpassed the total: the all-time record for auction sales came in 2008, when Heritage cleared $45 million. The 2018 total continues Heritage’s status as the top currency auction house in the world, beating its nearest competitor by nearly 50 percent.
"The strong results we had in 2018 reflected the superior quality we offered throughout the year, and were led by the growth in popularity of the top World notes," Heritage Auctions Vice President Dustin Johnston said. "There is incredible interest for top-grade world banknotes from around the globe.
"In the U.S. markets, type prices are moving higher, and fresh collections always are well received by the bidders. No auction house brings as much fresh material to the market as Heritage Auctions or as strong of prices. Consignors trust Heritage to command top prices and there are few better barometers of performance than total market share."
The top lot sold in 2018 was a Fr. 1218e $1,000 1882 Gold Certificate, which sold for $600,000 at the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) show in January, eclipsing its pre-auction estimate by a full $100,000. The $1,000 Gold Certificates from Series 1882 were issued with a total of eight different signature combinations between 1882 and 1906. Treasury officers William Rosecrans and Enos Nebeker overlapped in for just over two years; with a total print run of just 8,000 notes, the Rosecrans-Nebeker signature combination represented just 4.3 percent of the $1,000 Gold notes issued during that time.
An incredible Set of Notes from Australia’s WWI Occupation of German New Guinea brought $168,000 in the same FUN sale. Australia occupied German New Guinea at the beginning of World War I and issued Treasury Notes in October 1914. Most, including the notes in this set, were cancelled at the beginning of January 2015, making these notes extraordinarily rare.
A Fr. 2221-B $5,000 1934 Federal Reserve Note, from an exceptionally small run of Uncirculated examples discovered nearly two decades ago, prompted numerous bids at the FUN show in January before closing at $162,000.
Other highlights from 2018 included, but were not limited to:
Federal type note rarities dominated the auctions. An Uncirculated 1934 $5,000 Federal Reserve Note, PMG Choice Uncirculated 64, sold for $150,000 at the American Numismatic Association (ANA) events in August.
From the Art Davidson Collection of $100 banknotes, a Very Fine 1890 $100 "Watermelon" Treasury Note with Premium Paper Quality landed at $144,000, followed by his $100 "Spread Eagle" Legal Tender Note from 1863 that realized $132,000.
Another Chicago rarity, a 1914 $100 Red Seal Federal Reserve Note, PMG Superb Gem Unc 67 EPQ, sold for $120,000; it is the highest graded Federal Reserve 1078b by both PMG and PCGS, and is at the very top of all $100 Federal Reserve Note Red Seals combined.
The highest example graded by an independent third-party of a 1905 $20 Gold Certificate, PMG Superb Gem Unc 67 EPQ, sold for $102,000.
Among the World Currency highlights at the event were a Zanzibar 20 Rupees Color Trial Specimen, PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ, which brought $108,000.
The Sole Graded 1931 10 Dinars Specimen, PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ, features King Faisal I on this first series design from Iraq. Its status as the only specimen graded of this type in the PMG Census, and likely the best as Specimens of this era, pushed the note to $43,200.
"Number one notes" (those with the unique and highly collectible Serial No. 1) were exceptionally popular at the Central States Numismatic Society (CSNS) auction in April. A Serial Number 1 $20 1891 Treasury Note PCGS Very Fine 35 sold for $114,000, and a Serial Number 1 1891 $5 Treasury Note PCGS New 62, courtesy autographed by John Burke, Treasurer of the United States appointed in 1913 by President Woodrow Wilson, sold for $102,000.
A 1918 $10 Federal Reserve Bank Note PCGS Very Choice New 64PPQ sporting Serial No. 1, sold for $87,600.
A spectacular, fully colored $500 1922 Gold Certificate PCGS About New 53 drew $90,000, while an 1880 $100 Black Back Silver Certificate, PMG Very Fine 30, one of only 25 known to exist, sold for $87,000.
The Currency department’s next signature auctions will be April 24-29 (for U.S. currency) and April 24-30 (for world currency) in Chicago.
Heritage Auctions (HA.com) is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. In addition to its headquarters in Dallas, Heritage has offices in New York, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago and Palm Beach, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.